The 20th of January marked the start of the first Integrative Think Tank (ITT) for the AAPS CDT. As this was the first ITT for our cohort and the CDT more generally, we were a bit apprehensive on what to expect from the week and the best ways to prepare for it - however our nerves were soon put at ease when we arrived at BRLSI on the Monday morning where the pastries and coffee were waiting for us and the discussions started.

ITTs are a focal point in our CDT's calendar and central to our goals. They are facilitated week-long workshops in which academic, industrial, and other external partners present problems requiring research solutions. Participants will work during the week on defining routes to the solution of these problems. ITTs will take place twice a year, in January and June.

Over a period of 4 days, the ITT brought together a mix of academics from across the University, researchers, PhD students as well as industry partners with the aim to define complex problems and propose future research activities in response to a series of challenges. You can see all participants in the picture above. For ITT1, the external partner providing the challenges was AVL (Anstalt für Verbrennungskraftmaschinen List). AVL is a multinational consulting firm and independent research institute with its headquarters based in Graz, Austria.

The first day featured a series of presentations from the AVL representatives where they described their high-level challenges, a key priority was to ensure all participants fully understood the challenges that we would be working on for the rest of the week. After the presentations, the participants were put into some pre-defined teams, where we were encouraged to discuss, conduct surface research and consider prototypes with the aim of generating a potential avenue for further discussions. Each team was then invited to present their key discussion points back to the rest of the participants, in the form of sticky notes.

The key points from those discussions were then grouped together and represented the foundations for the rest of the week. We formed our teams, based on how the topics were grouped and where our interests aligned. These teams were formed with a mixture of our cohort, IAAPS researchers, academics and AVL representatives, making this part of the ITT a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to experience this sort of collaboration. Having reached this checkpoint of having our teams, my colleagues and I enjoyed the rest of the evening together with the other participants by chatting over drinks and nibbles.

The next day, the newly formed groups started investigating aspects of the challenge in more depth, with the aim of defining topics that could be then converged into future research projects. While some groups started by following up with further reading, other groups skipped straight into an open discussion that progressed through the rest of the ITT. At the end of the day, each group presented their progress and initial ideas back to all of the participants and took the opportunity to discuss development for the rest of the week. The second day finished with a very enjoyable participant dinner at Martini, a local Italian restaurant and not to mention the drinks after, which were a great addition.

The end of the ITT was marked by a series of presentations delivered by me and fellow cohort students, which converted the work carried out during the week into concise topics to be further investigated. These included identifying next steps, required resources and potential research output and were followed by a Q&A session. Following the ITT, each of us in the cohort formulated these ideas that we had been working on all week, into a research proposal as part of our assessment and to potentially become future research projects.

Both I and my colleagues found the week of the first Integrative Think Tank extremely enjoyable, as we had the chance to engage with a series of exciting research challenges currently encountered in the Automotive Industry. Moreover, the topics presented shared common areas with the ones we are planning to undertake during the future PhD phase of the programme, making this experience relevant from a technical perspective, but also because it bridges the gap between academic and industry-focused research. Lastly, combined with regular coffee breaks, the participants dinner and plentiful after work drinks, this week was a brilliant opportunity to get to know other other members of the university and representative from our industrial partner, AVL.

We are now looking forward to ITT2, which is taking place on 1st June 2020 with partner Horiba-Mira, and now we know what to expect we will be preparing for it through our Student-Led-Symposium module.

Posted in: Cohort Building, Collaboration, Conferences and Workshops, Events, Training activities

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