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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Promoting and structuring multidisciplinary academic - industrial collaboriation in research and training through SME technology developers: Promatch

Final Activity Report Summary - PROMATCH (Promoting and structuring multidisciplinary academic - industrial collaboriation in research and training through SME technology developers: Promatch)

The PROMATCH project focused on the training of next generation researchers and their research contribution to the realisation of the emerging model centric approach in process engineering, control and optimisation. The PROMATCH Research and Training Network was a European research collaboration between five renowned research institutes and three SMEs specialised in the development of model-based solutions and with strong links to end-user industries.

The research objectives of this collaboration targeted the identification and development of modelling methodologies, techniques and tools for the optimal modelling of industrial processes with the aim of realising model centric production in which one single process model can be used for cost efficient:
1. process engineering;
2. real-time model predictive control;
3. real-time model based optimisation.

The research approach in PROMATCH was based on the creation and interaction of three Cross-partner research teams (CPT), each featuring an Experienced researcher (ER) hosted at an SME partner in combination with two Early stage researchers (ESR) each hosted at a different academic partner. The ERs were made responsible for coordinating the work in their CPT and transferring academic methodology development towards the product development environment of the SME partner.

The research team consisted of six ESRs and three ERs from different nationalities with different backgrounds. Each researcher was assigned in a country with different nationality to his own. The team went through an intensive training programme to place everyone at the appropriate technological level. Each researcher followed several post-academic courses, participated in workshops and seminars relevant to their research topics. They went through hands-on training sessions as an introduction to the software development environments used by the SME partners. They also took courses on project management and of course made an effort to learn the language of the country where they were working and living.

Much attention was paid to team building and communication. When people are geographically separated, realising intensive and effective communication is a point of constant concern. To lower the thresholds when seeking interaction, many social events were organised at the time all researchers and senior scientists were together during the half-year project meetings. In addition, Transfer of knowledge (ToK) workshops took place. Here, the nine researchers presented and discussed their work in great detail while giving each other valuable feedback.

Several alternative methodologies for model reduction and model based optimisation were further developed during the PROMATCH project. The methodologies were evaluated in the SME environments by using industrial processes provided by end user industries (distillation process by STATOIL, glass manufacturing process provided by SCHOTT and TNO, distillation column by SHELL). The work resulted in about 25 conference papers and 9 journal publications. All ESRs started their work as PhD track and as such the project has been the base for 6 PhD dissertations.

With respect to transnational mobility of researchers, the project was very successful. All researchers initially appointed stayed on at the RTN node they were assigned to for the full contracted period. After the contract ended the ESRs stayed to complete their PhD work. One ESR has already finished and found a job in the country where he did his PROMATCH research. At the end of the contract all ERs found a new job in the country where they had been working during the project.

A difficulty encountered in building the project team and making the team perform was the large difference in time that people joined the team in comparison to the relatively short project duration. When the last member joined, the first was already half way his contract. This was due to the severe hiring constraints imposed by the program.