A symposium to foster and promote networking among international scientists

From the point of view of a member of the Scientific Committee Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Rainer Dahlmann answers five questions on the International Symposium on Plastics Technology, which is about to take place on 10 March 2020.

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Rainer Dahlmann is Scientific Director at IKV and member of the Scientific Committee for the International Symposium on Plastics Technology. | Photo: IKV /Fröls

1) At a time when it is quite a challenge to win participants for conferences and trade fairs, IKV has decided to establish a new event: the International Symposium on Plastics Technology. What was your motivation to do this?

Prof. Dahlmann: To begin with, any challenge in the field of plastics technology is, for us, automatically a motivation! It is easy to gain the impression that, over the last few years, new conferences have to assert themselves in an increasingly competitive market. Apart from that, the communicative aspect of conference formats nowadays naturally faces tough competition from digital formats. Nevertheless, conferences offer a quite unique opportunity to exchange ideas and information and for networking. We decided to create this new event not least because we consider personal communication to be extremely important.

That means your aim with this Symposium is to foster and promote networking among international scientists?

Prof. Dahlmann: Exactly. We want to provide a platform on which we can exchange ideas and information with scientists from all over the world. This is necessary because there are many problems that we can only tackle together. Just think, for example, of the whole matter of the circular economy. Insular solutions already exist that make good sense when viewed individually. However, the problem is so omnipresent and comprehensive, and there are different variations in every country of the world, so that finding a solution calls for more wide-ranging approaches in which the players cooperate with one another across borders. The Symposium sets out to make a contribution to this and establish a platform for the presentation and discussion of global projects from research and development.

But there is another aspect that motivates us to launch a new Symposium: IKV has always oriented its research activities to the demands of industrial practice. At the same time, we are convinced of the fact that an exchange of know-how at scientific level is indispensable for innovation and development. When exchanging ideas at this level, the particular charm is that young, still fresh research approaches are not viewed quite so early under the aspect of economic efficiency. After all, if this aspect is examined too early in the process, many good ideas that do not yet have a mapped-out perspective in terms of their economic viability are nipped in the bud.

2) The Symposium will be held on the day before the established International Colloquium Plastics Technology. How would you distinguish between the two formats?

Prof. Dahlmann: The Plastics Technology Colloquium is being staged under the motto "Research for practice". This has been the case for many decades, and this motto brings the Institute's research into direct contact with industrial development. The presentations from IKV naturally have a scientific claim, but in parallel with this, direct practical applicability of the results is key. This dualism always necessitates a certain balancing act, but it is that that also provides the extra benefit, which our participants can also rightly expect from the next Colloquium.

With our concept for the Symposium on Plastics Technology, plastics technology in Aachen builds a bridge to more active international scientific exchange. The nearness to practical application will not be so much in the foreground as the joint acquisition of know-how on the topics we have defined for the Symposium. On the other hand, this should not be interpreted to mean that the Symposium is closed to interested people from industry. We are not building an ivory tower but are trying to bring industrial development and science closer together at an international level. After all, the delegates at the Symposium will most probably also visit the Colloquium.

3) Under what aspects have you selected the topics for which scientists and developers can submit papers?

Prof. Dahlmann: As an application-oriented research institute, we are very well networked with companies through our Sponsors' Association and our other contacts and have, so to speak, our finger on the pulse of the plastics industry. We can accurately appraise current flows and issues in industrial practice. The overriding selection of topics for the Symposium does not differ fundamentally from the one for the Colloquium, because we want to discuss the future of plastics technology in both formats. We invite potential speakers to submit presentations in the fields of additive manufacturing, circular economy, lightweight technologies and Plastics Industry 4.0, but we will naturally also highlight international research in extrusion and injection moulding.

4) As a member of the Scientific Committee, what kind of presentations are you hoping for in particular at the International Symposium on Plastics Technology?

Prof. Dahlmann: For the Symposium, I am expecting scientific papers from research facilities that are connected to fundamental research but also application-oriented presentations from the development departments of the various companies. For me, the main focus is on presentations that are able to bring these activities closer to each other.

5) What do the industry partners and sponsors of the Institute think about the new event and what benefits do they hope to be able to generate for their network partners?

Prof. Dahlmann: The Symposium offers our partners from industry an extended look at current international research activities in the fields that we consider to be currently buzzing.

We have intentionally timed the Symposium immediately before the Colloquium so that our industry partners can tap this format without it taking too much extra time. The new format may possibly not be of immediate interest to all potential participants at the Colloquium – actually, we hope not, because we would not have enough space in the rooms at present available for the event – but we will be delighted to see all visitors who want to take a look outside the box.

Primarily, in additional to internationally acclaimed scientists, we expect to see specialists who are active in the development departments of small, medium and large-sized companies. During the Symposium, these specialists will gain a different kind of stimulus than at the Colloquium.

Have you already had any concrete feedback from your network?

Prof. Dahlmann: During the preparations, we talked to some of our industry partners and received very encouraging feedback. They like in particular the way we are extending the framework with presentations that promise a high quality standard. The widely diversified Scientific Committee will sift and select the papers for presentation, so that we will certainly be able to fulfil the expectations of our visitors.