Interview Marco de Vos

– ASTRON Board and Management Team

Marco de Vos

“I am confident, that together we can make a success out of the NWO transition.”

As fundamental science research institute, ASTRON is constantly in need of next generation measuring instruments. Mostly, they are based on technical innovations, high tech systems and materials. The big data, produced by these instruments produce vast amounts of (big) data and require high performance computers and state of the art software to be analysed. This is briefly our world! To meet all these specific requirements and to remain at the forefront of our discipline, we work together in Public Private Partnerships, both at regional, national and international level. Our main projects LOFAR, APERTIF, DOME and SKA are perfect examples.

Region of Smart Factories
Besides public-private partnerships, we also join forces in cluster cooperation, like the Region of Smart Factories. ASTRON is one of 40 partners in this Northern Netherlands collaboration. Together with companies like Philips and Fokker, universities, techno-starters and medium sized production companies, we develop the Intelligent Factory of the future, with connected and customized production processes, minimum energy consumption, failures and waste and maximum output and results. Our collaboration has mutual benefits for all partners. We share new instruments, technologies, knowledge and experience. We interest young people to choose a career in science and technology, both on academic, polytechnic (Dutch HBO) and engineering (Dutch MBO) skill levels. We develop technologies for radio astronomy and take them from the edge of the universe, to universities and eventually to the market. In this way we help ourselves and at the same time make a significant contribution to the top sectors HTSM (High Tech Systems & Materials) and ICT, appointed by our Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Data oriented
In 2014 we made the choice to work more and more data oriented, instead of telescope oriented. After all, the actual radio telescope – now and in the future – will be no longer ‘in our backyard’. Instead, the radio telescope is a complex of antenna stations, distributed all over the world. That means, that service and maintenance for instance will be more and more a local matter. On the other hand, transporting, collecting, analyzing and visualizing the vast amounts of data will be more and more difficult and specialized. There are only a few institutes in the world that can handle and process these kind of data streams. ASTRON is definitely one of those!

Recognition and continuity
As Managing Director of ASTRON I am very satisfied with the fact that the incidental contribution we received the past years to develop LOFAR has now become structural. Thanks to the annual two million euro subsidy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs we stay the host country of the project and we can get the best out of LOFAR. It gives us recognition, confidence and a solid base to work from.

Transition NWO
For projects like LOFAR, 2014 and 2015 were years of consolidation and production. On the other hand, for projects like APERTURE, SKA and DOME these years were years of preparation and new developments. The same goes for our transition to the NWO organization (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). Behind the scenes I have conducted many conversations in preparation of all the changes. My starting point always has been ‘what do we need to realize excellent science results?’ Together with NWO and the other institutes we have elaborated a ‘Back Office – Front Office’ model, in which we can continue to work as we are used to, with central control and consolidation and extra punching power, due to the combined power of all the institutes together. That extra power should lead to for instance even better promotion of all our activities, nationally and internationally. I am confident, that together we can make a success out of the NWO transition.