2.11 Summary Observations

Last updated on 2014/10/06 by Michael Nolan

As was noted at the beginning of this chapter, the job of directing an ERC is all about choices. No one should choose this powerful and prestigious position if s/he is not fully committed to the stated objectives of the ERC Program and to its values of team‑oriented, industrially relevant, interdisciplinary research. The Director of a new ERC must choose the extent to which s/he will delegate and the areas over which s/he will retain effective control. Choices also are implicit in the assembly of the team that will apply for the ERC, and of the teams that will run the center at all stages of its development. A balance of research talent and commitment to the center's vision is essential, and interdisciplinary education and technology transfer will not reach their full potential unless the Director chooses his/her teams wisely. It is naive to expect that every center faculty member will excel in all center activities, but a subset must be capable of world-class work in each of the major areas of research, education, and technology transfer.

Within the university framework, an ERC Director must chose his/her style of interaction. A measure of persuasion and firmness may be necessary to obtain contiguous space at the outset, and to take full advantage of the university's pledges of support for the center. As the center matures and begins to concentrate on the continuity of its research, education, and technology transfer programs, cooperative relationships with allied departments and the appropriate parts of the university hierarchy come to the fore. Mutually beneficial recruitment is the Director's most potent asset in this matter and a confrontational approach by a mature center may leave it surrounded by enemies at a time when it most needs friends. It is the stated intent of the ERC Program that the centers should make lasting changes in university education and also sharply improve the competitiveness of American industry; and most ERCs actually accomplish these objectives. Clever recruitment and excellent relationships within the university can extrapolate these changes by passing the center's vision to the university departments and faculties that constitute the operative research‑education‑technology transfer mechanism of our university system.

In summary:  Be faithful to your vision; articulate your vision to draw together a team of like‑minded colleagues; and keep the dream fresh by adding new people who can move with the field.