IS2C Workshop 2013

Seeing the elephant

What do we do with Viaduct Vlijmen Oost? In a workshop on Friday 12 April three groups of PhD students from the STW Perspectiefprogramma IS2C (Integral Solutions for Sustainable Construction) gave an answer to this question. The concrete viaduct Vlijmen Oost has suffered internal damage from an alkali silica reaction (ASR) and has cracks from which drops of gel are being exuded. The PhD students visited the viaduct and then gave their reliability advice. Their proposal: First measure how much load the viaduct can bear and then take control measures based on this.

Innovation lecture

The other two groups of PhDs from the workshop also gave their solution to questions about the repair and maintenance of the viaduct. Practical questions that the manager of this structure from Rijkswaterstaat also faces; with this approach he can take a fresh look at the practical problems from a theoretical perspective. The Friday workshop was given an inspirational start with an Innovation Lecture from professor Paul Louis Iske (Maastricht University) who explained that innovation cannot take place without collaboration.

Collaboration certainly took place on the Friday morning and the PhD students almost had to be dragged away from their computers for their final presentation. Group 1 was rewarded by the jury for their winning idea. Programme leader Dr Eddy Koenders awarded the symbolic prize: bath gel symbolic for ASR and bath salts for chloride.

Pleased about the workshop

Jaap Bakker, from the Infrastructure Service at Rijkswaterstaat, closed the workshop with the words: ‘I am very pleased about the workshop. This approach provides added value for everybody! Rijkswaterstaat is not a research institute but an asset manager. Unique problem cases such as Vlijmen Oost cause us a lot of headache. We carry out studies and constructive assessments and we monitor, but genuine learning is another story. Then you need to dig deeper and make analyses of all the information you have. We are not set up for that. If we look at the universities they have a lot of knowledge but often insufficient links with everyday practice. So a lot of learning takes place there but not necessarily about “real things”. PhD students dig deep into a very small subject but often miss the link with the larger perspective. Consequently the results from all that research are often difficult to apply in practice. IS2C is making an effort to break through this impasse by setting up a coherent research programme. But a programme that is not connected to everyday practice does not go far enough. Only when you bring students together with people from the field and allow all of their knowledge to connect with real issues does a genuine overall perspective arise. Only then can you see the elephant.’

That last comment refers to a well-known cartoon from Iske’s Innovation Lecture in which blindfolded people feel an elephant and each one of them has a different idea as to what it is: a snake, a wall, a brush and so forth. Nobody has sufficient oversight to recognise the elephant. That is only possible with the collaboration and insight drawn from different disciplines as happens in the Perspectiefprogramma IS2C.

Click HERE for the IS2C website at STW.

Click HERE for the lecture of Professor Iske:

Further information about the research of programme leader Prof. Eddy Koenders, Delft University of Technology, E.A.B.Koenders@tudelft.nl