I would like to talk a bit more about how we connect here at our GRC-Europe center in Munich. At the center, I am a researcher in the diagnostic imaging and biomedical technologies (DIBT) lab. I am working on various topics, all related to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), one of the coolest technologies on earth due to its powerful insights into the human body. Recently, I was honored for having reached the milestone of 100 published papers. Apart from writing some of these publications, the award is a result of being highly active in collaborating with external partners. I had the opportunity to work with many very talented academic partners, jointly publishing our results in highly recognized scientific journals.
When I started my career at Global Research 10 years ago, our center in Munich had just been set up and had very limited access to the academic network in Europe. Not really surprising when you start such an endeavor in the backyard of one of GE’s main competitors. The center is located just next to the campus of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), but when I started there wasn’t yet interaction going on as the center had opened only two years before. Building those types of relationships takes time. Eight years ago we started reaching out to the academic community by initiating the first collaboration with TUM in the area of metabolic imaging with hyperpolarized compounds, gratefully supported by the GRC leadership team. This was followed by plenty of other projects in several other fields, such as combustion and turbo-machinery. Nowadays, we are firmly interconnected in the local research environment.
So why is this important for GE and for society as a whole? It is about tapping into local talents, increasing visibility and the reputation of GE in relation to such a state-of-the art technology as MRI to key partners and customers and progressing research much faster. The close interaction with (mainly PhD) students brings a lot of fruitful input to our projects, they work directly on topics which benefit our research, feeding into the GE innovation pipeline; and we also train the next generation of engineers on GE equipment, opening the doors for the future. This is particularly true for MRI scanners, where a lot of skills and training on the devices is required. We expanded the collaboration network now also to many other universities, not only German, but also European and global academic institutions. Mutual site visits, frequent discussions and joint PhD students are providing the basis for collaborative research projects with the common goal of advancing MRI for the sake of improving diagnosis. The DIBT lab works in close collaboration with more than a dozen PhD students strongly linked into our academic network. This open innovation concept enables rapid implementation and prototyping, obtaining customer feedback early on in the research phase. The interaction and exchange of ideas makes the center the coolest place on earth to work!
MRI is extremely powerful and broad, and universities can easily perform research by developing new MRI data acquisition and reconstruction technologies. Accessing and using the complex MRI software and hardware for research purposes requires that universities have strong support from vendors. At the same time, vendors can use the universities’ scientific output for future product development and to demonstrate technological leadership. Hence, our model of university collaboration perfectly fits into the MRI field, especially in Europe with its intense interaction between the academic and industrial worlds.