by Eric Lanke
One of the most common questions I get about the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) is how do they pick which research projects to fund. It’s a question I love answering, because it’s a welcome surprise for many to learn that it is the fluid power industry, not academia, that provides the majority of input into making this decision.
In Part 1 of this series, I introduced the group of industry professionals within the CCEFP called the Industry Engagement Committee. Since we began providing financial support from the NFPA Foundation and its new Pascal giving and recognition society to the CCEFP, seats on this committee have been extended to Silver and Gold donors in the Pascal Society. The industry members of the committee elect their own leadership, with the current chair being Eric Bretey of Danfoss and the current vice chair being QingHui Yuan of Eaton.
One of the jobs of the committee is to identify the research topics that CCEFP projects should focus on. Once that is done and the various proposals that align with those prioritized topics have come in, their second major job comes into play—reviewing and selecting those that will actually get funded. And they use a fairly robust process to do that. First, they align industry reviewers with the appropriate expertise with each corresponding cluster of research proposals. Industry professionals from pneumatics companies, for example, should not be asked review hydraulic research proposals, and vice versa. So, there is a fair amount of sorting that goes on, making sure the work of reviewing the proposals is divided equally among the committee members and that each committee member reviews the proposals that are clearly within his/her wheelhouse.
Then there’s the review criteria itself. There are fifteen areas of evaluation in all, divided into three major sections:
- Alignment. How well aligned is the proposal with the goals and objectives of the CCEFP? Does it represent a fundamental advancement in fluid power knowledge and understanding? Does it function at a systems level? Does it strategically fit with this CCEFP’s other projects and can it be demonstrated on one of the CCEFP’s test beds?
- Risk. How likely is it that the proposal will be successful? What are its metrics? Are they appropriate? Are there clear deliverables upon successful conclusion? What are they? Is the research team up to the task? Is the budget appropriate for its scope?
- Reward. If successful, how broadly applicable to the fluid power industry will the results be? How likely is it that industry will participate in the proposal execution? How novel would the breakthrough be? Does the research team have sources of external support for potential continuation into commercialization?
Ideally, the Committee is looking to fund a portfolio of research projects that are spread across the risk/reward spectrum. Some low risk/low reward projects to ensure progress is being made, but also some high risk/high reward projects to help push the envelope in the industry’s key technical barriers. Once the scores are all in, the proposals are looked at holistically and decisions are made along these lines in order to make a final funding recommendation.
We’re on the cusp of this industry-driven process playing itself out over the next few months. The proposals for this funding cycle were due on December 11, 2015, and are currently being organized for the review process. Watch for further updates and, of course, the announcement of the winning proposals soon.