Chris Mason, CEO of the world body for automotive engineers promoting excellence in mobility engineering, discusses FISITA’s longstanding partnership with EuroBrake. By Martin Kahl
As preparations for EuroBrake 2021 ramp up, Chris Mason, FISITA Chief Executive, shares his thoughts on the event, the value of the partnership between FISITA and EuroBrake, and why EuroBrake reaches out beyond the automotive industry and encourages participation from other industry sectors.
What is the link between FISITA and EuroBrake?
Over a decade ago, FISITA helped to bring together two braking technology conferences to create what has become the world’s largest braking technology conference. FISITA provides the operational delivery, the promotional activity, and the financial responsibility – but I believe it’s more than just a B2B relationship. The FISITA community and the EuroBrake community overlap in so many ways. The EuroBrake community is a technology cluster, and many of the other groups that FISITA has formed, or is forming, are subject-specific technology clusters.
How important is the partnership between FISITA and EuroBrake?
The partnership is really important, and I think there’s a mutual trust. FISITA is seen by the EuroBrake technical community as the international organisation for technology and technologists, and so there’s a pride in the EuroBrake community to have its place in FISITA.
But there’s an equal pride in FISITA having its place within each and every single member, whether that’s an individual engineer or a corporate entity that’s involved in EuroBrake, because for them it’s more than a single international event – it’s a community. And on the FISITA side, it’s a collaborative network that has built and strengthened year on year over the last decade. So I think it’s of equal importance, and that’s based on the foundation of trust that’s been built over that period.
The value of longstanding partnerships becomes clear during challenging times, such as last year. So, we put together a plan for EuroBrake to honour the value that the braking community derives from the event. It’s the braking community’s EuroBrake, and we see the value of that in the way the plans for 2020 and 2021 have been so well received, with significant contributions from the community.
What can FISITA bring to EuroBrake?
FISITA has much to bring to EuroBrake. We like to think that, over the years, we have delivered innovation of value to the community. One of the key elements is the peer-to-peer networking. Whether that’s the Student Opportunities Programme for young engineers to come into the EuroBrake community, or the people that meet on an annual basis through EuroBrake, the networking is significant.
The evolution of the EuroBrake Student Opportunities Programme demonstrates a sustainable, collaborative initiative. FISITA provides tickets for 50 students to attend the full conference and participate as delegates, absolutely free of charge. We have some excellent sponsorships from the corporate community, who then get to engage with these young guys, and I think that’s a really great way of welcoming young engineers into a career pathway in the braking community. That is something that FISITA and EuroBrake have brought together.
We talked about what FISITA can bring to EuroBrake. What can EuroBrake bring to FISITA?
EuroBrake can bring to FISITA knowledge, thought leadership, and contributions from the fast-evolving technology area of braking. Not too long ago, braking was about making things stop, but now it involves so much more. From energy regeneration, to light-weighting, to emissions, all these things are significant to braking, and of significant importance to the wider mobility systems engineering community.
Consider noise vibration and harshness, or NVH. Noise is a big challenge for autonomous and electric vehicles, because they don’t really make any other noise. And when the brakes start to grind and squeal, that’s not going to work. So, the modernisation of braking technology is what EuroBrake can bring to FISITA.
The EuroBrake Steering Committee is a group of experts from the braking community, including experts from corporate entities and academia, and between them they possess a real breadth of knowledge and experience. And we’re challenging the EuroBrake Steering Committee to talk about the modernisation of braking technology, from where we are now to by-wire and frictionless braking.
Why have you said that going online for EuroBrake 2021 is more than just a response to COVID-19?
Going online shapes our future. Before COVID, the transition to online was part of my three to five-year plan for FISITA, not just for EuroBrake. And I think that that’s important, because the world of business and events has now changed for good. The corporate community has found an efficiency in the reactive activity that they were forced into, and that is now moving into a business benefit.
So, there’s the immediate concern of cost saving. If you don’t have staff flying around the world several time a year, you’re saving money. You have them in your business for more working days than previously, and by engaging online, they’re still getting the knowledge sharing, engagement, and thought leadership that they used to get from physical conferences. But furthermore, rather than three days per year engagement, it gives us the opportunity to have year-round engagement with each of our high priority technology areas. And that, fundamentally, gives us continuity, which is vital in any sustainable business or operational activity.
So, I very much expect things to spark from EuroBrake 2021 as a virtual conference, that we can then work on as a community throughout the year, report back to the EuroBrake community, and bring back to the conference next year. Whether that’s virtual or a hybrid or physical event, only time will tell.
There’s a focus on rail at EuroBrake 2021 – why is the participation of the rail industry and other non-automotive sectors so important to the event?
The rail community is an important part of the evolving EuroBrake community, and the Steering Committee, has in recent year focused on alternative braking technology in industries beyond automotive. Rail is clearly one sector that we have welcomed into the fold, and we are working together to develop rail-based activities under the EuroBrake banner. At EuroBrake 2021, we have three technical sessions, one keynote speaker and one panel session all devoted to the global rail industry.
And we can expect other aligned sectors or industries to join us as we move forward in this way. Renewable energy is clearly something that uses friction technology as its method of converting natural resources into power, and the renewable energy sector could also play an important part in EuroBrake going forward, as could other mobility-based technology sectors. And, of course, we’d welcome interest from any of those sectors.