FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Engenharia Mecânica

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Tecnologia Mecânica e Automação [MECH-Centro-Aveiro-481] visitada em 05/03/2008

Classificação: Excellent

Reapreciação

Comentários do Painel de reapreciação

Basis of Re-evaluation

FCT appointed three individuals to perform a re-evaluation of the Unit following an appeal from the Unit. The request for re-evaluation noted that the previous assessment had resulted in a rating of Excellent, and the appellants expressed their gratitude to the 2003-2007 evaluating panel for the assessment of the Unit as Excellent in terms of productivity, relevance and feasibility. However, the appellants took issue with the overall rating of Very Good and at what they claimed were inaccurate statements in the “General Comments” section of the evaluation report. The appellants did concede that the submission could have been more concise, and noted that the in 2008 the unit had 21 PhDs, 17 Masters and 51 Integrated Masters (Bologna style).

The FCT provided individual members of the re-evaluation team with the original submission made by the Unit for the period 2003 to 2007, the letter requesting the re-evaluation, and the scoring scheme that was used for the evaluation. Unlike the original evaluation, the re-evaluation was done using only these materials. It is noted that the original evaluation included a site visit and interviews. It is also observed that this re-evaluation is made about two years after the initial evaluation so that current perceptions may be different from those made then.

The re-evaluation team has endeavoured to assess the Unit as objectively as possible but notes that it did not have the same means to calibrate their assessment against the large number of Units that were assessed in the initial exercise.

General Observations

The unit consists of one Group:

  • Centro Tecnologia Mecanica e Automatica (TEMA - 2250)

Since the Unit has only one Research Group a single report covering both the submissions for the Unit and Research Group is provided below.

Over the evaluation period the average number of Integrated Researchers is 24.5 FTE. There are 44 Integrated Researchers, 6 other PhD and 2 non-PhD level researchers named in the submission.

The Unit has a well-defined management and operational structure with clear lines of responsibilities.

The objectives of the Unit are to develop tools (computational and otherwise) to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of production, thereby enhancing industrial competitiveness. The approach is through targeted research and technology transfer projects. The scope of the activities of this large Unit is very broad both technically and geographically, and is characterised by a multidisciplinary, integrative strategy. Examples include a multi-scale forging of high quality affordable products; the development of extreme coatings and nanostructured surfaces with applications to energy conversion and biomaterials; and the use of physical and numerical models for the improvement of production processes which result in reduced environmental impact.

The Unit has been very successful at winning research funds from a wide variety of sources, totalling almost 4M€. It has received 5 awards for outstanding contributions.

Even though the Unit has a well-defined management structure, there is a danger with such a large, single-group unit that it will lose focus in the pursuit of diverse research projects. There is an apparent lack of strategy in the submission. It is recommended that the Unit establish an international advisory committee with representation from the academic and industrial sectors to help develop the strategy, and to maintain its position as a world-class research unit.

Productivity: Excellent

The output is commensurately large with about 1 book or book chapter, 15 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and 18 conference publications per FTE Integrated Researcher. The ten peer-review papers listed have an average impact factor of about 2 and average citation rate of 6. The Unit output includes 32 models, 30 computer applications and 34 pilot plants/prototypes/patents.

Relevance: Excellent

The Unit operates at local, regional, national and international levels with an extensive list of partnering organisations (academic and industrial) in France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Spain, UK and USA. They are also active in the establishment of the new Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, and in the European Cluster for biomaterials and in other organisations.

Feasibility: Excellent

The ambitious and extremely relevant objectives in the past have been shown to be perfectly feasible and it seems clear that the unit will continue to produce at the same rate and with the same degree of success. The proposed research seems perfectly feasible.

Training: Good

Relative to the productivity level and the number of FTE Integrated Researchers the number of graduate theses (15 PhD and 11 MSc) completed during the evaluation period is low. It is noted, however, that the output per PhD per year is excellent, at 3.6 papers.

The volume of students trained through Masters and PhD programmes is, therefore, an area for improvement in an otherwise excellent unit.

The contributions through outreach activities to schools and through training courses and symposia are extensive.

The appeal letter indicates that this relative weakness is being addressed and that there are more graduate students undergoing training.

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This is a unit of 45 researchers who currently supervise 6 PhD and 2 Masters students. The research is on manufacturing techniques and processes, including numerical modelling of the processes and novel self-assembled nano materials.
The productivity of this unit is excellent. 365 international journal papers were published (8.1 per researcher). The 10 journal papers listed were all published in journals with high impact factors (ranging from 1.5 to 4.1). Four of the papers have been cited 7 times or more. Four books were published, along with five book chapters.
The relevance of this research is excellent: a few of the journal papers are highly cited, and the researchers have been involved in the organization of 7 to 9 international conferences a year, the vast majority of which are international. Eight international collaborators are listed. This is a highly productive group with strong international contacts and collaborations. Recent publications in large IF journals are highly cited.
It seems that ties with Portuguese and European industry should be enhanced. The unit’s activity seems to be strongly biased towards research, which is excellent. However, given the high added value of the application of their research results, the technology transfer issues deserve much more attention.
The unit is apparently spreading its interests over a large number of topics, grouped under the umbrella of three integrating activities. The risk always exists that the expertise of the group will be spread too thin over so many themes.
The feasibility of the proposed research is excellent. The objectives are broad, ambitious and very relevant. It is clear from what was already achieved that the unit will continue to produce internationally recognized research.
In regards to training, the unit has completed 15 Masters and 11 PhD dissertations (0.6 per researcher).
The mission of this unit is to enhance the quality of final products/processes by efficient use of materials and energy requirements, as well as production schedules, through an improved understanding of the associated mechanisms and phenomena, in combination with extensive modelling capabilities.
The unit is quite productive in terms of publications (4 publications/PhD/yr), although this high figure might be including joint publications with TEMA collaborating and invited members.
This unit is composed of a single group with a wide spectrum of activities in several somewhat unrelated fields. The unit’s goal is to maintain a balance between scientific knowledge and industrial applications, as well as between traditional and new technologies/materials. This balance is clearly perceived by the evaluators. The research activities are highly relevant, both scientifically and technically, with an important potential economic impact on some small and medium size Portuguese companies.
The unit has organised some international conferences; its international networking capacity is quantitatively very high. The collaboration with local and international industrial partners is solid. The unit is generating interesting ideas and patents, with an exploitation approach always in sight.
The number of PhD and Masters students is not commensurate with the large number of PhD investigators (45 to 50) in the unit.
The unit is apparently spreading its interests over a large number of topics, grouped under the umbrella of three integrating activities. The risk always exists that the expertise of the group becomes lean over so many themes.
The first activity, “Multiscale Approach for the Development of High Quality Affordable Products…”, is well oriented, with a good balance between basic knowledge and application, combining both experimental and numerical tools.
The second activity, “Development of Extreme Coatings and Nano-Structured Surface”, may produce some applicable results but, in general terms, tends toward high quality advanced research with limited applications in sight.
The third activity, “Numerical and Physical Modelling Toward Enhancement of Industrial....”, is somewhat uneven. While a few of the projects on Energy and Cellular Materials (homogenization techniques) seem relevant, those on Thermal and Fluid sciences span a wide and disparate range of topics. This activity would benefit from focussing and articulating clearly their research objectives.
The “Automation and Robotics” tasks appear to be at an early stage of development, with minor external funding, depending mostly on undergraduate students’ enthusiasm. A decision should be made on whether to devise strategic plans for its development or to discontinue its work.
In summary, the unit should focus the wide spectrum of topics within every activity, reducing them through a coherent selection process. Incorporating some external expertise into the unit in the fields of heat and fluid flow, as well as automation and robotics is strongly recommended. The energy related tasks should be narrowed down to a few viable topics in which the unit may have an initial expertise that can be further enhanced. EC funding should be more actively pursued.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Centro de Tecnologia Mecânica e Automação [RG-MECH-Centro-Aveiro-481-2250]