Let’s collaborate to innovate

JOINOLOG as a project, but also as a conceptual vision, aims to stimulate more collaboration between industry partners, scientists and policy makers from the MENA region and beyond. A core reason why we believe that such collaboration can be rewarding for everyone involved is that we are convinced that a successful and diverse collaboration can result in innovation. More precisely, it can result in innovations that actually address the needs of the industry and, ultimately, the society. The idea of research collaboration for innovation is not new and in the following  article, we are presenting two well-known cases and one very personal excellent case that inspired us.

JOINOLOG would not exist without the internet, the one tool that allows us to communicate and collaborate seamlessly, even if we are not physically in the same place or even the same continent or timezone. This one of the most disruptive innovations of our lifetime came into being in the late 1980s and is generally credited to Tim Berners-Lee. He set up the first web server, as well as later the first modem in CERN, the research center of the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. That center was built and funded by the European Union to unite the brightest minds in nuclear science and related fields of research in one location. The results of this interdisciplinary and international research excellence center are, indeed, outstanding, not just in the case of the internet. 

Granted, CERN might be an unfair comparison to JOINOLOG: Being founded by an EU resolution and receiving significant funding from all EU member states, it naturally is larger in size and volume than JOINOLOG will ever be. The manifold of partners is also unlikely to be reached by JOINOLOG – or many other research institutions indeed. But CERN is by far not the only good practice that shows how disruptive innovations are being made at research centers through collaborative activities.

Another disruptive digital innovation that did change the world undisputedly is the MP3 technology. The genesis of the technology was described by a German professor in the 1980s, but it was only when a larger group of researchers collaborated that the technology could be standardized and further developed to hit the market. The main research work was coordinated by a German private research institution, but also involved several universities and technology companies from the US, France, UK, Germany and Japan. Only through this strong collaboration could the innovation ever become an industry standard that is widely accepted and ever since further developed. Again, collaborative research of vastly different stakeholders led to a disruptive innovation.

Finally, the German part of JOINOLOG, the team of Fulda University of Applied Sciencesaround Prof. Michael Huth, is based at a research center itself. The “House of Logistics and Mobility” (in short: HOLM) is a German collaboration center that brings together industry partners and universities from all over Germany and even beyond. It was founded by the State of Hesse and received funding from the state for a few years, but is now self-sustainable. As a research team, we have benefited again and again from the close proximity of some of the largest logistics companies in Germany, who all have offices next door to ours. Several research consortia came together for projects this way and some resulted in tangible and applicable outcomes, which entered the market as startups. 

These, and many other examples are what inspires and drives us to promote interdisciplinary and international collaboration between policy makers, scientists and industry partners. We are and remain convinced that only such broad initiatives can and will ultimately result in innovations that truly satisfy the needs of the society, industry and sciences.


Visit to Amman

From November 29 to December 3, the German members of the JOINOLOG project team finally had the opportunity to visit Amman again and meet the Jordanian team members as well as other stakeholders and potential future partners. The long overdue trip, which had to be postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, gave the entire team a chance to get a better picture of the opportunities at hand, but also of the challenges ahead. 

The two equal project partners, the Amman-based German-Jordanian University (GJU) and the Frankfurt-based Research Center for Logistics at Fulda University of Applied Sciences (FUAS) conducted meetings throughout Amman, hosted a student workshop and visited the GJU campus in Madaba, 25 km south of the Jordanian capital.

At GJU’s main campus, the JOINOLOG team met with Dr. Ralf Rosskopf, the university’s Vice Dean for International Affairs, to discuss potential future JOINOLOG events at GJU, as well as regular collaborations on networking events aimed at linking academia and economy more closely. Dr. Rosskopf informed the JOINOLOG team of the ongoing development of research clusters at GJU, as well as the new Deanship of Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, which aims to support student-led start-ups even more in the future. Vice versa, the JOINOLOG team presented Dr. Rosskopf with its vision of holding regular “Industry Talks”, informal get-togethers that bring together academic experts and business leaders.

Following the fruitful exchange with Dr. Rosskopf, the JOINOLOG team met Ms. Britta Kaehler and Eng. Jamil AlKhatib from GJU’s Office for Industrial Links, as well as Dr. Nidal Shwawreh, the Dean of  Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, for a working meeting. The group held a lively discussion about a planned hackathon that JOINOLOG and GJU aim to organize in close cooperation in the second half of 2022 .

Finally, the JOINOLOG team moved to GJU’s campus in central Amman to hold a 60-minute student workshop. During the workshop, two groups of Masters students used the brainwriting method to narrow down the three most relevant current logistical challenges in Jordan. The results will be used as a basis for shaping the research agenda of JOINOLOG in future.

In addition to these meetings between different departments of the project’s two main stakeholders, GJU and HFD, the team also held several meetings with some of the leading experts in the field of logistics in Jordan. 

At HELP logistics, the team learned more about HELP’s activities on the ground in Amman, Jordan and in the wider region, while briefing them about JOINOLOG and its current status and plans for the future. Both sides identified several fields for potential future cooperation. In particular, HELP and JOINOLOG discussed how they could work together on the planned hackathon, but also beyond that, e.g. in the field of humanitarian logistics research.

At Maersk, the JOINOLOG team met Rakan Madi, country manager for Jordan and Iraq. Mr. Rakan emphasized that Maersk is fully supportive of the project and is very comfortable with the collaborative approach that the team seeks to pursue. He made valuable proposals for additional potential partners JOINOLOG should contact and, in return, appreciated JOINOLOG’s plans to hold “Industry Talks” and conduct webinars in the future. 

Finally, before returning to Germany, the JOINOLOG team met with the team of the Jordan Logistics Network (JLN). The two founders, Ismat Yassin and Majd Alasmar, have built  a virtual network of logisticians across the country over the last few years and have become the prime source for information for many industry personnel. JLN and JOINOLOG are determined to work closely together in the future to carry out activities across Jordan, such as a job fair or a series of workshops or webinars. 

In the only virtual meeting of the week, the JOINOLOG team met with its Project Advisory Board (PAB). In interesting and productive discussions among the board, important structural developments were suggested. The members of the PAB gave valuable input on the center’s strategic direction, which the project team will implement.

An extremely interesting and productive week lies behind the JOINOLOG team, bringing the logistics center for innovation closer to reality.