Siemens has been a crucial long-term partner to Princeton in its mission to tackle the "big, complex and difficult" challenge of building a robust innovation ecosystem. With industry at the heart of its efforts to build an innovation hub in and around New Jersey, Princeton values the opportunity to collaborate with Siemens and engage with the company's robust university relations program.
With the Siemens Technology North American Headquarters located in Princeton, the partnership is a great match. Siemens has nearly 2,100 employees in the state of New Jersey and over 250 in Princeton. According to Siemens’ program manager for university relations Arturo Pizano in a 2019 interview with Tech Transfer Central, “First of all, we’ve identified only a handful of universities with which we want to partner; Princeton is one of six. And second, we look at topics more relevant to us.” Pizano noted Siemens’ topics of interest as computer science and engineering, two of Princeton’s strengths. He also noted that “it’s much easier, and more effective, to work with university partners when they’re close by.”
Siemens particularly values the research areas of sustainability, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things.
Engaging with Students
Another large part of Siemens’ contribution to the innovation ecosystem is its engagement with Princeton students through talent acquisition and recruitment. “We like to keep the best students working with us and in the region, though we know many will go elsewhere,” Pizano said. He explained that Siemens tries to give students a sense of what it would be like to work in industry: from giving them tours of PhD labs at their facility, to even providing some PhD fellowships that involve more exposure to real-world programs.
With help organizing from the Office of Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations, Siemens teamed up with Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy to host the CITP and Siemens Corporate Technology FutureMakers Challenge, a hackathon where participants worked on protecting industrial businesses using smart cyber threat & anomaly detection, prevention technology and analytics. The winners, a team of two Princeton electrical and computer engineering graduate students, were awarded a six-month Siemens research sponsorship. They used this sponsorship to advance their invention, “Deep learning based zero-day controller-hijacking attack detection in power-grid systems.” The following year, the FutureMakers program evaluated written proposals to a machine learning technical challenge from grad students and their faculty advisers. Graduate students were awarded one-year fellowships to pursue their proposed technical solutions in the lab.
Expanding Relationships Throughout New Jersey
The Siemens ConneCTs corporate technology conference was established in order to expand the fruits of the relationship between Princeton and Siemens by bringing in other outside partners. “It’s an opportunity to show externally what we can do individually and together, while highlighting the strength of the region and the state,” Pizano explained, adding that the New Jersey Governor, Siemens executives, and Princeton faculty and staff participated in the conference.
Spencer Reynolds, then an engagement specialist with CEFR, along with Pizano, discussed the Siemens-Princeton relationship in more depth in a short video with UIDP, an organization that focuses on strengthening university-industry partnerships. Reynolds emphasized the importance of senior leadership support, “It gives us the freedom to be able to solve problems and ideate whenever new projects come up,” Reynolds remarked.
Commitment to Sustainability
Siemens has increased its involvement with the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton. With Andlinger, Siemens converted from the Affiliate Membership level up to the General Membership level in the Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership for industrial collaboration. One aspect of the program allows members, like Siemens, to use the majority of membership funds to support faculty research in areas of interest to the company. As a result, Siemens has supported multiple one-year research projects at Princeton related to energy and systems resiliency, as well as PhD student fellowships.
Siemens’ E-ffiliates membership has already facilitated submissions of grant proposals to the U.S. Department of Energy to support collaborative research with Princeton faculty on geothermal district heating for buildings and fast-charging technologies for electric vehicles. Siemens is also working with the Andlinger Center to develop internships for doctoral students that leverage the close proximity of the Siemens Corporate Technology research facility in Princeton.
Siemens has also increased its involvement with Princeton’s GradFUTURES professional development program. With GradFutures, Siemens co-created and hosted a Learning Cohort on the topic of sustainability. Learning Cohorts are interdisciplinary seminars and co-curricular learning opportunities that bring together students, alumni, faculty, and industry partners to focus on current societal, industry, and/or global trends. Siemens holds a deep and enthusiastic corporate commitment to a sustainable future, and leads the way in bringing students along for the ride.
"Siemens is a global powerhouse focusing on the areas of electrification,” Pizano told Princeton’s Office of State Affairs. “This is an environment where new innovations are rapidly emerging and where you can't accomplish everything through internal resources alone. We're able to engage with Princeton's faculty members and students, and this exchange of ideas and expertise helps shape the company's technology roadmap."
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