Dr. Govaers, why do you like working at the Fraunhofer FKIE?
FG: There are many different aspects. In the beginning, the main thing for me was the science, and of course it still is. But beyond that, you get a very nice synthesis of basic research and application. And unlike at a university, there is a lot of interdisciplinary work going on here. For me, that's still one of the most attractive points.
Other aspects are my colleagues, the good working atmosphere and collaboration with industry. I never realized before how exciting the practical problems were. We develop solutions for acute problems. Our clients really appreciate that.
If you look at the standard phases of product development, at what phase does your work come in? Do you ever see the results of your research in market-ready products?
FG: No, usually not. Here at FKIE, visionary thinking is the order of the day. Our sights are set far into the future. We are highly innovative and develop things that are totally new. That's what I like best. You feel like you're shaping the future and working on solutions that improve your day-to-day work and make the world a safer place... So, if you look at the typical phases of product development, we're working at a very early stage.
Since 2009, you have been a research associate at the department of »Sensor Data and Information Fusion (SDF)«, and since the beginning of 2017 you have been the deputy head of the department. From the perspective of this successful career, what would you like to pass on to potential applicants about the FKIE?
FG: The staff at FKIE take on a lot of responsibility right from the start and work very independently. They are also given a great deal of freedom to advance their own research. This is not just allowed, but explicitly encouraged. The institute also offers a great deal of support to help staff achieve their own goals. Whether doctoral or advanced professional training, FKIE offers much more than most companies. This is certainly also due to the close ties with university research and academic work.
Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) at these days, at times with pointed criticism. Here at the institute, you are considered the expert in AI. What's your position on the subject?
FG: As a scientist I’m in favor of a progressive attitude towards AI, but not a mindless one; you have to distinguish between the two. Of course, along with the technical aspects, legal and ethical aspects, certifications and a raft of other issues all play an important role in dealing with AI applications. But I am absolutely against the kind of fear mongering you find in the press today, sometimes with no understanding of the subject matter. We still have a very long way to go before we reach the point where people think we are already. The widespread fear among the general public is therefore completely unfounded.