Interview: Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün, GTÜ Rector and ASELSAN Member of the Board of Directors
“My position as a Member of the Board of Directors of ASELSAN will help strengthen existing ties, and reinforce the value added by this collaboration to our country’s industry.”
Conducting studies on the defence and aerospace industry, Gebze Technical University (GTÜ) has recently become one of the outstanding members of the university ecosystem. With the appointment of Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün, Rector of GTÜ, as a Member of the Board of Directors at ASELSAN, the GTÜ-industry relationship has gained a new dimension. We spoke with Prof. Dr. Görgün about the recent status of GTÜ’s industry-related work and his insights on his new position.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: Prof. Görgün, we previously had an interview with you for the May 2016 issue of MSI TDR. Since then, in addition to your duty at the university, you have also been appointed as a Member of the Board of Directors at ASELSAN, the flagship of the Turkish defence industry. Could you tell us about the current role of GTÜ in the Turkish defence and aerospace industry?
Prof. Dr. GÖRGÜN: In the past 10-15 years, it has become common for universities to contribute to the defence and aerospace industry projects by means of consultancy. As the universities have started to act like a solution partner, I believe that this will pave the way for using the knowledge gathered by universities in a more effective and efficient manner. But in my opinion, rather than only providing consultancy, universities should assume responsibility for one or more work packages, thereby becoming much more involved in defence and aerospace projects. In this way, I believe that the contribution of universities to the industry will increase, which will have a boosting effect on the efforts to achieve the long-desired, but difficult to achieve goal of establishing and expanding a culture of collaboration between universities and the industry.
I had expressed that, in line with this view, we as the GTÜ have included the defence and aerospace industry among the principal research fields of our university and have concentrated on conducting our research studies on this priority area, and that we will guide and encourage our scientists and researchers to work in this interdisciplinary field. Accordingly, we established an Institute of Defence Technologies and entered into a serious restructuring process. In the current situation, we undertake the responsibility of work packages for certain projects of the industry and act like a project partner. When choosing the thesis subjects for our master’s and doctorate students, we take into consideration the priority needs of our country in the field of defence and aerospace technologies. We are, in an effort to establish the research infrastructure, required to overcome the scientific and technological challenges that are likely to be encountered in the projects that will be on the agenda in a few years. We are supporting our students and academicians to establish their own companies to offer solutions for the defence and aerospace industry.
Of course I am also continuing my works in this field. My doctoral and post-doctoral studies abroad were on the topics of the adaptation of energy resources to defence technologies and the development of control algorithms. One of my projects was related to hydrogen energy and fuel cells. It was about the two-pass systems for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), submarines and space vehicles. The transformation of wireless cells was also among those topics. I have been proudly and enthusiastically following the projects of ASELSAN since my student years and throughout my professional career.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: Now we have a question to ask you as the Rector of GTÜ. In our previous interview, you expressed the following: “Defence and aerospace technologies also occupy a central place in the university’s research activities. My goal is to make sure that GTÜ is the first institution that comes to mind when speaking of defence and aerospace technologies, and that GTÜ is perceived as a reliable solution partner. I also aim to raise awareness that, by avoiding any unwelcome surprises, working with GTÜ is a reliable way of conducting activities, and also to make GTÜ be thought of as a university that can positively contribute to the industry.” In this respect, would you summarize the recent situation of GTÜ’s projects in the field of defence and aerospace? What improvements have you made in the previous year in line with this goal?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: Since its establishment, defence and aerospace technologies have been one of the priority areas for GTÜ. The faculty members of our university have been carrying out many studies and conducting a variety of scientific and industrial joint projects. Those outstanding among these studies and projects can be listed as follows:
- Prof Dr. Ali Ata and his team from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering have been conducting studies with ASPİLSAN to enable graphene and its derivatives to be used as performance enhancing materials in next generation lithium batteries, and that solar energy can be stored in lithium ion batteries, with low volume and high performance. The same team is also in talks with ROKETSAN on disposable, lightweight and high power density fuel cells.
- The Informatics Materials and Materials Technologies Research Group led by Prof. Dr. Sedat Alkoy within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is carrying out scientific research on piezoelectric based materials used in sonar systems. In addition, applied studies on the design and development of sonar systems and active transducer devices operating in water, known as wet-end, by means of finite elements and their electrical and acoustical characterization, are also continuing. These studies involve joint works conducted with defence companies such as ASELSAN and Koç Information and Defence Technologies Inc., which are the end users.
- The team led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. İlyas Kandemir in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is continuing to work on the design of UAVs. In addition, a project on fuel cells used in UAVs is being carried out jointly with Kale Aero.
- There is a Defence Technologies and Simulation Laboratory in the Department of Computer Engineering under the responsibility of Assoc. Dr. Prof. Fatih Erdoğan Sevilgen. In this laboratory, real combat units such as tanks, rockets, aircraft and bombs are simulated in a distributed simulation system in the context of a Working Area Modelling and Simulation (WAMSIM) project that was developed for use in military training. In addition, modern algorithms and software in compliance with NATO standards are being developed for the indigenous UAVs.
- In the Open Field Electromagnetic Laboratory (ASEMLAB), which is established within the Department of Electronics Engineering, applied and theoretical researches on radar systems are continuing.
- In the Department of Electronics Engineering, the team led by Prof. Dr. Serkan Aksoy is carrying out advanced studies that are directly related to the defence and aerospace industry. These studies include underwater acoustic wave propagation and radar cross-sectional area calculations.
- The team led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abdulkadir Balıkçı in the Department of Electronics Engineering is working on electromagnetic launchers.
While some of these studies are being carried out with scientific research support provided by TÜBİTAK and the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology, some others are conducted with the direct support and interest of defence companies. Some of the projects have received patents and some have resulted in commercial products through the establishment of spin-off companies.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: You have signed a protocol with Gazi University on the establishment of a Research and Application Centre for Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Could you inform us about the establishment process of this centre? Do you have any expectations from the companies in the industry in this context?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: Additive manufacturing, a new generation manufacturing technology, is a technology in which parts are produced by stacking many thin layers on top of each other. Today, aviation, automotive and medical industries are working intensively to expand the production and use of metal parts with this technology. With the infrastructure project led by Gazi University and proposed by the Ministry of Development, it is aimed to increase the competitive power of our country, to develop the related technologies and to produce indigenous technological products and information with high added value in this area, which is considered as the manufacturing technology of the future. With this in mind, it is planned to establish the Research and Application Centre for Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) Technologies in three years. Furthermore, thanks to the academic cooperation projects established abroad, it is aimed to establish an education-research infrastructure for European Union framework programmes and bilateral cooperation programmes, especially joint research projects, to enable their preparation and the granting of joint doctoral degrees in the respective areas.
In this context, in order to ensure that the project is carried out in compliance with our country’s objectives, the establishment of the research centre and the selection of equipment to be used in the infrastructure will be carried out based on the requirements of our country’s defence and aerospace industry, particularly the production and equipment requirements of the organisations to be established in the organised industrial zone where the centre will be established. Once the Research Centre is established, the aim is to develop indigenous designs for the defence and aerospace industry, as well as the machine manufacturing industry and to ensure the feasibility of parts production, taking into consideration the expectations of the institutions supporting the project and the potentials of the machinery manufacturing industry companies in the region.
Fourth Generation University
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: In our previous interview, you said, “Defence and aerospace is an interdisciplinary subject that requires an interdisciplinary approach.” What has GTÜ done to promote and increase interdisciplinary work since then?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: At the forefront, what we care about most is to support and encourage interdisciplinary work. Interdisciplinary studies are a priority for us when launching new graduate programmes and supporting research laboratories and projects. We know that this transformation from third to fourth generation universities will be achieved by those that attach importance to interdisciplinary studies. Universities that achieve this will effectively become Fourth Generation Universities.
Regarding your question, I would like to briefly mention the studies conducted at our university to support the formation of an interdisciplinary ecosystem. Accordingly, I can list some of the recently opened research institutes and graduate programmes as follows: Graduate School of Defence Technologies, Graduate School of Energy Technologies, Graduate School of Nanotechnology, Graduate School of Biotechnologies. In addition, we have launched various interdisciplinary programmes under the umbrella of the Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences. These programmes include the Master’s Programme on Glass Science and Technology that is jointly conducted with Şişecam, the Master’s Programme on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and the Master’s Programme on Bioinformatics. At our university, we use the scientific research projects budget particularly for supporting interdisciplinary projects.
At these institutes, our faculty members, especially the ones working in the field of defence and aerospace technologies, contribute to the technologies developed in their respective areas of expertise. Examples of such interdisciplinary projects are as follows:
- We have been conducting the Swarm UAV project with the Turkish Air Force. Six faculty members from six different areas, as well as laboratory teams that have developed all parts of the Swarm UAVs, are working on this project. While the platform of UAVs is being developed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Institute of Information Technologies is developing the algorithms and software on communication and positioning. The parts regarding artificial vision, image processing, command and control, as well as routing and simulation, are being developed by the faculty members of the Department of Computer Engineering and the related teams. As you can see, these teams from different disciplines have an ability to develop a UAV from beginning to end.
- The same team is working together on the Autonomous Vehicle project that is underway at the Institute of Information Technologies. In the context of this project, a golf vehicle donated to our university by TÜBİTAK is being modified to transform it into an autonomous vehicle. Accordingly, it is planned to add autonomous features by means of LIDAR, sensors and cameras. This team is developing the electromechanical capabilities and software required for the vehicle to move autonomously on the road. The autonomous vehicle that will be developed by the end of the project will be used in the defence industry, especially for border security.
In addition to these projects, we also host various events to raise awareness and support interdisciplinary cooperation in this area. For example:
- The 1st International TÜBİTAK UAV Competition took place on our campus. This event, at which 80 teams exhibited their talents for a week, attracted public attention as the most comprehensive organisation hosted by our university. Interested faculty members from other universities came to our campus to discuss the various technology solutions.
- We also hosted the Workshop on Sustainable Aviation Researches, conducted in cooperation with the international Sustainable Aviation Research Society (SARES).
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: In accordance with the protocols it signed with ASELSAN, BMC, FİGES, HAVELSAN, Istanbul Shipyard, ROKETSAN, STM, TEI and TAI on November 11, 2015; GTÜ became part of the SAYP (Researcher Training Program for Defence Industry). Could you tell us about the latest status of your work in the context of this programme?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: We are in close contact with all the companies with which we have signed SAYP protocols. I already mentioned the studies we are carrying out with ROKETSAN and ASPİLSAN. In addition to these, we have collaborations with TEI. We developed a SAYP project with HAVELSAN, called the Augmented and Virtual Reality Based Marine Surveillance System (ASGER). The ASGER system will show the recognized maritime picture to the user in an interactive way, using augmented reality technology on the military surface platforms. The system’s effectiveness and its contribution to the user experience will be measured and compared with the existing 2D systems. As a result of this comparison, the contribution made by augmented reality based systems to the increase in situational awareness in practice will be determined.
We will also have concrete projects with ASELSAN. We are endeavouring to initiate SAYP projects, especially in the field of hololens imaging and acoustics.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: What can you say about the activities of GTÜ’s Institute of Earth and Marine Sciences? Are there any projects carried out together with the industry?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: The Institute for Earth and Marine Sciences is one of the institutes that we have not yet activated but are planning to in the second stage, immediately following the activation of our institutes included in the first stage. Although not yet active, both the earthquake research and the on-going studies in the field of geodesy are preparing a solid ground for this institute.
Synergy to Increase
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: Your close relationship with the industry enables you to look at the industry from the perspective of a non-academic person. How do you see the current situation of the Turkish defence and aerospace industry? In this context, what do you think GTÜ needs to do in the coming period?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: The defence industry is one of the few industries that is important to the point of being vital, and, for this reason, indigenisation is an important requirement. The aerospace industry also requires the development and use of the most advanced technologies. The civilian and military applications of the industry play a crucial role in shaping all sectors. For our country, if we look only from a financial perspective, we can say that the annual production of our defence and aerospace industry has exceeded $5 billion and that some $2 billion of this comes from exports. The continuous increase in these figures has the potential to affect many other industries as well, through a chain reaction.
Since aviation requires the lowest safety coefficients and tries to reduce weight, it is an industry that requires top-level capabilities, in terms of design and analysis. If the procedures applied for the maintenance of a commercial air vehicle were applied to the human body, it would have been possible to detect almost all hazardous diseases at the beginning stage and they could, therefore, have been easily treated at a low cost. In addition, the keen ethical understanding of the aviation system is also reflected in its procedures. When only these aspects are taken into consideration, we can say that aviation will guide the other industries, thanks to these multidisciplinary studies being conducted in this field.
In this overall picture, GTÜ stands out with its significant capabilities and potential, thanks to its proximity to the intersection points between the emerging defence and aerospace projects and incubation centres, as well as its proficient lecturers. Another expectation from GTÜ is that it should not only be satisfied with raising academic personnel and engineers but also should contribute to projects involving superior technology.
The defence and aerospace industry requires multidisciplinary work of the highest level. To date, with its successful horizontal structuring, GTÜ has always provided its faculty members with the necessary multidisciplinary working environment. It should be expected that the university would continue to work on such programmes and projects. In this context, it is clear that the GTÜ’s main mission needs to focus on establishing and developing academic teams and university-industry collaboration teams that are capable of carrying out such a broad range of multidisciplinary work.
In order to show you how effective and competent GTÜ is in defence technologies, I would like to tell you that, at the time I was elected as a Member of the Board of Directors of ASELSAN, our faculty members were appointed to three other important Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF) companies: The faculty members of GTÜ were elected as the Board Members of ROKETSAN, ASPİLSAN and TEI. In terms of human resources, we have been supporting and will continue to support Turkey’s important institutions. For example, the President of TÜBİTAK is a scientist who had worked at GTÜ for many years; one of the Vice Presidents of TÜBİTAK is a faculty member of GTÜ. You also have another faculty member of GTÜ whose is the president of one of the research institutes at TÜBİTAK: the President of BİLGEM (Informatics and Information Security Research Centre) is a faculty member of GTÜ, in the Department of Computer Engineering. The Administrative Committee of GTÜ approved appointment of these faculty members. In short, GTÜ is a valuable source of human resources.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: How will your new position as a Member of the Board of Directors, ASELSAN, affect the relations between GTÜ and ASELSAN?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: The collaboration between GTÜ and ASELSAN was initiated before I was appointed to this position because the field of defence technologies, as I have stated, is a leading research area that is a priority for our university. As a result, we can say that these two institutions share a strategic, strong and common target. GTÜ is a university that is eager to develop projects, production and innovations. As GTÜ, with its qualified human resources, is a university that raises research scientists in line with the needs of our country, I believe that synergy will be at the top level in this university-industry collaboration. Of course my position as a Member of the Board of Directors will also help strengthen the existing ties and reinforce the value added by this collaboration to the industry of our country.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: What are your predictions about the future of ASELSAN?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: I think it will be better to answer this question once I become a bit more familiar with ASELSAN. ASELSAN is a company that is listed on BİST100 and continues its growth by improving itself every year. We are proud of our company that is a source of such enthusiasm for us… I believe that by increasing its export figures and the number of countries to which it makes international sales, ASELSAN’s real income will come from the international market, as its main customer base will be abroad. It will be a company with an export volume of over $200 million and will continue to support the companies with which it has been growing.
Ümit BAYRAKTAR: Is there anything you would like to add?
Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün: Thank you for your interest.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün, Rector of GTÜ and Member of the Board of Directors of ASELSAN, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.
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