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#052 Nando's cooling technology

The story of Kostas' and Vasileios' pillars is a story of Nando's cooling technology

Kostas Nizamis and Vasileios Trikalitis are founders of the Authentia foundation. One of the pillars is transfer of knowledge between the Netherlands and Greece. Nando Tolboom also does a fair share of transferring knowledge. He even turned his ideas about energy transition into a product of commerce for his company, Realised. How does he feel about constantly changing hats?

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Monday 11 October 2021

The new age researcher

Vasileios: ‘Nando, to be upfront: we should collaborate. I’m working with freeze-drying as a technique and I have a few ideas. You’re researching low temperatures, right?’

Nando: ‘Among others, yes. My research group focuses on superconductivity and cryogenics. Simply put, we make coolers similar to your refrigerator at home. Not for cooling groceries, but for cooling sensors. For example, satellite cameras pointing towards the earth. A cooler sensor takes a clearer picture. So, we try to make the cooler more efficient. That means less material to space and lower costs.’

Kostas: ‘Aha, seems interesting, but also complicated. How did you end up researching this specific topic?’ 

Nando: ‘Honestly, I’m just finishing what I started. My master’s research was going well, and my professor encouraged me to continue. Not a very exciting story. I didn’t really plan on doing a PhD. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to continue in physics after my bachelor’s. One thing I know for certain is that I will not pursue a scientific career after my PhD.’ 

Kostas: ‘Are you bored with doing research?’

Nando: ‘No, that’s not it. But I feel that in academia, I don’t get to acquire certain skills that seem beneficial to my personal development. Such as speaking to different stakeholders and writing a business proposal. I’m always looking to broaden my horizon.’ 

‘That’s why my friends and I founded our own company, Realised. It all began when my roommate and his friend were working on a coding project, which had something to do with energy. They didn’t know anything about energy, while I was very invested in energy transition at that time. We joined forces. Our first project was to publicise all energy data of the campus buildings. By launching energydata.utwente.nl, we became the first university to be transparent about its energy consumption. Aside from that, we write the carbon footprint report that the university presents each year.’

“Academia shouldn’t be in an ivory tower, but we should at least protect it”
Nando Tolboom

Vasileios: ‘What you describe sounds like a transition to commercialisation. The new age researcher doesn’t necessarily become an academic but can also translates their research into a product of commerce. Can you relate?’ 

Nando: ‘Kind of. I’m a bit opposed to what we’re doing. I have quite a traditional view of academia. I think it’s an institute of knowledge. It shouldn’t be in an ivory tower, but we should at least protect it. The boundaries should be well-distinguishable. So, I always try to indicate when I’m speaking as who. Changing hats.’ 

Vasileios: ‘I understand. Kostas and I started a foundation and I work at a start-up company, so we’re constantly changing hats as well.’ 

Nando: ‘Yes, I’m aware. You have a foundation for exchanging Greek students and young professionals, right? Can’t you convince the Greek guy who used to sell gyros here on campus to come back?’ 

Kostas: ‘Haha, I do know him. You see, a lot of the Greeks here tend to cluster. We think that’s a shame, so one of the pillars of our foundation is to facilitate a smoother integration. The others are the transfer of knowledge and inclusion. It’s going well. We gave out scholarships and managed to bring Greek female students to summer school here at UT. Currently, we’re preparing a series of talks, featuring interesting personalities from the university.’

‘Getting here wasn’t easy, though. The concept of becoming a scientific entrepreneur is non-existent in Greece. Universities there don’t even have access to a patent office. As a result, I felt unprepared for this transition. Do you feel that your master’s programme equipped you with the proper tools to do this?’

Nando: ‘Not really. It used to be centred on theory. It wasn’t until my PhD that I had to delve into the world of patents and such. Since UT started working with the Twente Education Model (TOM) in 2015, we’ve incorporated more of the entrepreneurship essentials into the curricula.’

“If you’d just let smart people play, they will eventually come up with something novel and interesting”
Nando Tolboom

‘Personally, I’m not a fan of this new approach. I feel like the emphasis on patents and funding puts a hold on development. It can push people into researching topics that they normally wouldn’t research. If you’d just let smart people play, they will eventually come up with something novel and interesting.’ 

Vasileios: ‘Well, as you said, research should be independent. Patents ensure that. Besides, it doesn’t stop you from having an impact. Just look at you and your company! Speaking of which, any comments on how UT is doing in terms of smart savings?’ 

Nando: ‘Compared to other universities, we’re doing well. In general, I do think we should focus a bit less on impressionable measures. My focus is data-driven. Public debates about plastics straws and coffee cups contribute to awareness but not to lasting impact. I would like for UT to focus on reducing gas consumption. That may not be the most attractive or cost-effective measure in the short term, but it is the most impactful in the long run.’

Vasileios Trikalitis (1990)

obtained his bachelor’s in Material Science from the University of Patras (Greece). He continued with a master’s in biomedical engineering at UT, and is currently finishing his PhD at UT. He is a business and product developer in the UT spinoff IamFluidics B.V. and one of the founders of the Authentia foundation.

Kostas Nizamis (1988)

obtained his BSc. and M.Eng. degrees from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, of Democritus University of Thrace (Greece). and MSc. in biomedical engineering and a Ph.D. at the University of Twente (Netherlands). He is an Assistant Professor, in the Department of Design, Production and Management at the University of Twente, and one of the founders of the Authentia foundation.

Nando Tolboom (1993)

obtained his master’s Applied Physics Cum Laude and continued his career at UT as a PhD candidate. As a member of the Energy, Materials and Systems group, he researches the application of binary gas mixtures in sorption compressors. Since 2019, he’s part of Realised, a UT-based start-up that assists organisations in sustainability.