Robert-Jan Smits will be speaking on his experience working in high positions at the European Commision and TU/e and on his view on science.
As of May 2019, Robert-Jan Smits is the President of the Executive Board of the Eindhoven University of Technology. He is known for his role in two important projects in research funding and open access, Horizon 2020 and Plan S.
Smits has degrees in History and International Law from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the Institut Universitaire d’Hautes Études Internationales in Switzerland and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States. After his studies, he worked for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. In 1989, he left to work for the European Commission and since 2010, he has been the Director-General of Research and Innovation.
In this position, Smits was one of the initiators of the Horizon 2020 project. This seven-year research program is the largest in the world, with a budget of 80 billion euros between 2014 and 2020. It brings together previously separated sources of research and innovation funding. The project invests in big societal problems like climate change and ageing.
Smits also had a key role in Plan S, where the ‘S’ stands for ‘shock’. Big research financers from the member states of the European Union signed this plan, stating that researchers can only get their funds if they publish their research in openly accessible journals.
For his contributions to science, he received several awards like the Lifetime achievements award from Euroscience in 2016 and the Academy Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017. Also, in 2018 he was one of Nature’s 10, a list of ten people who mattered in science in 2018.
In May 2019, Robert-Jan Smits switched his position as a top official in the European Commission for his current function as President of the Executive Board of the University of Technology in Eindhoven. In this role, he wants to focus on excellence and internationalisation. He thinks this to be important for The Netherlands to stay at top level in terms of research. He also wants to change the system where application chances and wages of researchers depend on the number of articles they publish. He believes that there are other things to look at, like teaching skills, patents or impact on society.