Evaluation of Simula Research Laboratory 2016/2017: Excellent in all three research areas

An international evaluation panel established by the Norwegian Research Council deemed all three research areas to be excellent in the most recent evaluation of Simula. The main conclusion from the panel is that they are “impressed by the consistent high quality of the research activities at Simula Research Laboratory as well as the continued growth in breadth and impact that is evident since the last evaluation”. The panel are positive towards Simula’s educational activities, innovation results, and collaboration with the University of California, San Diego. However, the panel also encourages Simula to closely review their research areas, and they question whether Simula has been growing too quickly.

The report in its entirety can be found here. For more information, please contact Aslak Tveito, Managing Director of Simula Research Laboratory, or Kyrre Lekve, Deputy Managing Director of Simula Research Laboratory.

Simula’s activities in the period 2010-2015 have been evaluated by an international panel established by the Research Council of Norway. The international panel of experts have evaluated every aspect of Simula’s activities within research, education and innovation. The panel emphasises that Simula is an unique organisation in a Norwegian context in that it combines fundamental research with education and the creation of many start-up-companies. The panel is of the opinion that Simula has established a greater presence both nationally and internationally.

The managing director of the Norwegian Research Council, John-Arne Røttingen states: “Simula can be proud of the high quality in their research, and we have noted that the evaluation committee give credit to the breadth and impact of the research. The evaluation contains a series of observations and recommendations towards the organisation and priorities of Simula, and it will be important for further development to consider these.” (Simula’s translation.)

High scientific quality

All of Simula’s three research areas –  Communication Systems, Scientific Computing and Software Engineering – have been evaluated as excellent in this evaluation. In earlier evaluations, amongst others the large ICT evaluation by the Research Council in 2012, two of the research areas were deemed excellent. Communication Systems has earlier been deemed “Very Good”, but was this time elevated to receive the highest mark.

“Within the field of ICT, Norway now has six research groups marked “excellent”; three of these are at Simula. These results give recognition to Simula in the evaluation, “ says the Managing Director of Simula, Professor Aslak Tveito.

Good contributions to education

The educational activities at Simula are spoken highly of in the report, and the panel is especially pleased by the high number of graduated Master’s and PhD candidates under Simula supervision, with a low dropout rate (86% of PhDs at Simula complete their degree). In February 2017 Simula reached a milestone when PhD candidate no. 100 defended his thesis.

Simula and the University of Oslo have a deep-set, expansive collaboration with the University of California, San Diego, where candidates are mutually supervised, research collaboration is close, and the exchange programme allows for mobility.The panel puts emphasis on this collaboration as important and a great success.

Narrow span of innovation activities - new institute for applied research?

The panel is “very impressed” with the number of start-ups that have sprung out of Simula’s research activities and started with the help of Simula. At the same time, the panel recommends a broader span of innovation activities, which includes work on patents and licenses.

The panel speaks highly of Kalkulo, a subsidiary of Simula that works with applying research to the petroleum sector. The panel is of the opinion that Simula should develop Kalkulo into a dedicated institute for applied research.

Critical to increase in applied research

The panel are critical to what they perceive as an increased focus on applied research within Simula’s activities. The panel believes that the maintenance of basic funding of a third of the budget is necessary in order to maintain an high level of research quality. The panel questions the rapid growth of Simula, and warns against new initiatives that do not clearly adhere to Simula’s core objectives.

A reconsideration of Simula’s present research areas is recommended by the panel, on the basis that in a changing world it might be problematic to hold on the the same three research areas that have been with Simula from the start.

A pleasure to manage Simula

“The latest evaluation shows us that the research, educational, and innovation activities at Simula have made progress since 2010,” says Managing Director of Simula, Aslak Tveito. “The period from 2010 to 2016 has definitely been Simula’s best. We have recruited many new and energetic researchers, more than a hundred PhD theses have been defended at Simula, we have ownership in 15 start-ups with good prospects, and we have succeeded far better at obtaining funding both from the EU and the Norwegian Research Council.”

At the same time, Tveito notes that the evaluation points out a long series of strategic challenges for Simula. “These challenges are the foundation for working on a new ten year strategy, which will begin at the next board meeting.”

Tveito emphasises that the Board of Directors, the employees at Simula, the students at Simula, employees in all the start-ups, and the members of the Simula Garage have contributed to these results. He also emphasises the Ministry of Research and Education, which along with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, have displayed wisdom in their ownership of Simula. The Ministries have contributed with basic funding, which makes long term research possible.

“The Ministries have given Simula the opportunity to develop the organisation towards solving societal problems,” Tveito states. “It has been a true pleasure to manage Simula during the last few years, and my ambition is to lead Simula towards becoming Norway’s most important and best technological environment.”

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