Guests from the prestigious Catholic University of Leuven (Charlotte Vermeulen), and the Belgian Chamber of Commerce (Joyce Simoens, Davy Maes) visited our university’s Dual Training Centre on 5 April 2023.
The purpose of their visit was to learn about the JvNU’s dual training and good practices. KU Leuven is a Belgian university founded nearly 600 years ago with thirteen campuses in 10 cities in Flanders. It has more than 60 000 students studying 48 BSc and 138 MSc courses. They plan to expand their training system to include dual training in the near future. They intend to plan their own dual training by studying the well-established dual model in several European countries. We are very proud that John von Neumann University is the only university in Hungary to have been chosen to get familiar with dual training. During the visit, we presented the last 11 years of our dual training and shared our experiences. Two of our dual partners (Knorr-Bremse Braking Systems For Commercial Vehicles (Dalian) Co., Ltd, Hechinger Hungary Kft.) and 7 of our dual students participated in the meeting and answered the questions of the guests.

Why did you announce the Neumann Year series of programmes?

– The Hungarian “Martian”, the smartest man of the last century, János Neumann, was born 120 years ago. He was the most brilliant and versatile scientist of his time, whose ambitions, dreamed up seventy years ago, have now been realised and become part of everyday life. We are proud that in 2017, when our university took on the name of János Neumann, the scientist’s daughter, the world-renowned economist Marina von Neumann, wrote a letter to our institution. In it, she expressed her pride that we share the same goals that her father pursued in his life.


– The programme for the Neumann Year also includes a programme for guest speakers from abroad. Who have you invited and what will be the main topics of the lectures?

– As part of the Neumann 2023 programme, we would like to invite speakers from South Korea, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. We are organising an international sustainability conference in June and the Neumann TEDX in the autumn. In addition, we will organise exhibitions, competitions and many exciting professional programmes on technology, vehicle manufacturing, sustainability, talent and knowledge, from sustainable economics to future transport. At the end of last week, for example, we organised a 24-hour logistics competition for secondary school students focusing on Neumann’s work.


– What is your relation with universities of similar profile in your country and abroad?

– We believe in collaborations, one of the best examples being the meeting of engineers from Kecskemét and designers from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME) to create a new vehicle, but we also have several collaborations with Budapest University of Technology (BME) or Budapest Metropolitan University in the field of digital technology. On 31 January, we will be holding a conference on future transport, jointly organised with BME and István Szécsenyi University of Győr. The other important aspect is to open up internationally, because we want John von Neumann University (NJE) to be able to be present in many places around the world. For example, we see interest and cooperation from the South East Innovation Zone of Asia, from Israel to the Emirates, Singapore, South Korea, India, Japan and parts of China. From previous professional encounters, foreign students are keen to study at NJE, which we welcome.


The three pillars of NJE are technical education (engineering, IT, automotive, materials technology, logistics), sustainability (horticulture, green economy and renewable technologies) and economics, with a focus on sustainable new economics. One such priority focus of NJE within engineering is the creation of alternative propulsion vehicles. The university has several student teams making alternative vehicles: one is the engine-building Kenji Racing Team, and the other is the KEFO motorsport team, which has created a Formula 1-related vehicle using eighty per cent home-developed, proprietary materials. The third is the all-electric Project Supermoto motorbike, unveiled last October, which was jointly created by MOME designers and NJE engineering students, and the fourth is the team that created the 100 per cent solar-powered Megalux car. These vehicles compete in world competitions and are in the top ten teams in the world, and with the Megalux the team finished third in South Africa and seventh in the Solar Challenge in Australia, where they had to travel from the northernmost point of the continent to the southernmost.


– Why do you see great potential and imagination in hydrogen energy?

– Looking at the energy crisis, the issue of oil and gas pipelines or the runaway energy prices, more and more renewable energies such as geothermal, solar and hydrogen energy have huge potential. An interesting aspect of NJE’s work is that two innovations in hydrogen research have been developed by young, talented students. One is the issue of storage, due to the explosiveness and volatility of hydrogen. We developed a flask that has so far stood the test under a certain level of pressure. The other innovation is a hydrogen-powered car, which we will demonstrate at the Global Climate Summit in Abu Dhabi in November 2023. Last autumn, we signed a cooperation agreement with the Sharjah Technology and Innovation Park in the United Arab Emirates, under which our aforementioned Megalux solar-powered vehicle will arrive at the port of Dubai in the coming days.


– How many kilometres can this solar vehicle travel at a time?

– You could say that it can cover 1600 kilometres on one litre of petrol, i.e. the Budapest-Paris distance, and the rest is solar.


– How have we earned the right to be seen as a priority partner for developed Asian countries?

– I see that the Southeast Asian innovation axis is interested in Hungarian thinking. For example, a recent Chinese study has shown that there are two types of technological investment opportunities in the future: on the one hand, ‘soft’ technologies such as digital finance, cloud services, bitcoin, with Singapore at the centre, and on the other hand, competitive ‘hard’ technologies based on real manufacturing, of which Hungary is the most important centre, according to the author. There are three reasons for this focus: Hungary has an industrial tradition, engineering thinking and knowledge, and our geographical location is a gateway between East and West.


– From what has been said, it seems that NJE has been developing dynamically in recent years. What are the reasons for this?

– Three plus one reasons. The first reason I think is that the model change that started in 2020 was to make universities better able to compete in the international space, and ours is a small university with about 3,500 students, so it is able to do that. The second reason is that we are focusing on three pillars: engineering technology, the horticulture-green economy-green technology triad, and economics, renewable economics, with subjects that can break through the global market niche. We are also thinking in terms of knowledge centres, focusing on new areas such as artificial intelligence, a first among domestic universities. The third reason is that the NJE is highly practice-oriented. Our aim is not only academic education but also practical education, so that students who graduate here can find a job. And 96% of them do this during their time here. NJE was the first to offer dual training in Hungary, and we have the largest network of dual partners from Mercedes to Knorr-Bremse. Thanks to this, the students’ vision of their future and their job opportunities are already developed during their studies. And the modern infrastructure, the campus, and the fact that we have state-of-the-art machinery and laboratories that students can not only see and try out, but also work with on a continuous basis, are an added bonus.


– Can this also have the benefit of keeping a skilled, young workforce in Hungary?

– Exactly. It is important for us to combine local and open thinking, so that our students can really find a job here. Mercedes, for example, has a training course called Made in Kecskemét, where senior and middle managers from the company give presentations. When the Emirati delegation visited us last summer, they were very impressed by what they saw. As a result, a cooperation agreement was signed and in October I gave a presentation on the future innovation space structure and NJE to international start-up investors in connection with the Getex technology event. From this we will generate further collaborations.


– How do you envision the future of NJE in five to ten years?

– We would like to say that in five to ten years we will be talking about the most exciting “university of the future” in Hungary, with international collaborations and companies attracted by the new Neumann Innovation and Technology Park being built next to the university. This will create a vibrant, lively, sustainable and smart university district with talented young people. Also important for us is the continuation of the construction of the campus with a dormitory, an administrative block and a multifunctional space, while preserving the cultural and architectural traditions of the city of Kecskemét. I believe it is very important to create new things through the fusion of tradition and innovation.


– What has been your experience of the change of the university model discussed by the European Commission?

– I think it is unfair what is happening from the European Commission when they attack Horizon and Erasmus. There are mayors and representatives on boards of trustees all over the world, from Singapore to the United States, including in many European universities. It is important for the success of the model-changing universities at home to attract more students in a declining demographic. The Board of Trustees provides an opportunity to make the university sustainable in the long term, working with the university’s leadership to identify break-out points where the institution can be competitive and internationally positioned. In terms of international rankings, the Times has launched a new initiative called Impact, where smaller, specialised universities can stand out. The aim of the model change is precisely to help the boards of trustees to help the university to move ahead more quickly in terms of national and international competitiveness.


– As a geographer, you also work in geography and geopolitics alongside directing NJE, what are you working on these days?

– In a couple of weeks I will be publishing a two-volume book of essays entitled Sustainability and Eurasia, entitled Geovision. I’m proud of the publication of my previous works, Geofusion and Geomoments, which have been translated into English and published in London, New York, Shanghai and Singapore. I am a Hungarian geographic thinker and creator, whose main mission is to show the hidden connections of our world through maps. This is a beautiful and for me passionate challenge.




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