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Peter Pieters' interview

Building the invaluable network of peers

“A start-up is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed”, says one of the many definitions available to describe innovation hubs. PCIC Europe is not a company, also it didn’t begin in a backyard garage, but it is indeed working to solve problems where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed – at least immediately.

While the up-coming 14th PCIC Europe conference, this year in Vienna, is a mature reference event for engineering excellence in the petrochemical industry, the first editions of PCIC Europe were more casual. The first two years the conference took place in Basel, in Switzerland.

Executive Committee Chairman, Peter Pieters describes how he heard about the event in 2004: “Someone just told me about it”.

“Everything was quite confidential then, and without any advertising. The only way to become aware about the PCIC Europe conference was through your own address book and good contacts”, he adds, pointing out the invaluable importance of a good network.

“I was then in a group implementing the ATEX directive, relating to equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres.”, Peter recalls, and mentions Dow and Shell among the end-user participants.

“At that time, nothing was organised in terms of logistics, so we had to find a dinner plan on our own. I asked another participant if he would like to go for dinner with me, and we found a nice terrace in a small square. Our discussion about electrical challenges in our work respectively was very interesting. When it was time for the dessert several other conference attendees had joined our table as they strolled by, so we finished the evening together, maybe ten of us, getting to know each other better.”

“It was a very pleasant moment”, Peter recalls.

“This opportunity to meet with new experts, dialogue and develop a network of peers is the beauty of PCIC”, he adds emphasizing that this is a unique opportunity especially for an end-user. “I will never in my daily work meet with any competitors”, he explains.

“The equipment manufacturers are the ones that capture the latest developments in technology because they interact with several end-users and consequently have the most complete vision of on-going innovation, successes and failures in the application of electrical and instrumentation in the COG industry”.

These lessons learned from real experience on the field when shared and analysed together between end users, EPCs and equipment manufacturers sketch the path for innovative solutions to complex technical challenges.

Thus, equipment manufacturers contribute in a critical way to set the agenda, but strict conditions apply, Peter underline: “none of us wants to listen to a promotional presentation”. Therefore, the committee, while reviewing the abstracts, will always ask for which end-user the described solution was developed and deployed, whether the case study details success or a failure.

“We are not interested in a brand and what you can sell, but want to understand in a practical way how we can apply the solution that you present.”

“In my case”, Peter says, “as I work in a company in the Middle East, I will obviously never have direct use of a technical paper about subsea in arctic environment. Still, I might learn something new that relates to a pending problem I have on my desk and need to solve. With this insight, I could abandon a likely dead-end and tackle my challenge from a different angle with brand new ideas.”

“This is what our conferences are all about - this is the PCIC spirit”, Peter says.

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