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Media Corner
01 March 2012

I strongly believe that the secret of F4E’s potential is its workforce

Lisbeth Grønberg, Chair of the Executive Committee

“With time F4E managed to stand on its own feet and articulate a voice vis à vis ITER International Organization and the other Domestic Agencies. I strongly believe that the secret of F4E’s potential is its workforce.”

In July 2011 Lisbeth Grønberg was appointed Chair of the Executive Committee (ExCo), the body that brings together 13 external experts at least six times per year to offer advice among other things on the F4E procurement strategy and decide on the award of contracts and grants. In her previous capacity as Vice-Chair of the ExCo between 2007-2011, she had the opportunity to approve some of the very first contracts awarded by F4E and develop a good understanding of the complexities that underpin an international project like ITER. She is a veteran in Denmark’s vibrant research scene, having worked since 1976 in different management positions of what used to be until recently Risø, the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. In her first interview with F4E News, she explains how F4E has changed over the years and presents the objectives that she has set for the ExCo.

F4E News: In July you were appointed as Chair of the F4E ExCo and before that you served as Vice-Chair. How has F4E evolved during this period?

LG: I have witnessed the establishment of this organisation from the very start. I have seen it growing in size, expertise and gaining confidence and maturity. At first, it felt a bit like a toddler taking its first steps, trying to figure out how to fulfil its mission; drafting its rules and mapping procedures in order to approve grants and contracts. With time F4E managed to stand on its own feet, articulate a voice vis à vis ITER International Organisation and the other Domestic Agencies and deliver. I strongly believe that the secret of F4E’s potential is its workforce. The members of staff that I have met are very professional and committed to their job. Obviously, there are teething problems in the start up phase of any organisation, even more so within the international context in which the ITER project is carried out, but I am pleased that F4E have managed to overcome them. I always perceive challenges as an opportunity to bring out the best of all us involved in the project and try to go the extra mile to defy sceptics.

F4E News: The composition and mission of the ExCo has also changed. What in your view have been the most significant changes?

LG: In its early days the ExCo was dealing mostly with giving advice on the different rules and regulations by which F4E should work, and the standard Agreements for grants and contracts. Previously, when examining grants and contracts, a lot of the ExCo input came towards the end of the cycle leaving little space for strategic input. Now we are entering into a more strategic phase of the ExCo, as we are now also mandated to look into the procurement strategies in more detail. It definitely makes more sense to give our input for upcoming procurements and grants at an earlier stage before all decisions are cast in stone. One should also bear in mind that other bodies, like the Administration and Finance Committee, have stepped into the panorama and alleviated us from certain duties so that we can focus more on how to get ITER up and running with the support of industry and Associations.

F4E News: What is the main objective that you have set yourself as Chair of the Exco?

LG: The first objective that I have set is to lead through consensus. I am authorised to chair and co-ordinate our deliberations but I do not have a vote. Therefore, I attach particular importance to outcomes that are reached though debate and dialogue. Furthermore, I would like the ExCo members to feel ownership of this project and participate in shaping its course with their views. Finally, I would like this Committee to offer critical but constructive input. It is my aim to build a good team spirit where members feel comfortable enough to question the working method and propose alternatives.

F4E News: As Chair of the Exco you lead a group of 13 experts, coordinate their input and steer the decision making process. Which part you enjoy most and which you consider the most challenging?

LG: One of the biggest challenges we face is a very trivial one, namely planning our ExCo meetings in order to ensure a quorum. Currently, according to the Rules of Procedure, we need to have 9 votes in favour out of 13 in order to approve a decision. For most of us working for the ExCo comes on top of “regular” jobs back home. So finding a date suitable to all of us requires a lot of planning and flexibility from the members. Ultimately, our meetings have a very busy agenda which literally keeps us busy without having enough time to connect on a more personal level. I will try to bring out the best of the group dynamics and instil a vivid working culture. This brings me to the part that I am mostly fond of in chairing the ExCo: the opportunity to work with an international team of people towards a long term goal. I have spent my entire career in the field of science, surrounded by novel ideas. ITER is no exception to this. The thrill of seeing this project getting built and knowing that we have all played a part in it is incredibly rewarding!

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