Industrial PhDs and recruitment of talent

After High School the students have the option to focus on Transport and Logistics in their Higher Education. One option is the University Degree and another one is the Advanced vocational education and training, where students can get a degree as Advanced Technician.
These studies are currently available in many High Schools. However, the trend of including advanced vocational education in the educational offer is spreading throughout European universities at a high pace.
The following step in education are the Masters or Postgraduate Courses, better known as “Official Masters”, and vocational postgraduate courses. The latter are slowly changing into official masters, which are being adapted by the universities to unify PhD education.
At the top level we find the PhD programmes. A specific mode is the industrial PhD which consists in a research project to be run in the company or institution where the PhD student is taking their research training, in collaboration with a university or research centre. Such project is part of a doctoral thesis. Industrial PhDs act as knowledge transfer bridges and they contribute to strengthen the bonds between the industrial network, universities and research centres.

The Project commissioned by the Port of Barcelona to CENIT (Centre for Innovation in Transport – was presented in the framework of the Education&Training Commission of Barcelona-Catalunya Centre Logístic as an example of such programmes. It is a study about “The port of the future”: a prospective analysis of the port and the sector with an eye on 2040. Carles Rúa, representative of the Port of Barcelona, presented the motives and objectives of the Port’s Strategy department to commission the job. On the other hand, Sergi Saurí, CENIT Director, introduced the preliminary study and the methodology used to carry it out. Ester Raventós, student of the industrial PhD responsible for the project, presented the preliminary job and the activity plan until the project’s end in 2019.
The preliminary version predicts a surprising and outstanding future, marked by significantly disruptive changes in our sector at a very high pace. Therefore we will have to think about the way to adapt to big new challenges in much shorter terms.

Joan Francesc Córdoba, from the Enterprise and Knowledge Department of Catalonia Government, presented the Industrial PhDs programme (, driven together with the main Catalonian universities. He gave some details about the operating and financing systems.
The Port of Barcelona opens a new way, looking for the keys of the sector, by using the industrial PhD programme as a strong partner. Every subsector and every company should work out their own interpretation of this future and their own way to face it. This takes time and specific human resources: two critical elements not easy to find. Sit and wait doesn’t look like a good strategy.

The industrial PhD programme is an economically viable option, convenient for its actors and easy to implement.
We always say and believe that we need to attract and retain talent in our organisations. PhD students are talent! They have got a long way ahead –higher education, degree and master– to reach the PhD challenge. Their will to take an industrial PhD shows their focus on the action and the market. They are not researchers, but they know how to research. They know how to tread unexplored or undefined tracks, where advanced cross-referencing attitudes are necessary.
They are an essential link between Academy, Public Administration and companies, in the Triple Helix model renown as the most adequate for Innovation and Progress.
Quoting Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”
It is a great declaration of intent for educators of all sorts. This motto is to be pursued with enthusiasm, commitment and perseverance. We repeat Mandela’s message to the world, to our sector and to ourselves.

Eduard Rodés

Director of the Escola Europea de Short Sea Shipping