When Eric Spiegel became CEO of Siemens three years ago, the engineering and electronics conglomerate company had relationships with some 70 different universities, he said.
Spiegel thought “that was too many,” and proposed partnering with one or two universities instead in order to “do a lot more” with less.
After analyzing a list of top schools, Siemens chose Penn State.
On Jan. 24, Spiegel visited University Park to officially inaugurate a strategic partnership between the German-based, multi-national firm and the university. The agreement was signed last year and is the first of its kind between Siemens and an American university, according to a media release.
“The agreement is not a contract,” Speigel said. “It is basically a commitment between senior leadership at Penn State and Siemens, saying, ‘Hey, we want to more together.’ ”
The agreement includes collaborations in health care, infrastructure, energy and sustainability.
When analyzing universities to partner with, Spiegel said his company asked, “Where do we want to recruit from? Where can we do research? And where do they have the kind of programs and things we can participate in?”
Spiegel said Penn State was the answer to all of those questions, as his company already has a longstanding relationship with the university and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. For example, Siemens and Penn State also have collaborated in the past to construct a turbine test facility, Spiegel said.
Additionally, Siemens employs more than 800 Penn State alumni, making the university its No. 1 recruiting ground in the country.
“It seems a fairly natural partnership, to look at Penn State. We have a comprehensive engineering program with every single major that they would hire,” said Sven Bilén, who is the head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs.
As part of the agreement, Siemens will fund the first-year engineering design course, Introduction to Engineering Design.
Each year, a client — typically a major corporation — funds the course and students work on a design project for the sponsor, Bilén said.
In the past, companies such as Xerox and ArcelorMittal have been sponsors, said Scarlett Miller, who is an engineering professor teaching one of the 24 sections of the course.
Last week, Siemens and Penn State finalized the idea for the course’s project. Students will consider the University Park campus as a “small city” and will consider elements of Siemens’ “Sustainable Cities” concept to “design or redesign elements of the campus to be sustainable,” Bilén said via email. The project will kick off Feb. 26.
Miller said students can focus on a variety of projects, including the use of sustainable energy sources within buildings and sustainable ways of handling waste. Students will also be using Siemens software.
“The students are able to give Siemens a new perspective on the use of their product,” Miller said. “And we’ll be able to rethink the way we live here at University Park.”
The sustainable campus project provides students with a “systems perspective as opposed to a specific project,” Miller added. “They learn to think higher level application.”
Besides getting to solve a “real world example of a design problem,” Bilén said students will benefit from this Siemens-Penn State partnership because they will be offered internships, co-ops and jobs.
Spiegel said he considers the partnership a “360 relationship,” in which both Penn State and the company will benefit.