“Together, we want to make the world a bit better”

Michiel van den Baar started his traineeship in a sustainable chemistry department. He is convinced that TNO can really make a difference in this area.

“My fascination with the energy transition dates back to my studies in Mechanical Engineering. These days, at TNO, I’m learning what’s really involved in developing new process technologies capable of using energy from renewable sources. That way we can make industry sustainable, but there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. I’m already sure that I want to devote the next two parts of my traineeship to this domain, as a researcher or project leader, for example.”

Twiddling the knobs

“In one of the projects I’m working on at the moment, we’re developing a sustainable alternative for the production of PET plastic . We’re keen to show industry how far we’ve progressed in this area. Before they start using the technology, companies naturally want to know how much the process will cost and what it will yield. Part of my job involves calculating business cases for them. The results show how positive or negative the technology would be for these companies. It also shows which knobs we can twiddle – by means of research – to improve the outcome.”

Intrinsic motivation

“I’ve always been fascinated by the energy transition issue, in all its complexity. That’s the direction I wanted to take after graduating. During a Company Day, I attended a presentation by four members of TNO’s staff. They gave details of their schedules, to demonstrate the varied and socially relevant nature of their work. I was immediately struck by their immense intrinsic motivation. The feeling was “Together, we want to make the world a bit better” And that is certainly possible, at TNO. There isn’t a company anywhere that can match TNO, in terms of the cool things we do here or of our pioneering role in technological development.”

Personal development

“TNO traineeships are an ideal way to discover what you are passionate about and what you are good at. We are not given management training as such, the main thing is to develop a wide ranging and in-depth knowledge of our chosen areas. TNO is a true network organization. Here, you must be able to stand your ground. This is why the traineeship places so much emphasis on personal development. A quick example. A while ago, we took part in a workshop about how to deal with your own internal resistance. An aikido master took us through a series of exercises. Initially, I thought this was a tad airy fairy. But a few weeks later, I found myself in a situation where I thought ‘Let’s give it a try’. The meeting resulted in a totally different, and much better outcome.”

UN goals

“Together with a group of four trainees, all from different backgrounds, I am considering ways in which we might integrate the United Nations’ sustainable development goals into TNO’s operations. This is a joint project with TNO’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Steering Committee. At TNO, of course, there is no way we can avoid sustainability. It’s part and parcel of our core business. What I particularly like about this project is that it takes me to all parts of the organization, enabling me to raise awareness of this issue among my colleagues here.”

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