The following is an excerpt.
For 20 years, the SIMLab research group at NTNU and their colleagues at LMT-Cachan in France have collaborated closely. For many reasons. Ahmed Benallal is one of them.
Basic facts first: Ahmed Benallal heads SFI CASA’s Scientific Advisory Board; a group of six world-leading scientists from as many countries. He was also a member of the SAB in CASA’s predecessor, SFI SIMLab. He is a key member of the research team in SIMLab’s latest achievement: Toppforsk project FractAl. All with good reason.
CASA Director Magnus Langseth puts it like this:
“The main research field of Ahmed is complementary to the research we carry out at SIMLab; behaviour and modelling of materials. Especially his analytical work linked to localization is recognized. His expertise and international research position combined with a unique network in France and abroad made it quite easy for me to engage Ahmed as the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board.”
Sociable and lively
Professor Odd Sture Hopperstad heads the FractAl Toppforsk Project. His description of the long-time collaborator goes along the same lines:
“Ahmed’s research is within constitutive equations for plasticity, viscoplasticity and damage, material instabilities and localization, and ductile fracture. Thus, his research interests are well calibrated with those of the SIMLab team. In addition to being an excellent scientist, he is sociable and lively, and he has an incredible network around the world. Another important quality: he has a genuine interest of wine (mostly Burgundy and Piemonte), like some of the SIMLab researchers.”
Benallal grew up in Ain Sefra in the interior of Algeria. He came to Paris as a young student and quickly found his way to where he is still working.
The mid-70s was an era when the French chose nuclear energy for their power supply. This created a need for research on materials and energy. The lab at LMT-Cachan was established in 1975. Benallal arrived in 1978 and took his PhD soon after.
In 1997, the founder of LMT-Cachan and supervisor for his PhD, Jean Lemaitre, received a phone call from Magnus Langseth at NTNU. The two soon found common ground.
More than visits
Collaboration was established already the same year, much to Ahmed Benallal’s satisfaction:
“I like this kind of work – collaboration – not just visits,” he says.
Before long, he had Arild Holm Clausen and Odd-Geir Lademo working with him in Paris. Today, Holm Clausen heads SFI CASA’s Polymeric Materials Programme, while Lademo heads the Methods and Tools Programme. LMT-Cachan also received master students from NTNU.
“The fact is, we have found more and more common ground as the years have passed,” Benallal states:
“At the same time, we complement each other. For instance, we don’t work with impact. Our lab is also very different from SIMLab’s.”
“How would you describe SIMLab?”
“SIMLab has a very efficient way of doing research and they are really among the best I know. The management and the staff are very good. It is fantastic for PhD students. Now that they have reached cruising speed, SIMLab is indeed a very attractive place to work. They also have enough means to do the job. However, there is a limit to how much they can achieve.”
“Small is beautiful, but…”
“Exactly. It explains the efficiency, and this attracts smart people, but they must take care to avoid overload.”
“We don’t create cars”
“CASA is a Centre for Research-based Innovation, an SFI. From time to time one can hear voices saying that industry doesn’t receive research results in a prepared enough manner to enable innovation. Do you understand these voices?”
“No. The SFI scheme is perfect for industry and SIMLab is doing the job. It is industry that does not take their part of the responsibility. We hear this story in France, too, and have done so for a long time. The message from politicians and others is that research results are not calibrated. Really, this is up to industry. This is their challenge. We are researchers. We are not going to create cars for them.”