An International Perspective: Cyrille Thinnes, ERASMUS+ Visitor at CRDI

Dr Cyrille Thinnes, Programme Manager for the National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease at the University of Luxembourg, visited CRDI in October 2017 after successfully obtaining Erasmus+ career development funding. Cyrille met extensively with CRDI staff and toured various translational and clinical research facilities and collaborative programmes in the CRDI partner institutions. Cyrille writes here of his experience.

Almost two months after visiting CRDI, and I am still overwhelmed not only by the tremendous concentration of expertise, but also the warm welcome you gave me. I am very grateful for the insightful overview of a variety of initiatives, including ICAT, CÚRAM, GBHI, CRCI, and educational programmes. I am fascinated by the rather impressive evolution of the current CRDI, starting from research and education programmes, to now actively shaping the research ecosystem in Ireland. Standing in Kilmainham Gaol, I thought it is rather extraordinary that a city where people actively sought shelter in a prison to escape the great famine, is now a world leader in translational research.

I am impressed that, in addition to shaping the landscape of science and technology in Ireland, CRDI also managed to bring about a major cultural change by fostering inter-institutional collaboration, where the result exceeds the sum of its components. I reckon this major achievement in change management required the commitment and traction of key visionaries in their fields, ranging from medicine, over biomedicine, to management. Clearly CRDI has managed to pull the right strings at the right moment (e.g. by creating a legally independent entity) – and this 20 years ahead of time.

Having met most of you, and having spent an extensive amount of time with some of you, I also recognise that the success of CRDI is deeply rooted in its members. A very high level of commitment kept shining through at all times, with everybody clearly being experts at the technical level of their programmes, in addition to their interpersonal and ‘customer-facing’ skills. Success in scientific programme management clearly goes beyond individual concepts of ‘science’ and ‘management’ alone. Another example where CRDI creates value outweighing the sum of its components.

As a result of my visit, my current focus is to lobby for the pairing of science and management, which is still professional no-man’s-land in Luxembourg. Currently there are no tangible career perspectives for scientific project managers, and the absence of a clear attraction and retention strategy is strikingly negligent, especially for the young and developing University of Luxembourg. I hope that my ease of access to senior management will catalyse my endeavour. As experienced at CRDI, Ireland is far ahead, and is an obvious role model to any newcomer in the field, including Luxembourg.

Above: Dr Cyrille Thinnes (front right) pictured with the CRDI team