We had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Tan Kai Liang (K. L.) from Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Singapore. Dr. Tan is the organising committee chair of INCASE 2021. In this interview, he shared with us his vision of INCASE 2021 and the challenges in preparing a conference in the midst of a pandemic.
(?) MFN: Dr. Tan, thank you for taking the time for this interview. Can you briefly introduce the conference (INCASE 2021) that ARTC is organising next year?
(!) K. L.: Thank you, it’s my pleasure! INCASE 2021 is the second instalment of the INCASE conference series. We started INCASE as we often noticed gaps between academic research outputs and actual industrial applications. We saw the opportunities to gather academic researchers and industrial practitioners in a unique platform to discuss, understand one another’s perspectives, and advance surface enhancement technologies together. After some planning, in 2019, ARTC held the inaugural INCASE conference in Singapore. We are very encouraged by the high participation rate and strong support shown from both academia and industry! Therefore, we obtained the green light to organise the 2nd edition, to be held from Sept 6 – 9, 2021 in Singapore.
(?) MFN: Right. It must have been difficult to start a conference series. What are you doing differently in this second edition to attract more participants?
(!) K. L.: We are making necessary changes while staying close to our core objective: to encourage academics and practitioners to meet and exchange ideas in a conducive environment for stimulating discussions. The major difference from INCASE 2019 is the conference discussion topics. We have expanded into two new areas: ‘Surfaces-by-Design’ and ‘Surface Coatings’. They complement the three original topics: ‘Surface Treatments’, ‘Modeling and Simulation’; and ‘Surface and Sub-surface Characterisation’ nicely. Both surfaces-by-design and surface coatings are critical research areas at the forefront of next-generation surface enhancement technologies. To do this, we are enrolling the help of our sister institute – SIMTech – to jointly organise this conference.
We hope that the conference delegates will have a broader perspective in surface engineering after attending the conference. We are glad by the response that we have heard so far. Let’s hope that with this scope expansion, we can attract many more high-quality delegates to the conference. That is a necessary ingredient for a successful and meaningful conference.
(?) MFN: Wow. These new topics sound exciting! What else can we expect from the conference?
(!) K. L.: Another highlight is the keynote lectures that we have lined up. We are honoured to have esteemed professors – Professor Shaker Meguid, Professor Noritsugu Umehara and Professor Marcel Somers – to update the community on the latest development and research trends in surface engineering. Their topics are wide-ranging and diverse, from the discussion of the future of shot peening to sustainable tribology. You can notice from their keynote abstracts that they will be focusing very much on the ‘future’ of surface enhancement. It is hard to get the opportunity to hear from these established speakers all at the same event! I am sure they have some unique and forward-thinking perspectives that we all can draw inspiration from.
(?) MFN: Great to see this line-up of professors. Is there any plan to invite experts from the industry to share about the development in surface enhancement as well?
(!) K. L.: Sure, we do! We are still in the midst of identifying 1 to 2 key industrial representatives to make presentations at the conference. As mentioned, INCASE is focused on balancing between academic research and actual industrial implementation. Both elements will be represented sufficiently in INCASE 2021. We will update the keynote speakers from the industry once we have confirmed their participation and lecture topics. With this impressive line-up of speakers, we can all look forward to a very successful conference.
(?) MFN: I see that the planning has been going on smoothly despite the uncertainty around the pandemic. Do you anticipate continued participation from international delegates given the current situation?
(!) K. L.: I am happy to say that we – engineers and scientists – are an optimist bunch. Indeed, the pandemic is ongoing and worsening in most parts of the world, but Singapore is doing great in managing community transmissions. We are slowly opening up to allow bigger events and activities. Soon enough, international travel restrictions will be lifted. We are optimistic that the situation will be much clearer by the time of the conference – Sept 2021. So far, the response and enthusiasm for the conference from our international contacts have been positive. I am sure people are looking forward to the day that they can travel again, and I would say Singapore is the perfect destination to resume your traveling activities. We have everything that you look for in a travel experience here, except that the beach is not that great compared to our neighbours.
Having said so, we do understand that international delegates will be hesitant to make the decision to attend. They have until Jan 2021 to submit a paper and Jun 2021 to register for the conference, so it’s still early. We are monitoring the situation closely and staying agile. If need be, the conference could be turned into a 100% virtual or hybrid event. Given the state of technology, I am sure the conference will still proceed smoothly, with delegates benefitting tremendously from the conference programme.
(?) MFN: What can we look forward to if the worst happens and INCASE 2021 has to be conducted virtually?
(!) K. L.: That is an interesting question. In a virtual INCASE 2021, we will ensure that the delegates could participate actively in discussion and exchange views and ideas with other delegates freely. As for any conference, the biggest reason to attend is the opportunity to talk to established researchers, experts and peers who are also attending.
To look at the bright side, this pandemic has actually fostered much technological advancement, especially in the area of virtual communication! Over the past few months, we have explored this possibility and contacted numerous events company that could help to hold virtual events. Watching their demonstrations of how a virtual event could be held was so eye-opening. This is not your usual Zoom call. You can set up virtual exhibition booth with Augmented Reality, have live presentation or a discussion forum for hundreds of people and many other features that nobody had thought of before this pandemic. Who knows, it could even be more exciting to attend a virtual conference in the near future!
While it sounds like an interesting experience, we hope it will not come down to that! We still wish to see everyone physically in Sept 2021 in Singapore.
(?) MFN: I will definitely look forward to hearing more about the progress of your preparation in the future. Any final words before we wrap up?
(!) K. L.: Just one sentence from me - please visit the website and follow the updates of INCASE 2021! www.incase2021.com
(?) MFN: And that’s a wrap. Thank you, Dr. Tan, and stay safe!
(!) K. L.: Thank you for having me, it has been fun. Stay safe too!
MFN would like to thank Tan Kai Liang for this interview!
Advanced Remanufacturing and
Technology Centre (ARTC)
3 Cleantech Loop, #01-01, CleanTech Two