What skills do the students develop and why are they important in the future?
Steinbichler: The new degree programs feature the latest didactic and educational methods. Students learn problem-solving skills combined with a high degree of independence to address concrete content. Besides expertise in polymer technologies, the curriculum includes honing "future skills". Students will develop the expertise necessary to successfully act and interact for the good of the environment, humanity, society, business, and technology.
What industry feedback are you getting?
Steinbichler: The aforementioned academic degree programs and a doctorate degree in plastics technology are primarily supported by the four Plastics Engineering Institutes. The generous support and collaboration of 25 companies, mainly from Austria and Germany, made it possible to create a networked factory for education, training, and research (LIT Factory at the Linz Institute of Technology) in plastics technology in 2021. The research focuses on the development of new process technologies for the manufacturing of recyclable lightweight components based on models found in nature, the recycling and upcycling of plastics, and the use of digitization alongside the value chain for the benefit of humanity, the environment, and the economy. The idea is to pursue a visionary and holistic technology approach with a focus on responsible technology. Several corporate partners are also actively supporting the transformation of the plastics technology degree programs.
How will the academic degree programs affect the future of the plastics industry?
Steinbichler: The introduction of the new degree courses is designed to get young people excited and motivate them to develop sustainable solutions for society. It's about defending the technology leadership position of Europe and our national economies, also as it pertains to the development and implementation of sustainable solutions to support a circular plastics economy. The new courses cover the educational requirements and job profiles of future professional fields in the 21st century. The acquired skills are relevant in a broad array of applications and are already in high demand by many of today's employers.