Lóránt Tavasszy


Since 1 June, Lóri Tavasszy (Hasselt, 1967) has been working as endowed professor of Freight Transport and Logistics at TPM for two days a week. He is also a senior consultant in Mobility and Logistics at TNO in Delft, focusing on innovative solutions for freight transport and issues such as accessibility and urban quality of life. He lectures on the subject of freight transport modelling and leads the research programme on sustainable accessibility for freight transport within the Randstad, funded by the NWO. Tavasszy is also one of the key nominees who will represent TU Delft in the new Dutch Institute for Advanced Logistics (DINAG) in Breda.

Tell us about your personal life

"I am married and have a son and two daughters. I have limited time for hobbies, but I do enjoy motor - cycling. I love touring with a group of friends, preferably in Germany. I also enjoy sailing and regularly play tennis. My new great love is a camper van. I use it to tour Europe at an average speed of 50 km an hour. If you plan to cover 5000 kilometres, it is pure relaxation."

What was the highlight of your career?

"Let's put it this way: I am happy with the course my career has taken. It has been characterised by a combination of scientific research and practical application. The fact that I work both for TNO and TU Delft is testament to that. I am involved in the academic side of applied research and vice versa, so I try to reconcile the two worlds. So far this has been extremely gratifying, but it takes a lot of energy. I see it as a pleasant form of wrestling, often with surprising results."

Your greatest challenge at the moment?

"Effectively coordinating the research work here at TPM and ensuring with TNO that the emerging knowledge is applied in practice. I have every confidence, by the way, that this will be successful. An example that confirms this is the Roadmap for Freight Transport Modelling that we created at TNO in alliance with the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Manage - ment (V&W). V&W has numerous questions about the future of freight transport; we are creating a roadmap for the research and development of new forecasting models which will enable even more questions to be answered. This is a perfect combination of research and practice. The second challenge I face lies in the fact that my interests are broader than my portfolio here. After all, mobility is about more than just freight transport. I am able to contribute to the debate across the whole sector and even more so at TNO than here at TPM. On of the key challenges for me is to overcome the limitations. In the end, I am only here two days a week."

What do you enjoy most about your work?

"Again it is the link between academic research and application in everyday practice within TNO projects. I also find it highly refreshing thinking about content and application. Free thinking suits me, as does a multidisciplinary approach. Especially in the area of mobility, there is a temptation to adopt a broader approach."

Your best characteristic?

"Personally, I think I'm good connecting people professionally, bringing them together. I also have an enormous passion for my work. People often say that they find me enthusiastic and that this enthusiasm rubs off on others. Of course this can have its negative side, but I try to apply it positively as much as possible."

Your worst characteristic?

"I can be quite chaotic in my record-keeping. The less than perfect ICT facilities between TU and TNO do not help matters. The lack of an extranet means that I have to keep two separate diaries and I have two secretaries who can only coordinate things by telephone or e-mail. That can be quite a drama for an absent-minded professor like myself."

Source of inspiration?

"Many people actually. For example, the books by Steven Covey about Leadership, that I read many years ago. I would certainly recommend others to explore his work. Currently I am very much under the spell of the French novelist Antoine de Saint Exupéry. At the moment I'm reading 'Wisdom of the Sands' (La Citadelle), in Hungarian because I can't get hold of translations. This is because of my origins; my parents were born in Hungary and I grew up speaking this language. This way I can stay in touch with the language."

Key issues on the political agenda?

"For me it has to be the state of innovation in the Netherlands, which is pretty poor. The way the innovation platform operates, cooperation between departments, the organisation of education, the mono-disciplinary approach adopted to problems - I think it is scandalous that such a developed country cannot be more progressive. It seems as if all innovation has to come from the benefits of natural gas; there is far too little basic strategic thinking. Now that the world is changing at such a rapid pace, partly as a result of globalisation, we will end up facing major problems because of this. The Netherlands needs to stay strong economically and this means we need to be far more innovative in the way we work and think than is currently the case."

What do you think of Delft?

"It's great to be back in Delft. I was born here and also studied in Delft: firstly traffic engineering and then I received my doctorate for my research into the increase in freight transport as a result of the progressive integration of European countries. I am also a civil engineer at heart, and have always had a love for industrial engineering. What I have noticed, being back on campus after fifteen years, is that there have been significant improvements in terms of its professionalism and image. But accessibility for vehicles seems to be getting worse and there is a lack of an extranet linking up with other companies in the knowledge cluster around TU Delft. I think these are missed opportunities."

Your life philosophy?

"My motto comes from Saint Exupéry: if you want people to build a ship, don't give them ropes and wood. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. In other words, start by creating a vision, finding what appeals to you and where you want to go. The rest will come automatically."

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