SAP’s Visiting Researcher Program: Success Stories Bridging Industry and Academia
In-depth and organic exchange between industry and academia is vital for SAP. After all, many innovations in the realm of software systems, computer science, and artificial intelligence have their roots in university research and many of the most talented people hold research positions as part of their career journey. To facilitate and democratize exchange, in particular for early career researchers, SAP has recently launched the SAP Visiting Researcher Program and regularly invites PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers to industry visits of up to six months. At SAP, the researchers can then advance their research topics in a practice-oriented manner, utilizing dedicated infrastructure for developing and deploying prototypes in ‘production’-like environments.
The Value for Researchers
While the visits fuel SAP’s product innovation, they are also immensely useful for the researchers themselves: many young academic researchers prefer keeping the door to industry open for future career ambitions whereas others are eager to show that their work can have an impact in the products of a global-scale tech company, ideally in the form of academic publications that report on the results obtained in an industry context.
Below, we provide the stories of three of our visitors within SAP.
Dr. Dorina Bano: Data and Business Object Analysis for Process Mining
Motivated by the introduction of the program at the BPM conference in 2022, Dorina joined the program as a Visiting Researcher to bridge the gap between academia and industry while combining her experience as a software engineer with her passion for research. During her time at SAP, Dorina used the results obtained as part of her dissertation to develop new and more industry-oriented perspectives on ‘object-centric process mining’, a current trend in process mining research. Her research analyzes the trade-offs that need to be made in industry settings when generating insights from large amounts of data, bridging the gap between academic novelty and practical application potential. Her work not only infuses fresh ideas into SAP Signavio but also fosters connections and keeps SAP aligned with academic research trends. The experience at SAP impacted Dorina’s perspective on a possible future career path, clarifying her preference for academia or industry, while also nurturing professional relationships and skills at the many SAP events such as bootcamps or informal get-togethers at the office.
Adrian Rebmann: Automated Rule Generation for Business Process Compliance Analysis
Inspired by discussions at the BPM Conference in 2022 and SAP colleagues’ insights, Adrian joined SAP as a Visiting Researcher to validate his research and merge research ideas with real industry data. Adrian extended his work on ‘model-less’ data-driven checks of process compliance, a key foundation for utilizing generative AI in process mining and the process development context. Some of his key academic research contributions are now scheduled for productization at SAP Signavio, promising substantial future impact. For Adrian, the access to abundant real-world data was a highlight and a research game-changer. Interactions with diverse stakeholders solidified his interest in an industry career post-doctorate. The ongoing engagement post-visit was a valuable aspect of the experience to stay involved as an external and continue to find and use synergies.
Dr. Carl Corea: Decision Management – Model Analysis and Verification
Carl discovered the program while being a year into his postdoc. His familiarity with DMN (a graphical and rule-based language for decision modeling) and its application-oriented academic community led him to seek insights into DMN usage in practice – a knowledge gap often unaddressed in academia. Carl put his work into automated analysis and verification of decision models in a product context, contributing to SAP Signavio decision management strategy and the development of a tangible roadmap. Dynamic exchange within the program enriched his research, especially collaborating on strategically significant customer projects, including holding workshops. Carl’s research fueled the DMN strategy and roadmap, with his input on pre-emptively addressed issues being well-received when handed over to the new DMN team.
Witnessing collaborative road mapping and SAP’s commitment to research shaped Carl’s outlook on both academia and industry. He believes the Visiting Researcher Program presents a remarkable opportunity, merging industry and academia. Especially for those aiming to balance research and industry, it offers extensive reach and idea positioning.
Immediate Product Impact
Being a research instrument at SAP, the Visiting Researcher Program was piloted at SAP Signavio, driven by David Eickhoff, Dr. Melanie Win Myint, and Dr. Timotheus Kampik. As evident from these interviews, the pilot was a great success, and we are excited to see the program scale throughout SAP and reap great fun and success.
“The Visiting Researcher program allows us to develop and test novel ideas in a rapid and agile manner from perspectives that are difficult to develop with only internal knowledge” says David Eickhoff, senior development manager in SAP Signavio’s Process Intelligence group, who has helped launch the program. “Initially, we were not sure about the actual product impact, seeing the academic nature of topics. However, our engineering teams are already productizing concepts and prototypes that the program has produced over the past six months.”
In an age where innovation is the currency of success, programs like the SAP Visiting Researcher Program stand as testaments to the transformative power of collaborative efforts. By connecting two worlds, academia, and industry, we enhance SAP’s product offerings and contribute to the broader pursuit of knowledge and innovation.
If you are as excited as we are, want to know more, or wish to participate in the SAP Visiting Researcher Program, don’t hesitate to contact Timotheus Kampik at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Co-authored by Marie Zeller and Timotheus Kampik.