IEEE ComSoc in the Europe, Middle East and Africa Region: Interview with Luca Foschini, Director of the EMEA Region

By Luca Foschini - Director of the EMEA Region and Stefano Bregni - Global Communications Newsletter Editor-in-Chief, Director Conference Operations

This article continues the series of nine interviews to the Officers of the IEEE ComSoc Member and Global Activities (MGA) Council, which is published every month on the Global Communications Newsletter.

In this series of articles, I introduce the Vice-President and the six Directors on the MGA Council (namely: Member Services, Industry Outreach, and AP, NA, LA, EMEA Regions), as well as the two Chairs of the Women in Communications Engineering (WICE) and Young Professionals (YP) Standing Committees. In each interview, one by one they present their sector activities and plans.

In this issue, I interview Luca Foschini, Director of the Europe, Middle East and Africa Region (EMEA).

Luca is an associate professor at the University of Bologna, Italy, and he is also Director of the Center for Interdepartmental Research on ICT at the same university. He is the author or co-author of more than 65 journal/magazine articles and over 130 conference papers in the areas of network and service management, mobile computing, cloud/edge computing, and IIoT/Industry 4.0. He is serving/served as TPC Co-Chair in a number of IEEE ComSoc conferences and he is member of the editorial boards of IEEE Networking Letters and of IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials. He is and a member of the IEEE ComSoc Board of Governors as EMEA Region Director and he is also currently serving as secretary for the Communications Systems Integration and Modeling (CSIM) Technical Committee. He is an IEEE Senior Member.

I have been working with Luca for several years already. I have always appreciated his tremendous capacity, coupled with his integrity and vision on how ComSoc should serve Members. Now, let us start the interview and discover what’s going on in the EMEA Region, which is also my Region.

Stefano: Hello Luca, we might begin outlining the main characteristics of the EMEA Region.

The EMEA Region covers a vast geographical area stretching from Cape Town, South Africa in the South, Lisbon, Portugal, in the West, through Hammerfest, Norway, in the North, to Vladivostok, Russia in the East. The Region is served by 54 local chapters having together more than one fifth of the ComSoc members worldwide. Chapters provide a local connection for our society members. Their activities include: talks organized within the Distinguished Lecturer Tour (DLT) or Distinguished Speaker Program (DSP) frameworks, Industrial Talks, Industry Panels, social events, workshops, seminars, special events, etc.

The Distinguished Lecturer Tour (DLT) and the Distinguished Speaker Program (DSP) have been always particularly appreciated by our Members, and also the virtual DL (vDL) talks, adopted during the pandemic period, have been quite successful. What is your perception of these Programs? How are they organized in the EMEA Region?

DLTs provide the means for ComSoc chapters to identify and arrange lectures by renowned experts on communications and networking-related topics. ComSoc’s DSPs enable current and past distinguished lecturers as well as ComSoc officers, IEEE Fellows, and prominent speakers to schedule lectures while traveling on business trips. vDL talks allowed also to scale the number of members and the outreach, especially during pandemic peak periods. Although now we are working to reboot DLT and DSP in presence events, and indeed we have recently approved some of them organized by our EMEA Chapters, I believe vDL talks provide an opportunity also to Chapters with a low number of members, such as those in the Middle East and Africa, to organize such events and all our members to attend the talks. At the same time, organizing again physical talks (DLTs/DSPs) gives unvaluable networking and socializing opportunities to our members and the opportunity for ComSoc to advertise its activities. By no doubt, these are an excellent means to hire new members. Hence, we are planning to use unspent budget and available surplus to organize as many DLs as we can.

The EMEA Region Board assign Awards to recognize the contributions of its outstanding members. May you present that in some detail?

An important facet of the EMEA activities, coordinated by Claudio Fiandrino from Spain, is our Award Program that includes the EMEA Young Researcher Award and the EMEA Region Distinguished Service Award.

In 2021, the recipient of the EMEA Young Researcher Award was Yansha Deng from King’s College London (UK), and we had also two Runner-Up Outstanding Young Researcher Awards, namely, Adrian Garcia-Rodriguez from the Mathematical & Algorithmic Sciences Lab - Huawei Technologies (France) and Marco Giordani from University of Padova (Italy).

The EMEA Region Distinguished Service Award was granted to Fabrizio Granelli from University of Trento (Italy).

What are the major challenges that you currently see in the EMEA Region?

We have two major challenges: one is the membership growth in our Region, and the other is increasing industry-academia cooperation.

The coordination of the latter is the responsibility of Saud Althunibat from Jordan. The task is not easy in the current business environment, taking into account industry restructuring, growing competition, and changes in the overall markets, but we are doing our best to strengthen the cooperation between the industry and the academia within the EMEA Region.

Along that line, I am continuing two initiatives started by the previous EMEA Director, Christos Verikoukis, aimed to close the gap between industry and academia in our Region and to engage people from industry to actively participate in our activities; Diomidis Michalopoulos from NOKIA Bell-Labs in Germany is leading these industry and academia cooperation efforts.

The first initiative is the industrial webinars/panels with the participation of experts from big and/or highly innovative telco and ICT companies such as Telefonica, Enel-X, Zenoh, etc; our members in the last years showed much interest in these webinars and we had a big audience at each event.

The second activity, coordinated by our Membership Development coordinators Marwa K. Qaraqe from Qatar and Mustapha Benjillali from Morocco, is the industry-students panel. We typically organize this panel at the end of the year in order to provide valuable feedback on student research. Students present their work to panelists remotely, and the industry panelists judge their work based on industry interest, real problems, existing standards etc. This initiative was highly appreciated by our students, and we will open a call for participation in October, so, stay tuned!

Last, but not least, with Diomidis and in collaboration with the Young Professionals (YP) Committee, we are also implementing a brand new in-presence industry-student matching event at MeditCom 2022, that we want to scale-up and replicate in other ComSoc conferences held in R8 and in other regions.

Besides those EMEA Board Members who you have mentioned already, would you like to acknowledge the contribution of any other in particular?

I would like also to mention here three other people playing very important roles within the EMEA Board, namely: José Javier Berrocal Olmeda who serves as Member Services Board EMEA Voting Representative, Virginia Pilloni who is EMEA Representative in the YP Committee, and Anna Maria Vegni who is EMEA Representative in the WICE Committee.

Among the many activities that you are running, what will be the highlight in the next months?

As said before at MeditCom 2022 in Athens, Greece, we will organize the first EMEA industry-student matching event; then, we will work to possibly replicate it at ICC that will be held in our region, in Rome, Italy, in 2023.