© Philipp Reinhard

“Inno­va­tion is the common thread running through my life”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tomas Smetana has been Chief Tech­nology Officer of the ebm-papst Group since December 2023. In this inter­view, he tells us about his plans for inno­va­tion and how ebm-papst can main­tain its role as a tech­nology leader.

We’d like to get to know you: What can you tell us about your­self?

I’m curious, but also very active, and I’m always open to new things. Life­long learning is just as impor­tant to me as main­taining a balance between mind and body. I like changes that allow me to look at the world from new angles.

So changing perspec­tives suits you. What does this look like in a profes­sional context?

I’ve been fasci­nated by tech­nology since I was a child, so I decided to study mechan­ical engi­neering and later to work in product devel­op­ment, which is all about finding new and better solu­tions. I turned my hobby into a career that I really enjoy each day. I work strate­gi­cally and oper­a­tionally, a balanced mix of product devel­op­ment and busi­ness, always based on close coop­er­a­tion with customers. Regard­less of my posi­tion, I was and continue to be respon­sible for spear­heading inno­va­tion. This is the common thread that runs through my profes­sional life.

How much of a “doer” do you still consider your­self to be?

Obvi­ously, I still have a strong passion for inno­va­tion and tech­nology. That won’t change with my role as a manager. However, the focus of my activ­i­ties is shifting away from oper­a­tional product devel­op­ment and towards defining strategic inno­va­tion and tech­nology goals. For me, what matters is inspiring and devel­oping the creativity of our employees, working with them to find new solu­tions and enabling the teams to success­fully imple­ment chal­lenging devel­op­ment tasks.

I would describe myself as a “creative go-getter. For me, the only kind of inno­va­tion that counts is inno­va­tion that leads to a prof­itable and scal­able busi­ness.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tomas Smetana, CTO ebm-papst Group

What strengths do you bring to your new role as CTO at ebm-papst and which areas do you intend to address?

I bring inter­na­tion­ality and diver­sity. As a native Czech who has lived in Germany for more than 25 years and spent another 7 years in Japan and China, I have been able to see and expe­ri­ence the world, people and their cultures as well as markets, customers and tech­nolo­gies from different perspec­tives and on many different levels. I natu­rally draw on this expe­ri­ence.

I would describe myself as a “creative go-getter.” For me, the only kind of inno­va­tion that counts is inno­va­tion that leads to a prof­itable and scal­able busi­ness. The ability to generate new ideas together with develop­­ment teams and imple­ment them success­fully and consis­tently is some­thing I con-sider to be my strength and an impor­tant task for the company. Finally – but also most impor­tantly – I always focus on the key stake-holders: our customers! Only through new, inno­v­a­tive solu­tions with added value can we inspire them and main­tain our tech­nology lead­er­ship in the long term.

What does tech­nology lead­er­ship mean to you?

Ulti­mately, tech­nology lead­er­ship also means market lead­er­ship in my view. I can focus completely on customers and the added value we generate for them. Conversely, I don’t need to worry about the compe­ti­tion because they can’t offer compa­rable solu­tions.

A tech­nology leader can shift or even rede­fine the bound­aries and condi­tions in the estab­lished industry. And lastly, a tech­nology leader always looks ahead. When strag­glers are just starting to adapt, the leader is already setting new stan­dards. In the future I still see ebm-papst in the role of a tech­nology leader.

“In the future I still see ebm-papst in the role of a tech­nology leader.”

You’ve been at the company for a few months now. What do you think of ebm-papst? What does the company mean to you?

From day one, I had a clear sense of ebm-papst’s corpo­rate DNA, which is anchored in the core values of effi­ciency, passion, and humanity. Energy-effi­cient fans play a crucial role in venti­lation and heating tech­nology and generate excite­ment among our direct customers and, above all, among end customers, who save money as a result. I really notice the humanity in the close cohe­sion within our team and the connec­tion we have with our company. I was welcomed very warmly and I get all the support I need, both in my daily work and in my private life.

What strengths and poten­tial can ebm-papst draw on?

First and fore­most, excel­lent basic exper­tise in aero­dy­namics and aeroa­coustics. But also in elec­tric drives, including control tech­nology, which are based on in-depth simu­la­tion and exper­i­mental knowl­edge and thus enable the devel­op­ment of highly effi­cient fans. Other strengths include customer access and customer prox­imity, as well as the ability to effi­ciently trans­late market require­ments and customer requests into prod­ucts. I see the greatest poten­tial in our talented employees, their creativity and enthu­siasm!

What role does AI play in this?

For us, AI is a tech­nology with enor­mous poten­tial in prod­ucts and busi­ness processes. I see three areas of appli­ca­tion in product devel­op­ment: Firstly, as indus­trial machine learning embedded in the product soft­ware, making our prod­ucts more intel­li­gent and enabling completely new func­tions for customer control.

We will continue to set stan­dards in our core busi­ness with effi­cient fans. We will incor­po­rate even more intel­li­gence into our prod­ucts

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tomas Smetana, CTO ebm-papst Group

Secondly, for completely new services such as digital product main­te­nance, based on an analysis of cloud data and corre­sponding predic­tions. And finally, in auto­mated product devel­op­ment, to improve flow opti­miza­tion or mini­mize the number of trials required, for example.

As CTO, you are actively shaping the future of ebm-papst and the industry. Which direc­tion do you think things need to go in, including with regard to the chal­lenges of climate change?


With “Engi­neering a better life”, we express how impor­tant it is to us to imple­ment sustain­able and intel­li­gent solu­tions that create a better climate for people, their appli­ca­tions and our envi­ron­ment.

Our values.

There will not be a single solu­tion to climate change, but rather a combi­na­tion of many, hetero­ge­neous measures. There is too much public discourse about elec­tro­mo­bility for motor vehi­cles, but not enough about topics such as regen­er­a­tive heating for build­ings and indus­trial process heat. The impor­tance of green hydrogen as an energy storage medium will increase signif­i­cantly.

Gas combus­tion and gas turbines as a means of coup­ling heat and power gener­a­tion will expe­ri­ence a renais­sance in this context. Another tech­nology that we will not be able to do without in future is decar­boniza­tion. These are all reasons why I want to drive forward the devel­op­ment of inno­v­a­tive heating and cooling systems and solu­tions for Power-to-X at ebm-papst, in addi­tion to opti­mizing our product port­folio.

What flag­ship tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts can customers expect in the short and medium term?

We will continue to set stan­dards in our core busi­ness with effi­cient fans. This includes aero­dy­nam­i­cally and aeroa­cousti­cally opti­mized impellers, inno­v­a­tive, highly effi­cient elec­tronics, and also effi­ciency-opti­mized elec­tric motors with high power density. We will also incor­po­rate even more intel­li­gence into our prod­ucts in the future so that oper­ating points can be recog­nized and anom­alies detected in good time.

Thanks to connec­tivity, our fans can be inte­grated in the cloud to opti­mize energy manage­ment, for example. By combining our many years of exper­tise with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, we can achieve signif­i­cant gains in effi­ciency! When we talk about power density and effi­ciency, our oil-free high-speed compres­sors for sustain­able refrig­er­ants also repre­sent the absolute pinnacle. In the medium term, I also see major advances in inno­va­tion at the system level.

For instance, the current design of the heat pump repre­sents the first gener­a­tion. As we have both a creative devel­op­ment team and a great product port­folio, there will also be another gener­a­tion of heat pumps. We’ll defi­nitely talk about that in one of our next inter­views! 

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