David van Wijnen on military technology and public procurement, European solidarity and his passion for WOII true stories

What kind of mind-set is needed to carry out ground-breaking research as we do at UUCePP?

UUCePP researchers introduce themselves in brief interviews conducted by Elisabetta Manunza and Fredo Schotanus. Today: PhD candidate David van Wijnen, employed from March 16th, 2020.

David van Wijnen
David van Wijnen

Who’ and ‘what’ are you? What do you work on, and why?

My name is David van Wijnen. Two months ago I started as a PhD candidate at the Utrecht University Centre for Public Procurement (UUCePP). I started my law studies at this university in 2015. In 2019 I completed my Master's programme in Dutch Private Law with the specialization of intellectual property law.

During my studies I developed a special interest in technology and law. I think that many will associate this interest directly with intellectual property law and privacy law, which I am indeed trying to delve into. What may be less obvious in this context but is at least as relevant and interesting, is my new area of interest: public procurement law.

It can be a challenge for public organisations to acquire technology that is suitable for achieving their organisational objectives in a just and efficient way. The purchase or development of military technology appeals to my imagination the most. Think for example of IT systems used in ships and aircraft. This type of technology is crucial for guaranteeing national security.

Defence procurement has been subject to European procurement law for a few years now. It is therefore important that our legal system allows governments to purchase or develop military technology that is suitable for safeguarding national security from the most appropriate supplier. That is exactly what my research will focus on. I am going to research the extent to which Member States can adopt their own national policies to acquire military technology, without infringing European law. I will obviously try to include my interest in intellectual property law in this research.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning? And is this different because of the COVID-19 crisis?

As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I grab my phone to see what has happened in the world while I was sleeping. I want to stay informed of the latest developments in our society. After that, I prefer to get started as soon as possible with the matters that are important to me. That is mostly my research at the moment.

I am currently working from home because of the COVID-19 crisis. This occasionally creates some distractions. This however does not prevent me from getting started with my research. I can recommend anyone who is working at home to find a good office chair. In my opinion, a healthy and active sitting position is very important for being able to focus on your work, especially when you are working from home.

Is there nevertheless something you appreciate in these changing circumstances?

The only thing that I can appreciate about a crisis like this is that it provides us with a new opportunity to see the good in people. You can see how many organisations and individuals are doing their best to help us all through this crisis.

I have seen this at our university and in our UUCePP team especially as well. My colleagues were quick to ensure the normal course of events. The process of guiding me as a new colleague went smooth, even though I have not physically worked from any locations of the university yet. What I also appreciate is that many personal anecdotes are shared during the video meetings with our team. I think that this brings our team closer together.

David van Wijnen: "This picture was taken at the Yellow Mountains (Huang Shan) during my exchange program at Tsinghua University in China. The picture illustrates my quest for new experiences, cultures and places."

Should we go back to our old way of life after the crisis, or not?

Although it is in some cases understandable, it is regrettable to see that there has been a lack of solidarity between European countries during the COVID-19 crisis. This should make us think about the current defence procurement system. The COVID-19 crisis has made procurement in Europe difficult in some cases. Many foreign suppliers have considerable work to do with their national contracts. I think that the risk of military threats from outside of Europe or foreign interference should make us critical of the current system. Are we to trust that our national security will be guaranteed in a crisis, when we are dependent on foreign suppliers for military technology?

What is your biggest dream or greatest ambition?

I find the best thing about law to be the strong link to practice. I gain a lot of energy from finding practical solutions to theoretical issues. My ambition is therefore to acquire as much theoretical knowledge in a certain are of law as possible. With this knowledge, I hope to be able to help out organisations with finding practical solutions for complex questions in the area of technology and law.

Which book has impressed you the most, has shaped you, and would you read 100 more times? And why?

I like to read books or articles that invite me to think about morality, as that is a theme that will always excite me. Because new information always stimulates me, I cannot name a favorite book, just like I do not have a favorite movie or favorite musical work.  I am interested in both philosophical discussions as historical descriptions. Non-fiction stories about the Second World War fascinate me in particular. How one deals with moral dilemmas in times of crisis and how wars can bring out the best in some and the worst in others always gets to me. The recently published book ‘De geldjas van Max Nord written by my grandfather Harry van Wijnen is an interesting example of such a book.