A one-on-one interview with G-BEL’s manager

How did you get the idea of organizing such an event?

This event is part of the second phase of our collaboration with the GACC (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves). During the first phase of it, we worked a lot on capacity building, internally but also with our regional partners. The GACC’s call for tender was oriented towards quality in the different RTKC (Regional Testing and Knowledge Center) laboratories. As we were working with our regional partners since the beginning, we wanted to bring them on board concerning quality issues. That is how the idea of such an event came to us and how it evolved. We thought that reuniting local actors who could testify, meet each other and share their experiences would be interesting. This event also allowed us to inform people on GERES’s activities.

What were your expectations?

We had four aspirations:

  • The inauguration which allowed us to do an official handover, in due form, with the ribbon cutting, the signature of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), the visit with the officials and the handshake.
  • Train our regional partners and the ITC’s teams, including the one who will take on the laboratory.
  • Two educational and practical workshops. The first being a round table on quality; how to identify and take-up quality challenges in laboratories.
  • The second, a discussion about standards. A government representative from the Institute of Standards of Cambodia (ISC) came and explained how to develop standards in Cambodia, how it is structured, what are the interests for the participants to have standards and who are the main identified stakeholders of the country in this sector.
  • Connect people to reinforce networks and develop activities. All the participants are working on the same topics but they rarely get the chance to gather around lab quality issues, so we seized this opportunity.

Why did you choose this theme?

We chose to talk about quality because G-BEL has a high level of expertise on this. The quality management system we have is more advanced than what other labs in the region work with. The ITC wants to learn from our management system in order to manage its own laboratory and new research center. This is key to ensuring that when you get results, they are right! This is the main reason for focusing on quality, meaning that the results published by a lab are certifying products, which allow other stakeholders to take decisions depending on your results. Quality is an important issue because if there are some errors and the results are not reliable, it can be misleading and detrimental. It is a challenge today to develop such processes in Cambodia.

A change is taking place right now for G-BEL, what is it? What does it imply?

G-BEL is changing hands! We have transferred it to the ITC, including all our equipment and skills, knowledge, procedures, documentation and data. ITC will be able to manage G-BEL in an independent and autonomous way once the transfer is complete. The MoU that was signed specifies the co-management of the lab for one year. During this year, G-BEL stays under GERES but on ITC’s premises. If we have tests to do we can still have access to the lab and the same goes for University staff who can access it freely.

Who’s on the new team?

The new team is mainly composed of my counterpart, the new laboratory manager Dr. Or Chanmoly and his superior who is the ITC’s research director, Dr. Hul Seingheng, who will mostly work on fundraising, partnerships and finding ways to integrate the lab in University programs.

Actually, I have to train Dr. Chanmoly on lab operation processes, tasks preparation, data management, and fuel and biomass technology testing. I also have to put him in touch with all the providers, the GACC staff, etc. This way he will be able to transfer his knowledge and train his students.

Moving forward, Dr. Chanmoly will be in charge of the operational part and will run the lab’s day-to-day activities, eventually with students in some cases. Very soon a laboratory assistant will join the lab to help in the daily routine.

What has been set up for it to be completely independent?

We are currently operating an important transfer on all our quality management system. We are transmitting them our reports, procedures, checklists, templates, documentation and spreadsheets.

I will also be training them on the technical handling. The next step consists of explaining to them how our information system is structured, in order to be able to find every document and procedure they need to successfully operate the quality management system.

So what is the lab going to do now?

So far, the transfer has been done on all our protocols which include how to conduct biomass, improved cookstove and emissions tests. We can use other procedures to test the heat capacity of fuels other than biomass and the University is very interested in this. For example, Dr. Chanmoly also works on fossil fuel energy, like petroleum and coal mining. So, the utilization of the equipment will be widened.

Today, what are you satisfied with in the lab?

I am satisfied that the transfer has been made and that people technically qualified are going to continue this important work. I am pleased that G-BEL’s organization is flexible enough and well documented for other people to use it and take ownership of it. ITC seems sold on this idea. For example, the deputy director was the only one supposed to sign the MoU but the director general came as well. It shows that they value this new lab. What also came out from the discussions I have had is that they want to integrate the lab into their new study programs, so it is really good news!

It would be interesting to see how the lab evolves in the future. I will be very curious to see what the lab will be in the next two to three years because here in Cambodia the environment moves very quickly. Stay tuned!