Last week INTEGRADDE had a fruitful chat with I4MS project coordinator Mayte Carracedo. Mayte’s passions are new ideas and challenges, connecting with the right partners and contributing to creating new projects and initiatives. Her unique skills and knowledge in public funding for innovation, digital transformation projects, and Digital Innovation Hubs, fused with years of hard work, have made her the expert she is, and she is about to tell us a bit more.
Mayte has broad experience in managing innovation projects and connecting ICT technologies with early adopters and funding, she is involved in several international initiatives related to the digital transformation of SMEs and Digital Innovation Hubs. One of them is I4MS (ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs), European initiative supporting manufacturing SMEs and mid-caps in the widespread use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in their business operations. Under I4MS, SMEs can apply for technological and financial support to conduct small experiments, allowing them to test digital innovations in their business via open calls.
As Mayte explains, I4MS provides technology solutions for smart manufacturing in different areas such as robotics, additive manufacturing, Internet of things or high-performance computing. Through open calls, it offers funding as well as technology and business support for selected Application Experiments, and marketplaces to match technology providers with manufacturing SMEs. In addition to the above, interested parties can access all information on business services, networking, expertise, training, and all things related to smart manufacturing through the I4MS Community.
I*: Mayte, how can I4MS help the advancement of additive manufacturing technologies?
Mayte: For the specific case of Additive Manufacturing, we would refer to the AMable project, which aims at accelerating the uptake of additive manufacturing technologies. AMable regularly launches open calls, providing technical and business support to selected participants, and it will soon launch its marketplace.
I: There must be many success cases of applications of the technologies supported by the I4MS initiative. Could you please give us an example in the area of Additive Manufacturing?
Mayte: Yes, a successful case in that area would be the experiment "Additively manufacturable fittings save energy on Earth and in space", carried out by one partner and 2 tech providers from 3 different EU countries.
Here’s the story... satellites orbit the Earth and deliver more benefits the longer they do so. For most missions, robustness over their lifetime and weight during the launch are driving factors of cost and energy.
One of AMable’s experiments looked into using additive manufacturing for a structural component of satellites that connects carbon-reinforced tubes through 3D-printed metallic fittings. These fittings face two simultaneous challenges, they need to be both lightweight and sufficiently robust to handle the loads that a satellite must withstand during its operation in space. Therefore, the basic design of the component requires variations to suit individual loads at different positions within the construction.
The experimentation team created a design that achieved both cost reduction for production, and weight-saving to minimize energy consumption during the launch. The construction of the component is now 45% lighter than when it was manufactured conventionally. After optimization of the shape and internal structures of the component, it could even be produced at half the price. Overall, the new component cuts production costs by 50% and also saves energy during manufacturing and in later use.
The end-user is a Spanish research center called Lortek and the tech providers are the Manufacturing Technology Centre (UK) and the Frederick Research Centre (CY).
And of course, there are many more successful cases that we proudly follow.
I: What would be your main recommendation for those who want to end up being one of these success stories?
Mayte: Well, the first step is surely applying to an I4MS open call. The open calls are announced on the website and social networks, in our online community, through our supportive partners and their network of SMEs around Europe, and also in specialized media.
The second step is to take advantage of the support offered by Innovation Actions and the I4MS CSA (help in finding adequate partners, webinars to explain the open call and its guidelines, and online Q&As where potential applicants can have all their doubts resolved). Many supporting actions are also offered during the preparation process in the I4MS community.
Finally, the most important part of the whole application process is to ensure that the experiment has, on the one hand, the right partners in terms of competences and also in terms of cohesion and complementarity to carry out the experiment, and on the other hand, the right focus for your experiment: the final result must bring an improvement to the manufacturing process, and this improvement must be needed, in the sense that end-users would be willing to pay to use it and that it has not yet been tackled by competitors.
I: Would we be able to find I4MS representatives in events across Europe anytime soon?
Mayte: Sure, we will be present at the Mobile World Congress next February 2020 (24th to 27th).
I: How can people, interested in the initiative, learn more about it and participate?
Mayte: The best way to stay up-to-date about the I4MS initiative is to join the online community, where more than a thousand members of the ecosystem are connected, sharing best practices, events, news, and interests. Moreover, the I4MS website is the central place to find the latest information about the initiative, including the open calls and other services provided. Finally, I4MS social media channels are quite active too.
Regarding participation, a very good example is Elaphe (Slovenia), a leading company in developing the next generation of electric propulsion systems for electric vehicles. Elaphne is using innovative and disruptive technologies with the aim of increasing efficiency, promoting sustainable use of energy and minimizing energy-dependency on fossil fuels, which eventually led them to win the 2019 edition of the I4MS Disruptors Award. They were chosen out of 3 other shortlisted companies from Germany, Spain, and Italy.
So, feel free to join, follow and spread the word because I4MS is doing great things. See you at the I4MS Community!