Archivo de la categoria ‘Innovation’

An App to transform mobility in Barcelona wins the ECIM BCN Hackathon

The BcnPlus Team with Victoria Cochrane, from ESADE

BcnPlus, a new solution for mobility in Barcelona won the ECIM Hackathon final held at the ESADE Business School. The new app wants to unify all the public transport cards used in Barcelona and bring them to mobile devices, that will become the “door” for these services using the recently developed Visual Light Communication (VLC) technology.

The solution, developed by Roberto de Arquer, Carlos Quintanilla and AndrésHernández, aims to offer the users of all the public transport in Barcelona an easier way to access to their cards, by integrating them through an app in their smartphones.

There, Users would be able to choose between the cards they have purchased anddirectly access the different mobility services provided by the administration, from Metro, buses or even Bicing, the popular public bike service.

Roberto explained that the app, besides introducing the new VLC technology, offers the users a full set of services related to mobility issues using the ECIM platform, including updated information offered by the service providers.

“We’re convinced that we can build a business venture, and winning would be great because there are some things that escape our knowledge and the assessment offered by ESADE as part of the prize will be really helpful.”, told Roberto just before the announcement of the team’s win.

Roberto and Carlos, both students of Multimedia Engineering at La Salle University, met Andrés at the Mobile World Congress, and he encouraged them to start a business together.

Victoria Cochrane, Pelayo Méndez and Pedro Lorente

The runners-up where Pelayo Méndez and Pedro Lorente, who designed an app to connect citizens and city services according to the user’s preferences and habits. Their app aims to unify all the services offered by public administrations and offer them in a useful way for the citizens, solving the myriad of apps currently tackling these problems one by one.

“We come from the era of App solutions, in which everything had an app generating loads of applications. Our proposal is something of a change of paradigm because if offers a good data service which it maintains, increases and allows other developers to work with,” explained Pelayo regarding the integration of the ECIM services.

The European Cloud Marketplace for Intelligent Mobility (ECIM), funded by the European Comission, aims to create smarter mobility services across Europe. Building on the success of the European Platform for Intelligent Cities (EPIC), ECIM uses the power of the cloud to create a marketplace for transport solutions where service providers, data providers and developers can come together and co-create innovative applications for citizens.

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Isobionics: Turning a large firm’s unused technology into a business

Isobionics, a Dutch startup company, was established in 2008. Its activities focus on manufacturing natural ingredients for the flavor and fragrance industry. Their products are prepared with an innovative fermentation process, which results in high quality, natural products for customers in the food, beverage, flavor, and fragrance markets. The company’s technology was developed by DSM, a globally operating Dutch chemical company with annual net sales of 9.2 billion euro in 2014. The company has strong technical expertise in biotech and new materials.

The seed for Isobionics was planted in early 2007, when Toine Janssen met with Frank Schaap, a new business developer at Chemelot. Chemelot is an Open Campus for small companies in the chemical business, co-located at the Sittard-Geleen site of DSM in the Netherlands. The infrastructure and services comprise world-class laboratories and research facilities, development services and all-round expertise, from high-performance materials to industrial chemicals.[i] Toine Janssen, a former director at Philips, initially wanted to buy a plant in the Chemelot campus. Instead, Frank Schaap offered him an alternate business proposal: Why not picking up a research project at DSM that had been discontinued?

About a year before Frank and Toine met Rinus Broxterman and a colleague developed a way to produce natural substances—called isoprenoids—through a biotechnological fermentation process. Normally, producing isoprenoids is expensive and laborious, but Broxterman’s method produced better quality results, required fewer production steps, and was 50 percent less expensive.

Rinus decided to file his process with the Emerging Business Unit of the DSM Innovation Centre. The Emerging Business Unit is part of an Emerging Business Area (EBA), which was established to explore innovative fields outside the existing core technologies of DSM and to professionalize innovation within DSM. As 2006 came to a close, it was clear that the EBA was going to drop the proposal because the project did not fit into the DSM’s strategic scope. Jacques Joosten, senior R&D director, however, was convinced the proposal had potential and advised DSM researchers to look for other ways to valorize the technology. Following this advice, Rinus shared the news with Frank Schaap that he had an idea for a new startup. Understanding that an experienced business development manager is a key for success, Rinus and Frank started looking for external managers. By that time, Frank Schaap had met with Toine Janssen.

Once Toine realized that the business case had great potential, he decided to take on the challenge. He wrote a business plan, was looking for financial resources, and was forging an agreement with DSM. Reaching that agreement was not simple because DSM had no experience with this form of outbound open innovation. Furthermore, DSM researchers that had worked on the project were not happy with the project’s evolution. They felt that they had to sacrifice knowledge they had acquired over a long period of time. Thanks to his experience and management skills in a company such as Philips, Toine Janssen convinced DSM’s managers that this spinout had significant business potential. After signing a research and intellectual property contract to use the fermentation procedure in predefined areas, Isobionics was founded. Initially, the company employed four people. In addition to Toine Janssen and Rinus Broxterman, researcher Dr. Theo Soncke and project manager Dr. Marijn Rijckers were added to the team through service agreements with DSM. Isobionics immediately started joint research and development with the Plant Research International (PRI) institute at the Wageningen Agricultural University. They chose the Chemelot Campus as the location for their new business, just a few hundred meters from the DSM laboratories. This co-location allowed Isobionics and DSM researchers to communicate and interact frequently, which accelerated research and decision-making.

Toine successfully raised funding for his venture by filing for subsidies and attracting Limburg Ventures B.V. Limburg Ventures is an active regional venture capital investor in materials and life sciences in the Netherlands founded by DSM.

The first product Isobionics commercialized was Valencene, a sesquiterpene and one of the components of orange oil. Valencene can be used as a flavor ingredient and tastes like oranges. The majority of applications are found in flavors for the beverage industry, particularly citrus flavors. Although minor, Valencene can also be found in fragrances. Isobionics focused on selling to flavor and fragrance companies such as Givaudan, Symrise, and Firmenich, all of which supply flavors to multinationals such as P&G and Unilever.

The strategic decision to start by producing Valencene (and not another flavor) was made because it is a relatively small market compared to flavors such as vanilla and menthol, where Isobionics would certainly face head-to-head competition of large established companies such as BASF. Furthermore, this product could generate quick cash without major investments. Moreover, by producing Valencene, Isobionics achieved proof of principle and generated knowledge and insights needed for further steps. Isobionics patented the process of producing Valencene (Valencene-synthase), but the patent on the microorganism from which Valencene was formed was DSM’s property. Isobionics, however, had an exclusive licensing agreement with DSM for it in the domains of flavor and fragrances, pharmacy and agrochemicals.

Isobionics has been growing fast and by 2015 it was also investigating the market for nootkatone a flavor characteristically associated with grapefruits. Although the company was growing fast, Toine Janssen continued to use an asset-light model for the growth of his company. He relied to a maximum on skills and assets outside Isobionics. R&D was executed with a growing number of universities around the world, tapping in the best expertise available. The technical collaboration with DSM decreased over time as Isobionics became more knowledgeable on the specific technology for produce F&F using microorganisms. Production was outsourced: Isobionics worked through contract-manufacturing with two fermenters, one in Eastern Europe and one in India. The choice for the manufacturer is a function of their skiils and specific installations. Production included three stages: fermentation, distillation and packaging. A different type of company executed each of the stages. In this was, Isobionics could produce the flavors without investing in production capacity and without the fear that a contract manufacturer could ever become a competitor on the market. As Isobionics was growing fast, it has to distribute products effectively on a global scale. Here again, Isobionics relied on an external partner—DSM—who had already the logistic expertise and infrastructure to deliver products to B2B clients worldwide.

Isobionics next had the ambition to grow further in the valencene and nootkatone market and to start developing other flavors and flagrances that fit the size of the startup. Isobionics focuses on the markets that are small enough to avoid direct competition with established multinationals. The relationship with DSM changes over time but the chemical company remains important for the startup (see logistics for instance). Toine Janssen is also very positive about the Chemelot site. As the company continues to grow, it has to change the location of its offices, but Isobionics will look for a location on or close to Chemelot.

Text originally published as a case in the Exnovate blog by Wim Vanhaverbeke, researcher at the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management

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Creativity tools ready for your business

Looking for a boost in your team’s creativity? Need a new approach to a problem you’re struggling to solve? The Collage project has come to an end but its outcomes are still available and ready to use for those looking for new ideas.

The Collage catalogue of applications has been completely rebuild to offer the user the most useful tools according to its situation. Answering two simple questions about the user’s needs , the application will suggest one the best tool to help him along with a descriptive card and the tool tutorial.

The site also offers the possibility to browse through all applications and a brief description of each one.

The Collage project, funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, has designed, developed and validated an innovative Social Creativity Service-Set which will support the synergistic interlinking of learning processes, resources and systems with social computing services for inspiring learners, social affinity spaces for leveraging expression and exploration, and social game mechanics for supporting social evaluation and appreciation of creative behaviour.

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Sunshine Challenge: an opportunity to promote innovation in energy efficiency


Today Europe is faced with the challenge of adapting to new technologies and innovation processes which would make cities more inclusive, competitive, efficient and, most importantly, more livable. The SUNSHINE project organizes an open, European-level challenge that this year is about promoting innovation in energy efficiency through two tracks:

The Energy efficiency initiative of the year track recognizes the contributions of public administrations or planning bodies to the transformation of our cities and neighborhoods towards greater energy sustainability. Governmental initiatives, submissions from cities and regions, as well as projects of urban and regional planners are welcome.

The Innovation in smart urban services aims at promoting these technologies in terms of best practices and innovative products in all stages of development which contribute to achieving the concept of smart cities. The project leaders are looking for solutions coming from industry, SMEs, researchers and Universities which have the potential of drivers for change, in European and local markets as well as the research landscape.

If you’re interested in participating in the Sunshine Challenge, visit the project website for more information!

Sunshine- “Smart UrbaN ServIces for Higher eNergy Efficiency” is a research project at the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management supported by the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) 2007 – 2013. SUNSHINE delivers innovative digital services, interoperable with existing geographic web-service infrastructures, supporting improved energy efficiency at the urban and building level. Specifically, SUNSHINE delivers a smart service platform accessible from both a web-based client and an App for smartphones and tablets.

The project is now halfway through its last year of implementation, and its solutions are being tested in eight pilots that are currently running at full capacity, testing and assessing the three SUNSHINE scenarios: Energy mapping and pre-certification, Building energy awareness and Remote control of lighting networks. Their success in achieving a valuable socio-economic impact, as well as in developing a short and long-term exploitation plan are currently being analyzed.

For more information, stay tuned and check the last newsletter!

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