Tecnalia business impact
  • Published on 16 Aug 2016
  • External News

Whats the business impact of Tecnalia Research & Innovation

What effect do ARTEMIS Projects have on the business impact of our members?

Whats the Impact of the WITH-ME Project within Tecnalia Research & Innovation? ARTEMIS-IA was curious and interviewed Dr. Pierre Barralon of Tecnalia:

  1. Tecnalia is a member of the ARTEMIS Industry Association and is a Research organisation (B member) in Spain. Could you tell the reader a little bit more about Tecnalia?

Tecnalia Research & Innovation has been operating since 1 January 2011 after a merger of eight Technology Centres. TECNALIA R&I is the number one private applied research centre in Spain and number five in Europe, with a staff of around 1,500 highly qualified people, a turnover in the region of 125 million euros and a client portfolio of over 4,000 companies, mainly innovative SMEs. We believe that providing imaginative, technological, creative solutions leads to real results. We help create ideas that turn into value, and into competitive business opportunities for their clients.

  1. ARTEMIS Industry is very keen on co-creation and cooperation. How do you stimulate this within Tecnalia and in what role do funded projects have in the developments within Tecnalia?

Our foreign offices are mainly located in university centres, such as the University of Tübingen in Germany or the University of Pisa in Italy, University of Montpellier in France, University of Belgrade in Serbia and at universities in Mexico and Colombia. With this kind of presence we are involved in both business and research networks there and this kind of contact generates ideas and solutions in a climate of collaboration. This is also a way to bring together members for consortia and to garner support for research projects as well as for private business contracts. Of course, as a not-for-profit private organisation, we need funding to help us sustain our research. Our primary objective is to generate the knowledge we need to develop the innovative technologies, for example, to improve quality of life through prevention and care. It also helps us to maintain our networks and stay connected with the main actors, which is vital for knowledge. We also try to act as a bridge between universities and industry, covering the whole spectrum from fundamental to applied research. And EU funding projects are a nice way to do that.

  1. Tecnalia’s mission is to transform technology into GDP (Gross Domestic Product), could you tell us more about the steps Tecnalia takes to transform technology results into business impact? When exactly do you expect real implementation of the project results and thus create business impact?

As I said, we want to transform knowledge into application, and bridging the gap between research and application is a way to ultimately convert knowledge into GDP. We are uniquely positioned in this respect. What sets Tecnalia apart is an innovative operational model that is based on sectors, like the Health & Ageing division in which I work. By proactively bringing together the technological and market capacities of these different sectors, or Business Units, each client can get customised, multidisciplinary attention and integral solutions. In our global approach, local commitment is an essential aspect. Firstly, we are able to participate in and accompany our clients in big international R+D+i projects and, secondly, we attend to the industrial base that is closest to hand, mainly SMEs in their innovation processes. This commitment to local industry is reflected in the fact that R+D+i activities with companies make up over 55% of our activity while the international dimension is evident in our strong presence outside Spain, participation within the European 7th Framework Programme in over 170 projects, of which we lead 20%. By generating business opportunities for companies we can help improve people’s quality of life. For us, yesterday’s project is today’s reality and what we do today lays the path to the future.

  1. In line with the objectives for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and the improvement of care through a personal persuasive assistant, the WITH-ME project aimed to develop an ecosystem consisting of various embedded devices, including consumer electronics, dedicated health equipment, external information sources and personal feedback, and servers providing the necessary computational environment. Could you tell me a little bit more about the final results of this project?

Consumers are increasingly considering health and wellness as an area they have to take personal responsibility for; they are becoming more pro-active. At the same time there are clear and proven benefits about self-monitoring and self-control. The aim of WITH-ME is to provide a health prevention platform and personalised services in order to improve general health and to prevent the incidence of a range of diseases. Therefore, WITH-ME was designed around three pillars: an embedded platform for multivendor nomadic sensors, interoperable intelligent sensors to monitor wellbeing and an open architecture for persuasive electronic services. The result is a platform that provides customisable, adaptive, and assistive and yet secure training/support geared specifically to a person’s preferences and needs. So while other projects focus on a specific domain (sensor communication, knowledge gathering, etc), WITH-ME offers a complete (from sensors to end users) and open (standardised interface) solution. WITH-ME technologies and applications are also innovative since they can guide, assist and motivate users. An interoperable ICT-based application, this personalised assistant guides and promotes of physical activity both indoors (in-home, gym club) and outdoors (amusement parks, open-air exercise, children’s playground, nature reserves, etc.) as well as healthy life (weight, diet, sleeping habits and stress management).

  1. Do you expect, or can you confirm that other companies have implemented your high-tech solutions, for example in their manufacturing process, products and/ or services?

Let me take an example,  coaching nutritional habits. Some people react to food in an emotional way so we proposed developing a sensory solution to classify emotions into three categories: negative, neutral and positive. By detecting the emotion or emotional change and providing feedback, user behaviour or choice can be improved, for instance giving a warning about a certain type of food that may not be a healthy choice. We also developed and patented a software solution, a strategic tool for tackling obesity, for instance, which identifies emotional reactions to different suggestions, like walking or swimming. Where the user reacts positively to a certain physical activity, he is more likely to undertake and maintain this activity, and therefore have a positive health effect. This solution has been used for example by the Spanish company Atos, the With-Me project coordinator, in its data products. In fact, the results of With-Me are being used by various project partners in different countries to make their coaching services less time-consuming and more efficient. At Tecnalia we are also incorporating ICT persuasive tools into our rehabilitation technologies/devices whenever possible.

  1. ARTEMIS-IA believes that funding is needed to make sure such high-tech solutions and technologies will be created. What is Tecnalia’s position on this and do you often use funding schemes to support your research?

Performing research is highly risky by essence. Therefore Tecnalia, like other research centres, cannot finance a research activity alone or commercial activities to transfer developed technologies. Therefore, public funding is absolutely necessary, and  so Tecnalia has a mixed source of incomes  :from  public funding programmes like ARTEMIS or ECSEL or Horizon 2020, which accounts for about half, and private funding, which is 30-35%. The final 15-20% comes from local (Basque county subvention) funding. We use this non-competitive funding not only to generate knowledge but also test and prototype solutions. We try to get user (end-user, professional, public body) involvement as much as possible. These highly valuable inputs are time consuming (and therefore costly): establishing contacts, getting them on board, cooperating, iterating on ideas and pilot tests. The funding also helps us to advise on solutions for industry, either directly or through programmes like ARTEMIS.

  1. Which funded projects have contributed (directly or via shareholders) to the impact of Tecnalia?

Actually, the With-Me project is the first funded project of its kind that we have had in the Health division of Tecnalia. Of course, we have also been connected with ARTEMIS-IA funded projects in the past (SOFIA, CHIRON) but within the health division, this is a first ARTEMIS-IA project. We brought in With-Me, an enabling technology, which classifies emotion based on physiological parameters. This should be seen as a valuable component rather than a product itself. It complements existing technologies. The impact comes when companies integrate these components to innovate products. So, essentially, we contribute with new services to the comprehensive solution.

  1. You are a member of ARTEMIS-IA. What do you expect to get out of such membership and do you see this changing over time in the future?

We use and benefit from the services and facilities that membership gives us. It also provides a place where we can meet other players in the industry and is an important point of contact with stakeholders. Within the European research environment we gain insight into the state of the art along with opportunities for networking and the position regarding the strategic agenda. We find out what is important, in terms of sectors and the challenges that lie ahead, so that we can prepare well for the Calls and ensure that we are properly positioned for such Calls. It’s not just about technologies but also policies and how they impact technologies. Membership also gives us a bit of an opportunity to help shape the future by interacting with the ARTEMIS-IA board in a real two-way ‘conversation’. As for the future, we hope to enhance our relationship with ARTEMIS-IA.

  1. In what way can Tecnalia and ARTEMIS-IA intensify their cooperation to contribute effectively in digitising Europe?

Having been involved in the SOFIA project in the past and now, personally, in the WITH-ME project, I am now contributing to the elaboration of a full project proposal for September. This signifies a step towards a more intensive cooperation with ARTEMIS-IA and ECSEL. We have already seen the benefits of previous projects and believe that this is a good framework for fostering technology transfer. We see that the Health sector is not as large as electronics or embedded systems so what we want to do is to intensify the communication with the ARTEMIS-IA Board so we can get to know better the strategy concerning the Health sector and the vision of ARTEMIS-IA. With this information we can then strengthen the performance of this sector and boost the impact of technology transfer. The more input, the more output.