Ricardo Rato took over in January 2019 as head of ISQ’s new R&D Directorate (I&Di). It explains that organizational change is part of the strategic bet that aims to enhance innovation and streamline the creation of products and services with application in the market. The goal is to “enhance the development of new services, with greater technological and knowledge incorporation, that strengthen the value offering and competitiveness of ISQ in the globalized market”, explains the Director of R&Di at ISQ.
What reasons led ISQ to make a strategic stake in R&D?
The R&Di area has been a long-standing strategic bet of ISQ, constituting one of the pillars of its growth and a differentiating factor in its more than 50 years of history.
This strategic commitment has been strengthened in the last two years due to the intense speed of technological transformation that is happening in the economic fabric and in our society, which has been dubbed the 4th Industrial Revolution, leveraged by a set of emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Simulation, Augmented Reality, cloud computing, Autonomous Robotics, Cybersecurity, and Additive Manufacturing.
This evolution to an Industry 4.0 has been accompanied by challenges associated with the Environmental Sustainability of our planet, which are driving the transition to a model of Circular and Low Carbon Economy.
Thus, ISQ has decided to strengthen its skills and capabilities in these emerging areas in order to develop innovative solutions that can meet the challenges that companies face in integrating these concepts and technologies into their business processes.
How is this commitment translating into isq’s structure, services and projects?
This bet is evident with the growth of the R&Di team in recent years, in number and diversity of skills, with about half of the team members being hired in the last two years.
This team increase was accompanied earlier this year by a change in the organisational structure of R&Di activities at ISQ. With the creation of the I&Di Directorate, all efforts in this area have been concentrated, for better coordination and planning.
The new Direction aims to enhance the development of new services, with greater technological and knowledge incorporation, that reinforce the offer of value and the competitiveness of ISQ in the globalized market. Thus, there is a clear objective of transforming the results of research and development projects into new services, and at the moment several of them are being prototyped for their market introduction.
new organizational structure
Ricardo Rato leads the new R&D+i department, which reflects the growth and strategic commitment that ISQ has made in this area, especially in the last years.
Within the R&D area, in which sectors is the presence of ISQ stronger?
The sectors where we have a stronger presence and where we are concentrating our efforts are industry, with special emphasis on the manufacturing industry, acting at the level of production technologies, materials and the integration of more intelligence in its production processes; energy, working on the development of new energy efficiency solutions, as well as renewable energies in the management of these assets; transport, with a particular focus on aeronautics and the car; o Environment and Natural Resources, developing tools to support the industry with a view to increasing resource efficiency and the implementation of circular business models; and the Agri-Food sector, promoting the digital transformation of the agricultural sector, the circular bioeconomy and the fight against waste.
In terms of geographies, where is this area most developed? With what characteristics?
Currently, the R&Di team is located in Oeiras and Vila Nova de Gaia, developing and coordinating, from Portugal, projects of European scale, where developments at national level are the target of testing, implementation and demonstration in other European countries. At the same time, an important effort is being made to internationalize new services based on r&d project results for the other geographies where isq group is established.
What ongoing projects are most iconic in R&Di?
Currently, ISQ has in its portfolio 64 R&Di projects, mostly developed in consortium, each presenting a distinct technological and innovation challenge. At European level, three projects stand out:
- the MAESTRI project, dedicated to the development of an innovative platform that facilitates the management of energy and resources in industry, in which ISQ is the coordinator and which has four national partners, having been the first project with Portuguese coordination in the sub-program of Sustainable Process Industries of the European Horizon 2020 Programme;
- the PASSARO project, on the development of multifunctional and intelligent aerostructures, by the national projection in the European context in the aeronautical sector;
- the SAM project dedicated to the creation of a European skills and qualifications strategy for the Additive Manufacturing sector.
Three other projects stand out:
- SIM4.0, coordinated by ISQ, which aims to transfer knowledge in the area of Industry 4.0, due to the relevance and timeliness of the theme;
- HUB4AGRI, also coordinated by ISQ which is the first Digital Hub to promote the digital transformation of the agricultural sector in Portugal and
- the INFANTE that aims for the development and demonstration in orbit of a microsatellite, fully developed and built by the Portuguese industry.
Who are the main partners in this area?
During the more than 30 years of R&Di at ISQ, a vast and solid network of national and international partners has been built, which is very diverse. Given the interface nature that ISQ presents, we are as close to business needs as we are to knowledge centers.
Thus, in Portugal we have as partners from large companies, to SMEs, in the most varied sectors of the economy, through universities and technological centers, with the objective of creating networks and partnerships between actors and entities with diverse and complementary skills, covering the entire value chain. This is the only way to overcome the current challenges of technological development.
At European level, we highlight the collaboration with multinational companies – such as AIRBUS, Honeywell and VESTAS – with reference research centres – the case of TECNALIA, Fraunhofer, SINTEF and AIT – and with some of the best European universities. In this case, the University of Cambridge, Chalmers University, Polytechnic of Milan, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and University of Seville are sampled.
What role does ISQ play in these partnerships?
ISQ takes on various roles. As a priority objective, we assume the role of coordinating entity in projects aimed at the research and development of ideas generated by ISQ. It should be noted that ISQ is currently the coordinator of seven projects, four European and three national. Given our solid experience, skills and the vast network of national and international partnerships, ISQ is also invited to integrate projects developed by other entities. In this case, we assume the role of partner, contributing with a wide spectrum of activities, ranging from the development of technology, the performance of tests and tests, the validation of solutions, the development of content and formative methodologies and the dissemination of projects and their results.
What are the future objectives for R&Di?
The objectives are very ambitious, through the consolidation and increasing expansion of this activity, so that we can increase our capacity to respond to the growing needs and challenges of national enterprises in the face of technological transformation and national and European strategies and policies.
To this end, in 2019-2020, it is planned to strengthen the team with skills in emerging areas, through the hiring of 14 more doctorates, as well as the expansion of technological capabilities with investments in new equipment, namely in the areas of Additive Manufacturing and Intelligent Systems.
We also have the ambition to step up our participation in European R&D programmes, anticipating the entry of the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, and we are expected to be adhering to a range of European technology platforms, extending our network of partners. Finally, we highlight the objective of enhancing the innovation component, that is, the transformation of the results of projects in offer of value in the market, and for this several dynamics to be developed and tuned in order to respond to this design.
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