The story of my centre. In search of happiness

The story of my centre. In search of happiness

CARTIF was born, like many other technology centres, in the heart of a university department. In our case, our General Director José R.Perán created it almost 30 years ago in the department of systems and automatic engineering of the School of Industrial Engineering of the Univesity of Valladolid.

The center is growing and evolving in terms of the knowledge acquired, the number of researches that form part of it, as well as the facilities it has at its disposal.

It was in 2008 when I joined CARTIF, and I found that the centre was inmersed in the process of implementing a Marketing Plan drawn up by experts in the field with the objective of selling the technologies and knowledge that the centre had at that time to companies identified in that plan. At that time, the centre had a market-oriented installed capacity of almost 50% of its resources. In other words, half of the staff was clearly focused on transfer. With this installed capacity, returns were approximately 40%, i.e. almost half of the centre´s income came from turnover from companies.

With the “big” marketing plan, CARTIF launches itself into the market, devoting even more resources to try to make transfer, but obtaining practically the same results… The centre´s growth was stagnating and the national public funding crisis was threatening back in 2011. The centre began to dedicate resources to the European Framework Programme, in view of the predicted shortage of nacional funds, becoming the main programme from 2017-2018, when the era of kick-offs, work packages and the anxiety that the officer would admit us to the deliverable began…CARTIF researches at that time only had in their heads infodays, deadlines and reports… The level of stress was increasing due to the demands of the justifications.

A few years later, on 13 March 2020 every person at CARTIF walked out the door witht our computers and screens. A state of alarm was to be proclaimed, we were in a worldwide coronavirus pandemic… Hospitals were collapsed, nursing homes were armoured, it was a global emergency. The market was crying out for help… The market was knocking at the door.

CARTIF uses all the knowledge and technologies at its disposal. It starts to manufacture the famous PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for healthcare workers, to provide sterilisation equipment,… The researchers are proud, they want more, for the first time in a long time they don’t have to convince the market, they just have to offer what it asks for.

The centre clicks again after a period of confusion and the transfer culture that has always existed reappears, this time reinforced with the new deputy general manager, reminding us of what we are: the agent that responds to the calls, and not calls, of the market.

Because the technology centres are the agent that acts as a hinge between science and the market, we have to stop the erroneous tendency to generate and then transfer, which is typical of a research organisation. Technology centres must internalise our role as agents of innovation, making researches become technologists, think about the market and feel proud and happy to help the business fabric and also as a natural extension to society.

Because only this way… We will be happy!

Innovating in capital letters: r+d+I

Innovating in capital letters: r+d+I

I´ve always thought that the acronym R&D&i corresponded to the greater or lesser risk of carrying out the associated activities, hence the first two were capital letters and the third was lower case.

After 15 years working in a technology centre I realise that referring to research and development in capital letters and innovation in lower case affects the idea people have of these types of activities. Psychologically, what is internalised, in my view, is that innovation is less important than research and development.

On the basis that innovation is a risky activity that is carried out and whose result is closer to its implementation and, therefore, increases the possibilities of generating value, competitiveness and, ultimately, prosperity, I believe that innovation deserves, at the very least,to be written in capital letters as well.

Likewise, the experience working in CARTIF has also made me reflect on the result of this sum of three variables: R&D&I, on the dependent variable of the equation… For me, the result is clearly the generation of IMPACT. And it is impact in two directions: research and development generate impact on the state of the art that innovation does not generate and that is materialised, mainly in articles and patents, which anyone anywhere in the world can take advantage of. Innovation generates impact on the market given that, in the words of Professor Xavier Ferrás, “innovation is the successful exploitation of an idea with risk, which materialises mainly in profits and growth, localised in a specific point”

Xavier Ferrás.

Technology centres are entities created to take on risky tasks and create technological knowledge, but above all we are entities created to make the most of this technological knowledge and apply it in the market and transform it into economic and social benefit.

It is therefore important for a technology centre to work to ensure that r&d generate innovation, trying to give value to the results so that the market internalises and understands the results generated and exploits them successfully. It is important to rely on collaborators to speed up processes of obtaining results and, above all, to speed up the process of transformin r&d into I. In short, it is about collaborating to gain value. It is also about helping to build efficient innovation systems, adjusting the obtaining of results with risks to the demands of the market from the beginnig of the conception of the result so that there is no time and/or technological lag between generation and exploitation that burden the innovation systems with inneficiencies and breaks in their gears. It is important to contextualise the framework for action at a global level rin order to advance the state of the art by gaining positions, but to act locally in the valorisation and transfer processes, so that the economic benefit is passed on to our local systems. All of this is key for innovation ecosystems to come into being, increase their capacities and consolidate over time. All of this is key so that innovation leads to more innovation.