In the vibrant landscape of innovation and research and development (R&D), where ideas flourish and creativity meets technology, business development emerges as the essential bridge between theoretical potential and practical realisation. At CARTIF Technology Centre, we recognise that this bridge is not merely an additional step in the R&D&I process, but an integral component that determines the success and sustainability of our innovations in the marketplace.
Business development in the context of R&D&I is not limited to the search for commercial opportunities for existing products or services; it is an strategic integration that starts from the very conception of the research. It means aligning research and development objectives with market needs from the outset, identifying niches where innovation can not only enter but also expand and dominate.
Valorising innovation, the process in which technological knowledge is transformed into viable market applications, requires a deep understanding of the business ecosystem. At CARTIF, we strive to understand market dynamics, industry trends and consumer needs. This approach allow us to not only anticipate change but also to be part of the driving force behind it, ensuring that our innovations are both relevant and revolutionary.
Business development also involves building and maintaining a strong network of contacts, including industrial, academic and financial partners. These collaborations are crucial to the success of R&D&I, as they provide the resources, knowledge and capital needed to bring innovations from the lab to the market. At CARTIF, we value these collaborations as the core of our business development strategy, fostering an ecosystem where innovation can thrive.
By aiming to create business models for companies based on the results we transfer to them, we not only add value to our work but also maximise business opportunities for our clients. This dual approach ensures that we are not only transfering technology, but that we are actively participating in the creation of sustainable economic opportunities for the companies that collaborate with us.
“The creation of these business models is, in essence, a key function of business development”
Borja Fernández Villar. Head of Business Development at CARTIF
One of the main advantages of this integrated approach is the minimisation of risk for companies investing in our technology. By being able to generate business models directly, we offer our customers a clear path to return on their investment. This clarity and security of investment is essential to fostering a culture of bold innovation, where companies feels empowered to adopt new technologies knowing that they have a solid business model behind them to support their success.
Business development is undoubtedly the catalyst that allows innovation ideas to become successful commercial realities. At CARTIF Technology Centre, we understand that integrating business development strategies into the R&D&I process is not just an option, but a necessity to ensure that our innovations are not only pioneering, but also impactful and sustainable in the marketplace. By putting business development at the heaet of our R&D strategy, we ensure that the bridge between theory and practice is not only solid but also well-trodden, taking innovation from concept to successful commercialisation.
Did you know that we spend approximately 90% of our time inside buildings, and that they are responsible for more than 40% of energy consumption in the European Union? These places where we carry out our main activity are the core of our economy and society, but, how prepared are they for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow?
The building sotck plays a key role in transforming the places where we work, live and socialise. The actions promoted by the European Union with the Green Deal or the Renovation Wave have sought to drive this change, Moreover, since the 2018 revision of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)1– which, by the way, has just been updated again- the potential of smart technologies takes on a fundamental role. Digitalisation therefore seems to be key to reach the transformation of the places where we live, to enhance and contribute to the energy transition.
This is why in the 2018 revision of the EPBD directive the Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI)2 was also introduced as an optional shceme to measure the level of smart preparedness of buildings. This scheme is born in a first technical study for the European Commision in 2017/18 and is revised in a subsequent iteration on 2019/20, associating a calculation methodology3. It is in 2020 that its implementation is regulated for the first time4, and since 2021 a support team has been in place to assist with its adoption. Given its non-mandatory nature, the decision on its implementation lies with the member countries of the European Union, and for this reason it is currently in the voluntary testing phase in some countries, including Spain.
And what does this indicator allow us to know? The SRI assesses the building in terms of three key functionalities fully aligned with the concept of intelligence: (1) how the building responds to the needs of the occupants, (2) the use of strategies to improve energy efficiency and performance, (3) its ability to interact with the exterior and react to the environment. To this end, a catalogue of servicies classified into nine technical domains, assessed on the basis of seven impacts, is proposed.
Let´s see how it works with an example: you want to improve the performance of the building´s heating system. It may not be possible to realise automatic control, either central or even more advanced, allowing room-by-room control. Based on the level of functionality chosen, the higher the capability offered, the more intelligent the implementation will be assessed as being able to provide more beneficial impacts to users in terms of energy efficiency, comfort, convenience or health. These impacts will in turn score higher than services with lower functionality. The calculation method can be found in the final EC technical report cited above, and there are also supporting materials, examples and digital tools to make the process easier5.
The implementation of smart technologies can help us to achieve buildings that are better in terms of energy, healthier, more comfortable and more environmentally friendly. However, aspects such as the lack of knowledge and awareness, the need for accurate information to contextualise these recommendations, or the lack of user confidence in the benefits that smart solutions can bring, make their adoption less straightforward. There are numerous projects that aim to support the uptake activities of such an initiative, such asSMARTeeSTORYor BuildON, in which CARTIF is involved, where we will try to go a step further and offer support to end users on what measures to adopt for the smart transformation of the building and its improvement inthe desire domain/impact. We hope that in this way we can help to ensure that, in a not so distant future, the buildings in which our time moves forward will become the place where we would like to live.
3 European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy, Verbeke, S., Aerts, D., Reynders, G. et al., Final report on the technical support to the development of a smart readiness indicator for buildings – Final report, Publications Office, 2020, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2833/41100
What if we had a tool that we could carry in our pocket and that would allow us to control the quality of the food products at any point in their production?
Dear sirs, we have it!! It seems like and advert selling a panacea,I know, but I´m not going beyond reality…. I´m talking about Near Infrared Spectroscopy technology, known as NIRS, which has been in our lives for more than 30 years and,at last, we are taking good aim at applying it in places and moments that can get us out of many predicaments in our day-to-day lives in the agri-food sector, so let’s give it the treatment it deserves!
Well, being rigorous with this technology , near-infrared analysis is an instrumental technique in the field of molecular spectroscopy, wihich requires chemometric treatment of the data obtained, because the signal obtained in the near-infrared is so complex that the bands of the spectrum are difficult to interpret. And here we start with the complicated terms… chemometrics? Quite simply, statistical techniques to which you have to apply logic, good common sense and a lot of chemistry!!!!
The methodology followed using NIR spectroscopy leads us through analyses aimed at characterising products by quantifying analytical parameters that are of interest to us or that are critical for quality control of both raw materials and products during processing or of the final product.
In addition, another application of this technique is that it is capable of discriminating products according to the quality standards set by the company itself at each stage of processing. In this case, these are (non-targeted) classification models that allow you to identify or detect that something has changed in the product, which may be due to a change in the raw materials (differences in nutritional composition), changes between batches (which may affect the final product), production problems (dosage of ingredients) and even if there is any adulteration in any ingredient used or possible contamination in its preparation.
The verification of a production process generally depends on the results obtained in a laboratory through long and costly analytical methods, which implies “not-inmediate” response times.NIRS technology is an analytical tool that allows us to track the traceability at any point and along the entire production chain and, therefore, provides us with important advantages in decision-making or problem detection in situ.
Nowadays, portable equipment not much bigger than a smartphone, is already available, capable of analysing a multitude of products by simply selecting the right modelat any given moment. Although, it must be said, these models have to be meticulously developed by personnel who are experts in the technology, and that is what research centres such as CARTIF are here for.
It has been almost 15 years since I came across this technology thanks to a colleague who worked with it and it was out of sheer conviction that I took the baton of this great technique with which I continue to advance, learning and working, so that companies, especially in the agri-food sector, get to know it and take advantage of all its benefits.
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”
“innovation is the successful exploitation of an idea with risk, which materialises mainly in profits and growth, localised in a specific point”
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.
Innovate for you, innovate for mi, innovate for all of us.
In the 1960s, the American biologist Norman Borlaug used selective plant breeding techniques to create a dwarf variety of wheat that uses most of its energy to produce grain instead of stalks. This work won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and, along with that of many other scientists, is part of what we now know as the first Green Revolution. The Green Revolution many different technologies, including modern irrigation approaches, new pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and molecular plant breeding techniques. The results were obvious: from the 1960s to the 1990s, rice and wheat yields in Asia doubled. Although the continent’s population increased by 60%, grain prices fell, the average Asian consumed almost a third more calories, and the poverty rate halved. The United Nations now forecasts that by 2050 the world’s population will grow by more than 2 billion people. Half will be born in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30% in South and Southeast Asia.
We need another green revolution.
However, if we have learned anything in recent decades, it is that the techniques that were once so successful have not been the best for the planet. The intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides has contributed to soil degradation and water pollution. The adoption of monocultures, focused on a few high-yielding varieties, and the genetic erosion associated with crop selection processes, have led to loss of biodiversity and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.
The revolution also exacerbated social inequalities, as small farmers found it difficult to access new technologies, creating disparities in farming practices. The expansion of agricultural land to increase production has contributed to deforestation and changes in land use. The Second Green Revolution represents a contemporary effort to further improve the productivity, sustainability and resilience of agriculture by integrating advanced technologies, scientific innovations and sustainable practices. And this is where agrigenomics comes in.
In simple terms, agrigenomics is a field of applied research that focuses on understanding and harnessing genetic information to improve various aspects of agroforestry and livestock production. Big data and technology play a crucial role, providing the tools and infrastructure to manage, analyse and extract information from large amounts of genetic, agricultural and forestry data. With the advent of high-throughout DNA sequencing technologies, the ability to decipher the entire genetic make-up of crops is within our grasp.
This influx of genomic data, combined with advanced bioinformatics tools (e.g. data analysis pipelines), allows researchers to identify key genes associated with desirable traits such as yield, disease resistance and stress tolerance. In addition, precision agriculture technologies, including remote sensing, drone surveillance and satellite imagery, enable real-time data collection on crop health, soil conditions and environmental factors. All this information allows us to optimise agroforestry practices, including the precise and targeted use of fertilisers, pesticides and water resources based on the genetic characteristics of crops. We can also investigate the role of micro-organisms such as soil bacteria and fungi to promote soil health, nutrient cycling and plant-microbe interactions; or use traditional breeding techniques, together with modern tools such as marker-assisted selection, to develop crops with improved traits such as higher yields, better nutritional content and increased disease resistance.
Ultimately, agrigenomics aligns with agroecological principles by providing tools to understand and exploit the genetic diversity and adaptability of crops and livestock. This knowledge contributes to the development of resilient, resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable farming systems that prioritise biodiversity, local adaptation and reduced reliance on harmful chemicals.
A year ago, at the beginning of 2023, at CARTIF we started one of those great projects that leave a footprint (although if we talk in terms of emissions, the idea is actually to reduce them), NEUTRALPATH. In it, the cities of Zaragoza (Spain) and Dresden (Germany) are developing PCED (clean and positive energy districts) with the aim of becoming pioneering cities in the European Union in terms of climate neutrality and zero pollution by 2030. Istanbul, Vantaa and Ghent join the two aforementioned cities in NEUTRALPATH with the idea of scaling up and replicating methodologies and results in their own city plans.
For those of you, seasoned readers, who are loyal followers of this blog, the idea of climate neutrality and zero pollution in Europe with a target date of 2030 will surely ring a bell. Indeed, NEUTRALPATH is one of those few projects funded by the EU under the umbrella of the “100 climate-neutral smart cities by 2030” mission. The EU has set out to become climate neutral by 2050, and this Mission aims to support, promote and showcase the transformation of 100 pioneering European cities to become climate neutral by 2030, turning them into centres of experimentation and innovation for all other European cities, acting as a mirror for them to look up to and learn from.
Within this framework, research and innovation projects are funded that address:
Clean mobility, e.g. through the use of non-greenhouse gas emitting means of transport, such as electric vehicles or hydrogen or other alternative fuel vehicles, the use of bicycles, scooters and other non-motorised means of transport.
Energy efficiency through the use of technologies and practices that reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in buildings and industry through equipment and envelope renovations and the use of renewable energies;
Green urban planning with measures related to the promotion of green spaces, the use of sustainable building materials or the promotion of biodiversity among others.
With these mission projects, the EU also aims to encourage the creation of joint initiatives, cooperation between projects and increased partnerships in synergy with other EU programmes.
Among the 100 cities finally selected to participate in the mission, seven are Spanish: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Valladolid, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Zaragoza. In CARTIF we are fortunate to have worked directly in different smart city projects with many of them: Valladolid, through REMOURBAN among others, Vitoria-Gasteiz, within SMARTENCITY, Valencia, as part of MATCHUP, or the aforementioned Zaragoza of NEUTRALPATH.
Well, with the recently launched 2024, CARTIF is also launching another of these great reference projects of the mission: MOBILITIES FOR EU, in which two cities that already have the hallmark of mission cities, Madrid and Dresden, will carry out different actions over the next five years to contribute significantly to their transformation towards climate neutrality. I think the name of the project leaves little doubt about the scope of these actions, don’t you think?
For a long time now, we have been hearing various messages about the importance of implementing changes in the form and means of transport we use on a regular basis. So-called sustainable mobility is nowadays a key issue, especially in cities, where transport is responsible for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions. This is why the decarbonisation of transport is one of the main strategies to reduce emissions and combat climate change. Sustainable mobility can help achieve this goal, among others, by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the use of cleaner and more efficient means of transport.
But in addition to the overall impact in terms of CO2, implementing sustainable mobility measures and policies can also have other direct benefits for citizens, such as improving air quality or reducing noise pollution. Moreover, the impact on people’s quality of life by reducing traffic and improving road safety is also positive.
Sustainable mobility includes a wide variety of actions and strategies, to be developed by both public entities and private companies or initiatives, that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life in cities and their environments. Some of them could be the promotion of public transport, which is an efficient and sustainable way to move around cities, cycling and walking, which are not only sustainable but also healthy, as well as the implementation of policies that encourage the use of electric vehicles and the necessary infrastructure for their charging and maintenance. Electric vehicles are a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles that directly impact air quality in cities. In addition to these, the development of vehicles using other types of fuels, such as hydrogen, is also an avenue of work. The involvement of companies through the generation of their own sustainable mobility plans for staff is also essential to maximise the overall impact. We must not forget that when we talk about mobility, we are talking about people as well as goods. In terms of logistics, it is also necessary to implement measures that make transport sustainable at different stages of the supply chain. In medium-sized and large cities, it is also necessary to take into account the traffic management policies employed at the global and zone level, as these can help to reduce congestion and improve transport efficiency in the city.
In the case of MOBILITIES FOR EU, the focus is on both passenger mobility and freight transport, and its aim will be to demonstrate that different innovative concepts in the field of mobility designed and implemented in an appropriate way and following participatory principles and focusing on users and their needs can help to achieve the desired goal of climate neutrality, and to do so not only with economic viability but also with profitability.
Madrid and Dresden, acting as lead cities of the project, will implement 11 pilots covering 23 highly innovative demonstration interventions for mobility of people and goods, exploiting the combined potential of electrification, automation and connectivity. These include, among others, interventions with autonomous electric vehicles, innovative charging infrastructures, green fuels, electric buses and H2 vehicles, and advanced connectivity infrastructures, 5G and 6G, for connected and autonomous driving. In both cities, they also aim to build on multiple existing citizen cooperation and social empowerment initiatives by integrating them into what we call “Urban Transport Labs” (UT-Labs), conceived as innovation hubs that will aim to foster faster replication at European level. The five replicator cities, Ioaninna (Greece), Trenčin (Slovakia), Espoo (Finland), Gdansk (Poland) and Sarajevo (Bosnia) will be the first to follow the path set by Madrid and Dresden, first as direct participants in the processes of these two leading cities, and in parallel through their own UT-Labs, and later as main protagonists of their own designs. With the same idea of generating impact beyond the framework and the cities participating in the project itself, the aim is to establish collaborative relationships with the Cities Mission Platform to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences, as well as with the main EU initiatives in this area such as 2Zero and CCAM.
On 30, 31 January and 1 February, all the project partners will meet in Madrid to jointly kick off this challenging project with which we aspire to improve the environment and the lives of citizens. The MOBILITIES FOR EU social networks will soon be launched as the first means of communication and information through which we will share our progress. Stay tuned!