A pioneering initiative to couple world-class research laboratories and business-management experts aims to create a European innovation ecosystem that will accelerate the development of disruptive technologies and their progress to market. ATTRACT, as the initiative is known, will commit €17 million to funding 170 breakthrough detection and imaging ideas with market potential to help enable the creation of products, services, companies and jobs based on these technologies.
‘Aalto Design Factory will coach the researchers, entrepreneurs and students to collaborate and pinpoint the societal relevance and impact their innovations hold. Moving research-based ideas to development, prototyping and testing is Design Factory’s forte and very much in demand by these high technology projects need on their way to become consumer products and services,’ says Kalevi Ekman, Professor at Aalto University and Director of Aalto Design Factory.
Most scientific advances, technical applications, commercially worthwhile products and businesses targeting emerging societal challenges rely on detection and imaging technologies in some way. Disruptive innovations emerging from ATTRACT will trigger transformations that will have real impact on people’s lives.
“The process of developing new science into technologies that enable breakthrough innovation often happens by chance. ATTRACT aims to create and deploy mechanisms and a permanent pipeline for systematically achieving such transformation,” says Professor Henry Chesbrough of University of California, Berkeley, who coined the term ‘Open Innovation’ and is a special advisor to ATTRACT.
‘In contrast to incremental innovation, which generates reactive or adaptive responses to a problem, breakthrough innovation is driven by a desire to anticipate emerging or future needs.’
Examples of future applications for society could include: portable scanners for out-patient treatment; sensors to help the visually impaired navigate the world more easily; networks of sensors to make agriculture more productive and less energy-intensive; smarter use of monitoring and big data analysis to make factories work more efficiently; better forms of online learning; and new ways to accurately monitor climate change.
The Global Design Factory Network will also provide Master’s Students project courses where the technologies developed in ATTRACT will be taken further—into concepts and prototypes for consumer products and services.
‘Aalto University has a long history of doing learning projects together with companies. Our way of working has gained more notoriety in the academic world year by year. Within ATTRACT, we can make the Finnish savvy in education known among the top European technology developers. Our students will have challenging opportunities ahead of them,’ trusts Professor Ekman.
The ATTRACT seed fund is open to researchers and entrepreneurs from organisations all over Europe.
The call for proposals is already open and will collect breakthrough ideas until the 31st of October 2018. A high-level, independent Research, Development and Innovation Committee will evaluate proposals and select those to be funded based on a combination of their scientific merit, innovation readiness and potential societal impact. The successful proposals will be announced in early 2019.
Led by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the ATTRACT initiative involves the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European XFEL, Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Aalto University, the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA) and ESADE. The initiative is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Kalevi Ekman, Professor
Aalto University, Aalto Design Factory
tel. +35 850 555 3566