Guillermo Velasco & Bárbara Gasset
As the HBP is entering its last phase, the relevance of innovation activities grows. Two years ago, the HBP created the Innovation & Technology Transfer Node (ITTN) at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, in Spain. The ITTN team provides support to HBP researchers and developers for the better exploitation of their results with the final aim of accelerating the impact of the project on society.
The ITTN work addresses two strategic aspects: Exploitation of EBRAINS and Industrial engagement.
Exploitation of EBRAINS
The exploitation of HBP Results Policy explains the principles underlying the effective utilisation of the HBP results and aims to strengthen the commitment of HBP partners to technological innovation. The policy is a comprehensive guide through which researchers and developers can get practical answers to questions related to the protection, exploitation and ownership of results. It includes a section on ethical aspects to be aware of when developing brain technologies. The Policy is also intended to facilitate consistency and compatibility, from the exploitation perspective, between the HBP mission, researchers´ interests, consortium agreements, responsible innovation principles, and the institutions´ exploitation policies.
Based on these exploitation principles, the Innovation team helps researchers and developers to identify their most promising technology developments, create specific exploitation plans and support partners in matching their results with eventual (scientific and non-scientific) end-users. The process includes the feeding and updating of a HBP’s Technology Catalogue, available through a new HBP innovation webpage, where developing technologies – hardware, services, models, datasets and/or software solutions – that could have the potential for commercial and/or non-commercial exploitation are presented. There is a technology sheet available for download that summarizes the applications and competitive advantages of every mature technology. To evaluate this maturity, researchers are encouraged to use the TRL assessment guide. This guide contains a checklist to evaluate the proximity of HBP technologies to their final forms. The checklist includes checkout of ethical aspects in the first stage of development.
The Innovation team also works in the elaboration of technology roadmaps and market analysis. These analyses seek to identify different opportunities worldwide and trends that could influence future strategies for exploitation.
Training on innovation is another activity designed to support and strengthen the exploitation capabilities within the HBP. Training activities include sessions on the protection, exploitation and ownership of HBP results, talks on the capacity and possibilities of the new monitoring tool (CRM), and capacity building meetings on the correct utilisation of the TRL assessment guidelines.
The Innovation Team has launched a plan to create National Innovation Communities in HBP. These communities or hubs bring together industrial players (at national level) that share common interest in the understanding, co-creation and utilisation of HBP tools and services. The cooperation of HBP with industry has a two-fold purpose:
- To facilitate the eventual maturation of some technologies developed in the project (with potential to be exploited in the market) with the collaboration of private companies, e.g. joint development of industrial proofs of concept as a basis for new technology-based start-ups, and
- to serve as a reference framework to understand better the short, medium and long-term actual interest of the industry in the brain-related science and technology.
So far, two Innovation Hubs have been launched, one in Spain and one in Belgium. In Switzerland, a first meeting has taken place with interested companies and business incubators. In the following months, initiatives in other countries will follow
A new call for industrial engagement will fund collaborative projects between companies and HBP partners to develop together EBRAINS tools and services. This call will target especially SMEs.