Interview with Dr. Stefano Carosio
Division Manager, Research and Innovation
The energy sector can be definitely an industrial field of potential interest for Hydromel products and processes, so this month Hydromel Dissemination team had the pleasure to interview Dr. Stefano Carosio, whose main area of activity is Innovation and Technology Transfer. Overall Stefano Carosio has been involved as Project Manager and Technical Supervisor in more than 50 EC projects since FP4, mainly dealing with nano and multifunctional materials. He is member of the High Level Group of the European Construction Technology Platform, Executive Board member of the Energy Efficiency Buildings Association (www.e2b-ei.eu) as well as Coordinator of the Ad-hoc Industrial Advisory Group within the EeB PPP. Because of the cross-sectorial and interdisciplinary experience he developed, Stefano Carosio is Italian Director of the ESA's (European Space Agency) Technology Transfer Network since 2000, dealing with identification of industrial needs, technology assessment and commercialisation.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: Which is your main field of expertise and your company activity in relationship to micro – nanotechnology?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: We have been doing research and development work in different industrial domains, recently focusing on textile and construction. This include superficial finishing, nano and micro-encapsulation, nano-structured surfaces for advanced catalytic concepts.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: In your company you are responsible for technology transfer and you are also actively involved in EC funded projects. Can you describe which are, in your experience, the key – factors to have a successful industrialisation of results generated within a project?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: It is always important to start only those projects which have a strong endorsement by industry, even before the first results come. This means that their conception needs to win the psychological barriers of experienced senior managers in the company by providing in-depth feasibility proves, either through desk studies or preliminary coupon and laboratory trials. The second factor is to build the project team looking at excellent contributors and complementary skills as far as the build up of a strong supply chain capable to address the market addressed. This is why our preliminary investigations always are based on a deep analysis of knowledge networks through patent and scientific literature databases. We should indeed make sure that we are not reinventing the wheel and others efforts are duly considered. This allows putting in place the right IPR strategy before problems may arise. Threads as parallel developments addressing the same market or challenge have to be carefully analysed. These are the good starting points for successful industrialisation as well as good ingredients in succeeding with your grant application. These starting efforts are needed to keep strong commitment and motivation in the team, benefiting from the intermediate results which can be promptly injected in the company/ies new product development strategies.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: In your opinion, in which way the structure of a project could be modified in order to have a more industrial oriented research and end users commitment?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: I do not think is a matter of changing the structure of a project but rather perform all those preliminary activities which result in high chance of success (see points above). The structure of projects or proposals are only instrumental to put in a logical way the key ingredients of a successful new product development effort: a clear idea addressing a relevant need though some scientific and technical leaps which result in innovative and patentable solutions with a profitable market and/or solving major social/environmental challenges. The leaps can also simply be related to a clever and innovative integration of known scientific or engineering principles in an innovative way without reinventing the wheel.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: As member of the Ad-hoc Industrial Advisory Board (AIAG) within the Energy efficient Buildings PPP, can you explain which is the role of this committee? Are there any opportunities in future Energy calls for micro – nanotechnology?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: Well, the AIAG is undertaking a major effort in close cooperation with an EC Inter-service group to identify all those research challenges that in the medium and long term will reduce the energy use at building and district level up to the large deployment of distributed energy production in the built environment. As such we are identifying all those promising developments which should be launched in the short term to guarantee effective impact towards a more energy efficient and CO2 free built environment. This is definitely the case for micro and nanotechnology which can be introduced in many technological systems, building components for smart functionalities. What it is important that this highly promising scientific domain is not seen as an add-on to something conceived in traditional way but that the potential is exploited in concurrent design efforts where completely new concepts may be developed, drastically improving the current energy footprint. As stated at the beginning this requires winning the psychological barrier of a highly traditional sector, as construction. This is where the added value of the recently founded E2B Association (www.e2b-ei.eu) comes, centred on key European construction groups and their SME suppliers but at the same time grouping all those key stakeholders from complementary industrial and scientific communities which can contribute to the overall strategy. We really look forward to discuss potential contributions and inputs from the micro and nano-technology community.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: In relation to the specific field addressed by Hydromel (robot positioning and self assembly) can be these two technologies of interest for the energy sector?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: The advanced manufacturing concepts developed by Hydromel are definitely instrumental once innovative micro and nano-technology based concepts are proven as far as their industrial viability is concerned. I have in mind energy harvesting at small scale for powering sensors and actuators for a better management of energy in the built environment, for instance. The availability of a cost-effective and reliable manufacturing process may definitely contribute to a rapid diffusion of such concepts.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: Hydromel project has a huge consortium of 24 partners, do you have experience of projects of this size and which is your opinion about the best way to deal with it?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: I have indeed experience of large integrated projects in FP6, almost forty partners. The best approach is to have a well designed work-programme divided in smaller modules involving a reduced number of partners, integrated than within the overall, project envelope to deliver the highly ambitious results. It is important that each module has a clear R&D strategy and valuable industrial deliverables with high exploitation potential, even before they are integrated together. This guarantees commitment from industry, especially SMEs, while keeping some degree of confidentiality within smaller groups, favouring the management and protection of IPR.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: Which is the Hydromel demonstrator that you prefer and why?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: I see big potential for the MEMS, the RFID and photonics concepts.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: One of the Hydromel demonstrators aims to develop hybrid self alignment techniques in laser diodes for the application in optical inspection. This will replace the standard pick and place approach and increase yield and assembly speed. Can you see any opportunity for this specific development in the energy sector?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: I see an emerging need in the future for condition monitoring and continuous commissioning of technological systems integrated in the built environment for energy efficiency. To keep the targeted performances each single unit will require proper monitoring. I think this novel approach may contribute towards this goal.
Hydromel Dissemination Team: A last message for the Hydromel consortium?
Dr. Stefano Carosio: I was impressed by your report about the project achievements. They are opening up new ways in micro and nano-technology. I wish you all the success in further developing and industrialising your promising demonstrators.