By strategic research, development, and innovation (RDI) we mean long-term activities (with TRL for before-the-market). Strategic RDI activities for SMEs, larger companies and public organizations in a DIH are typically within one or more of the technology areas described in the following figure:
Technology clusters and areas from the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for Robotics in Europe 2014–2020 by the partnership for Robotics in Europe (SPARK). Further information about technology areas can also be found in, e.g., the euRobotics Multi-Annual Roadmap.
Strategic RDI contributes to keeping companies competitive in the long-term and thus supports long-term strategies in the companies. Strategic RDI can also be a way of realizing long-term collaborations between companies, and between companies and competence centres. Moreover, these kinds of RDI can be beneficial for creating visibility, through internal promotion activities and external media, of the activities in the DIH ecosystem as plans for technology leaps and interesting applications create attention.
Strategic RDI activities typically have a time span of 2-10 years before main results are materialized into commercial products. However, it can be advantageous to combine long-term RDI with shorter-term spin-out projects as “branches” from the long-term efforts so that organisations can more continuously capitalize commercially from the long-term efforts. It is important for the competence centre(s) of a DIH to have strategic RDI activities to ensure that the DIH is in the front in relation to the state of the art within the strategic areas the DIH is focusing on. Hence, this enables the DIH to better support companies such as SMEs in their region.
Example: SFF Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (AMOS) is an eight-year strategic RDI effort – a “virtual research centre – organized as a Centre of Excellence and led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). AMOS represents a close cooperation between large-scale asset owners, technology / service providers, a university (NTNU) and an RTO (SINTEF) and has led to several spin-off companies from NTNU. The centre has close collaboration with other national and international universities. The centre is financed from funds from the Norwegian Research Council (a public entity which funds RDI in Norway), the industrial partners and in-kind contributions from the RTO and the university.
Strategic RDI activities can be structured in a variety of ways. E.g., RDI providers work directly for a customer; or several companies and organizations (including competence centres) collaborate in projects or in “virtual research centres”. Virtual research centres are large-scale and long-term projects with a range of partners representing market needs, technology/service providers and RTOs and universities. Strategic RDI activities can also be an enabler to initiate cooperation with organizations outside a DIH, e.g. through EU-funded projects.
In many cases there is regional/national/European funding involved in strategic RDI as it contributes to overall competitiveness and it may be more challenging to obtain industry-only funded long-term strategic RDI activities compared to shorter-term RDI. To this end, it is important that DIH partners (typically from competence centres) are well positioned to participate in such initiatives. To do so, it is important to have good networks of RTOs and universities across Europe that participate in EU initiatives.