Technical Support on Scale-up
This service category covers prototyping and small series production within I&M robotics. These can in many cases be seen in connection with the service categories contract research, testing and validation and provision of technology infrastructure. To this end, a project with contract research can result in a prototype which is tested and validated within/with infrastructure provided fully or in parts by the DIH. The planned use of the prototype affects the method of development, the total cost as well as the required competence. Important phases are described in the following figure:
Successful outcomes of strategic RDI and contract research can lead to the need for technical support on scale-up-type of DIH services. The figure shows outcomes from strategic RDI and contract research transferring to concept testing and demonstration activities as well as to final steps toward commercializing.
The description of the phases in the figure above:
Development of a prototype which demonstrates a concept, but does not necessarily reflect how the final system will be implemented in terms of choice of, e.g., materials, programming language, etc. Hence, there are some short-cuts in the prototyping in order to test out new concepts quickly. End-users (e.g., asset owners) may use this to test out technology not available on the market before they approach the market to ask for a solution. Moreover, suppliers may use concept testing to determine key features of new products and services. There are benefits to having as industry-realistic test facilities as possible – e.g., one could seek asset owners that would make their facilities available for testing.
Development of a high-TRL prototype which closely resembles (in terms of choice of, e.g., materials, programming language, etc.) what is believed to be the final product/service. This requires skills on how to develop industry-ready software and hardware. If an RTO or university is involved in such development, then the development is typically in close collaboration with an end-user and/or system integrator. However, there are also cases where the RTO/university does the prototype development more independently.
As RTOs and universities typically do not have a product support division, it is usually beneficial that a company is responsible for the prototype and its systems after a project has finished. Such a company can be, e.g., either a company that plans to take the technology into a system (e.g., an asset owner that is developing an I&M robot system specifically designed for one of their assets) or a technology supplier that plans to sell the technology once it is commercialized. To achieve a proper handover to the company which will commercialize the results from the prototyping activity, a close collaboration with the organizations (e.g., an RTO or university) contributing to the prototype development is needed. To this end, there are benefits to providing a continuous handover meaning that all relevant parties are involved throughout the development process and not only at the end of the process. To achieve this, exchange of personnel can be beneficial. E.g., RTO personnel working on setting up a prototype in the customer company’s facilities or company employees spending time in the RTO’s lab facilities.
In terms of financing prototyping activities, these may be organized in connection with, e.g., contract research projects, or in some cases as stand-alone prototyping activities. Some national funds in some countries are targeted towards prototyping and demonstration activities, and some FSTP (e.g., those within RIMA) also can support such activities financially.
Small series production may include chip-making and production of sensors in clean room facilities, as well as production in chemical laboratories. Small series production typically make up only a small part of the overall activity in a DIH.