Now that the Pilots4U project is coming to an end, the project team has built a series of business cases describing possible ways to address the gaps in equipment provision identified throughout the project. To understand the context and purpose of these business cases, it is necessary to take a step back and review the work leading up to these business cases.
Two years of work in a nutshell!
Pilots4U performed a gap analysis exercise to understand where the EU may have under capacity and vulnerabilities in regard to pilot and demo infrastructure. This gap analysis was the result of comparing the Pilots4U database, listing the available pilot and demo infrastructure across Europe, and an industry survey through which potential users were asked what infrastructure and expertise they required from open-access centres. A total of 37 gaps were identified and validated with a broad range of bio-economy experts in several workshops hosted across Europe. The project team was then able to assess and prioritise the identified gaps and to build a number of business cases that help addressing these gaps. During the assessment process three distinct types of interventions were identified and turned into business cases: 1) investment in equipment, 2) investment in coordination actions and 3) investment in knowledge generation and training, which were turned into business cases.
The business cases
1. Investment in equipment
Through the first of these business cases, Pilots4U aimed to address gaps related to equipment provision by investing in new, state of the art equipment to be located in existing open-access centres. Over the last decades, open-access centres have contributed to de-risking the scaling up stage of bio-based innovations thanks to its strategical position between fundamental research and technology commercialisation. Further investment is now required to keep open-access infrastructure running and up to date, so more bio-based innovations can reach the market quicker. The overall investment required to add new equipment assets to an existing facility has been estimated between 0.5 - 10 million € and will very much depend on the type of asset, its capacity and operational characteristics.
2. Investment in coordination actions
A second issue was tackling the disconnection between existing complementary equipment assets by the creation of small networks of open-access facilities that own complementary infrastructure. This approach should help maximising the investment made in open-access infrastructure and expertise over the last few years. The network would include the creation of a management group which will include experts from all facilities involved in the network to provide clients with the best possible advice about the scale up of their process. It was estimated that the cost of establishing a network of these characteristics could vary from 0.8 - 1.5 mill €, although the cost will very much depend on the number of organisations conforming the network.
3. Investment in knowledge generation
There will still be an ongoing trend to fund research projects to address specific process knowledge gaps affecting the development of certain processes. Research projects would typically be carried out by a university, in close collaboration with a pilot facility to ensure that the project looks into the scale-up aspects of the issue under study, as this will allow the pilot plant to apply the new knowledge to customers innovations quicker. The project team estimated that the cost of a project of these characteristics could vary from 0.5 - 1 million € or even higher, depending on the location of the university carrying the research, the aim of the project and its depth and width.
To the end of the project and beyond!
Although the project is coming to an end, the project team intends to keep the project alive beyond its current deadline.
On the one hand, the business cases were validated through discussion with a selection of public and private funding specialists. The final report will be passed to BBI JU, the funders of the Pilots4U project, along with recommendations for the agency to take future action.
On the other hand, the database created by the project team will remain active! The project partners have realised that the database is a unique tool with great potential, so they have agreed to maintain it for up to a year or until a self-sustaining network is established, so stay tune through our social media channels to find out more!