“By including standardization in research projects from the beginning, we are assuring compliance with existing standards. Then we get in touch with the standards committees and those preparing new standards, so we can contribute our knowledge to the creation of these standards. In a recent research project for the development of a new medical device, we had somebody from the standards organization, who the researchers that it’s not to not delay the delivery of the project results, but it was in their interest  to make sure they were not researching anything that was already covered by existing standards. So when I talk about ‘including standardization’, it’s more than just ‘developing standards’, explains Joan Guasch, Director for International Development and Public Programs at Eurecat, about how standardization activities are included early on in the industrial projects under development once there is a clear technological view on the project.

Eurecat works together with a wide range of industries, from textiles, food processing, automotive, railway and aeronautics, to electronics and the health industry and takes advantage of its cross-sectorial position to work together with the different types of industries in the region.

Paving the way for your innovation

“We consider it important to collaborate with the standardization community because it helps to disseminate what you are developing. It gives you access to other experts, influencers and regulators in the same field. And very importantly, you are already paving the way for the exploitation of the project’s results,” he says, waving his personalised glasses.

Besides improving his eyesight, Guasch’s glasses serve as a prime example of an innovative personalised product, getting to the market guided by standards. The glasses are a result of 3D printing innovation to produce the frame and a manufacturing chain made by an artificially intelligent algorithm that enables decision making on where to produce the parts, among other features.

One of the project partners was collaborating with an ISO committee responsible for eyewear products and services. This collaboration ensured that once the technology was totally ready to produce 100% personalized glasses, the standards were ‘open’ to the product. “Operational instructions, such as production location, cost, timeframe and where to have the product delivered, all these things are possible thanks to standardized communication between the 3D printers, enabling the product to be manufactured according to requirements of the user.”

Overcoming scepticism

The relationship between the national standards organisations and Eurecat started during the Horizon2020 programme. It was a challenge knowing how to engage or how to write project proposals, as it was a new type of collaboration. Although the technology center was initially skeptical about it, they found out that it was in fact very, very easy.

Guasch does not hide his surprise: “We saw that the national standards organisations were in fact facilitators, opening different opportunities for participation. They gave examples of potential contributions not only during the project, but also after the project, which is a vital moment for us because that’s when you will see the result in the market.”

UNE Award

“In 2019, the Spanish standards organization UNE gave us an award as recognition for the participation and collaboration that we have had with them since Horizon 2020. I think that after the experiences that we have had, we are already inspiring other institutions to use standardization as a tool for the execution of research projects. Indeed, I presume that for the next European , the Horizon Europe, we finally will see standardization activities become standard practice in collaborative research projects.”

Standardization as standard practice

Based on their experience with projects developed during the Horizon2020 program with standardization experts, Eurecat already added standardization activities in the coming years.

“I know that there are people who doubt standards, and consider standards as barriers or walls that block access to the market, but I don’t see it like that at all. I  think it’s rather the opposite – standards facilitate. I think in the future standardization will be used as a common activity in collaborative research projects in the same way we now use, for example, the OneDrive system to share our documents.”

Collaboration and consensus

“We don’t have standardization in all the projects that we run. But for highly innovative, large projects, where you have a consortium with more industries participating than universities or RTOs, we ask our national standards organization to join .”

Guasch underlines the importance of consensus in decision making during a research project. A collaborative project has different actors, each with their own experience and knowledge, joining forces to achieve the final target. “By using the consensus building methods we learned from standardization, we increase the team commitment, and we facilitate decision-making to go forward in the research.”