BY NRC INTERNATIONAL INNOVATION OFFICE
Eureka, an international, collaborative network of more than 45 countries around the world, is the very definition of innovative —bringing companies, researchers and academics together for best-in-class research and development.
Global co-innovation has become a key component of a highly competitive organization’s strategy. But when firms are looking for opportunities to scale-up, access new markets and collaborate with foreign partners, they don’t always know where to start. That’s where Eureka comes in. Eureka is an international network for industrial research and development (R&D) collaboration that includes more than 45 countries in Europe and beyond.
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Canada’s largest federal research and development organization, is Canada’s National Office for Eureka and provides Canadian companies, researchers and academics with a first point of contact and access to the expansive global network. Through Eureka, participants get direct support and services to help them match with foreign partners, as well as technology sourcing and identifying project opportunities between Canada and participating Eureka member countries.
“Eureka’s unique and powerful platform makes it easier for Canadian firms to access global value chains,” says Mitch Davies, President of the NRC. “It also allows our international partners to work through Canada as a gateway to the North American market.”
Collaborating with foreign partners With the goal of increasing competitiveness in world markets, Eureka brings together small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies, research centres, universities, and other innovators to work together on market-driven industrial R&D. Since Canada joined Eureka in 2012, the NRC has supported more than 200 projects, allowing Canadian organizations to collaborate with more than 600 international partners on projects valued at more than €420 million.
Through Eureka’s proven business-oriented platform and a range of instruments designed to bring together diverse international partners to deliver impactful results in high-value sectors, Canadian companies can leverage a great mechanism to work with global partners.
This was particularly evident recently when Canada led two Eureka-enabled calls for proposals to find and accelerate solutions to new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The calls mobilized 12 countries and resulted in 15 projects at close to €14 million in R&D investment.
“By working through Eureka, we have demonstrated the support of Canada for a global R&D initiative to respond to COVID-19 challenges,” says Davies. “Now more than ever it is imperative that we enhance cooperation among countries to bring our companies, economies, and people together, and Eureka is a proven platform to support this.”
Read on for two examples of Canadian companies (of many!) who have benefited from Eureka collaboration projects.
XIVT: Excellence invariant testing ITEA is a Eureka R&D cluster program for software innovation, enabling large consortiums of international partners to collaborate on funded projects. There are currently three Canadian partners — QA Consultants, Mobile live, and Ontario Tech University — working on an ITEA project called XIVT. Together with 18 other partners from Germany, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey, including global heavyweights ABB, Bombardier, and world-renowned Fraunhofer Institutes, the project aims to define a method and toolchain for testing highly configurable, variant-rich embedded systems in the automotive, rail, telecommunication and industrial production domains.
For instance, these methods would be used to test the software used in autonomous vehicles from safety and cybersecurity standpoints to ensure protection against potential hackers. The XIVT project is focused on how robust software is developed and seeks to evaluate software as it evolves over time, which is extremely important from a safety/cybersecurity standpoint.
Working with European partners on this project has opened up new opportunities for Canadian universities and businesses, giving them access to European markets. The initial ITEA project has already led to more than half a dozen other projects that would never have happened had it not been for the initial connections and discussions through ITEA. “Software testing technology as an education stream does not currently exist in North America,” says Dr. Justin Gammage, Industry Liaison Manager at Ontario Tech University. “Our European partners offer this core area of training and educating, and we’ve been able to learn from them which will be important for Canadian businesses in general. Working through Eureka also helps to de-risk the project for all partners involved. Eureka’s involvement helps ensure the success of the project, for Canadian partners as well as partners in Europe. This trust helps bolster the strength of community behind a project, which also contributes to positive outcomes.”
Nutrasource Project: Rapid NutraStrongTM Personal Nutrition Diagnostic Platform This project aims to develop a rapid point-of-care (POC) diagnostic device to quantify nutritional biomarkers—like a pregnancy test for vitamins and minerals. You generate your own sample, on-the-spot, and get results immediately. The test results will help consumers understand whether their diet is providing sufficient nutrients, or if they should be supplementing with specific vitamins.
After learning about Eureka through the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Canadian firm Nutrasource Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Services Inc. partnered with Austrian counterpart SAICO Biosystems. Nutrasource handles the chemistry development, project management, and regulatory planning, while SAICO takes the lead on the physical device development. Nutrasource appreciated SAICO’s experience and perspective, which helped speed up development and kept costs down, says Michael Barr, Director of Human Diagnostics with Nutrasource. “SAICO helped to streamline things.”
“Eureka provides a well-organized framework for collaborating, ensuring trust among partners when entering into a project,” says Barr. “Both parties have to go through the process upfront, checking all the boxes, developing a consortium agreement together, making sure both partners feel confident entering into the project knowing the vetting and approval has been done.” Nutrasource and SAICO have been working together for two years now, and have successfully developed a prototype; the product is now generating third-party interest and investment, which has allowed Nutrasource to hire new staff and secure patents. “Having the Eureka label and NRC IRAP support behind a project when approaching investors…gives them confidence that the technology is legitimate and we are a sound, reliable company,” says Barr.
This year the Eureka network celebrated an important milestone — 35 years of cross-border R&D co-innovation. And the network continues to grow. At the recent Eureka Global Innovation Summit this May, Singapore announced they are officially joining the list of countries open to exploring partnerships and joint innovation projects. Eureka will continue to be an important platform for Canadian innovators seeking access to new markets, expertise, and technologies, as well as acting as a tremendous resource navigating global supply chains.