Brussels, 23 Oct 2003
An EU funded project has launched the first ever European virtual microencapsulation institute. The institute will provide enterprises with expert advice on how to turn technologies in this field into viable business products.
The VI Best project has received 1.8 million euro under the 'competitive and sustainable growth programme' of the Fifth Framework Programme, and involves 15 academic and industrial partners from eight Member States, as well as Switzerland.
Microencapsulation - a process by which a tiny amount of a substance is surrounded by a coating to produce capsules - is used extensively in a multitude of industrial applications, ranging from food, pharmaceutical and personal care products to photography and printing. However, despite representing a large market, less than ten per cent of its potential is exploited.
According to Damien Lemaire, one of the project partners and the future head of legal affairs at the institute, several major obstacles stand in the way of entrepreneurs who are interested in bringing a microencapsulation application to the marketplace.
'Developing a microencapsulation application requires the combined expertise of a lot of people from different domains of research and development [R&D] and industry,' he told CORDIS News. 'One of the main challenges then for a business is trying to consolidate its human resources to make sure that it has the necessary know how.'
The other major obstacle preventing entrepreneurs is the difficulty of finding the right information to build their business, given the wide diversity of microencapsulation technologies available. 'Every microencapsulation product requires a process that is specific to that product or industry,' said Mr Lemaire.
Mr Lemaire went on to explain that in light of these obstacles, his institute's primary objective is to help entrepreneurs find the most appropriate partners, and then develop, in optimum conditions, a microencapsulation product. 'Our goal is to provide a one-stop-shop for businesses,' he said. 'Our core activity involves the development of a number of highly responsive services for a very large community of research technology development performers, suppliers, and researchers.'
These services include an e-training service, a database for technology transfer events, and an online technology consulting service through which businesses can make technical requests anonymously to a group of experts. Although the project is only at an early stage of development, twenty requests have already been processed by a panel of experts. 'We are currently refining our business plans and services so that by the end of 2003, we will have a viable support system in place,' explained Mr Lemaire.
To further the exchange of information between R&D and industry stakeholders, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the project consortium will organise a series of technology transfer events. The first one, a technology trade fair, will take place on 11 and 12 December in Geneva, Switzerland.
To visit the virtual institute, please consult the following web address: