SMEs share 20,000 euro EUREKA prize money

June 1, 2005

Brussels, 31 May 2005

Franco-Spanish and Anglo-Dutch partnerships have been honoured by EUREKA for their contributions to sustainability and competitiveness respectively.

The EUREKA Lillehammer award, presented every year to a project providing a sustainable solution to the problems of waste and pollution, was awarded on May, in the presence of MPs from across Europe, to the two companies that have developed a safer and more environmentally friendly rechargeable battery. The NITIN SCOOTER project brings together S.C.P.S. from France and SHS Ceramicas from Spain.

While developing a rechargeable battery for electric scooters, the partners made a breakthrough that will finally make nickel zinc batteries economically viable. 'Nickel-zinc had been considered as an unrealistic dream. But we tried again in S.C.P.S. and we succeeded,' said project leader Jacques Doniat as he collected the award.

Such batteries had been considered in the past as a replacement for nickel cadmium cells as they fulfil power requirements and offer environmental benefits. However, the instability of the zinc electrode meant that they could only be recharged around 20 times. The nickel zinc battery developed within the NITIN SCOOTER project can be used for over 1,000 charging cycles.

The result is based on previous research done by S.C.P.S. in an earlier EUREKA project. The company had developed a copper foam within the 3D STRUCTURES project. Spanish partner SHS Ceramicas added fine particles of a new conductive ceramic to the foam, and together the partners succeeded in stabilising the electrode, preventing the damaging formation of zinc compounds that cause loss of conductivity and short circuits.

Mr Doniat emphasised the importance of the technology for a small company such as S.C.P.S., saying 'a small company must succeed or disappear'. The partners are now in discussion on technology transfer with third parties, but would prefer to further develop the battery internally, said Mr Doniat. The award, which includes 10,000 euro, may help to facilitate this.

EUREKA awarded this year's Lynx award to Cavendish Kinetics, a UK spin-off based in the Netherlands. The Lynx award pays tribute to the achievements of fast-growing, high-technology small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that have recently brought, or are about to bring, a EUREKA research venture to the market. The award not only confirms the success of a project, but provides a prestigious label for private investors, customers and business partners of the SME involved.

Collecting the award, Mike Beunder described Cavendish Kinetics as 'a new start-up with an idea, competing against the big guys'. Thanks to the MESCI-I project, electronic devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), notebook computers and mobile phones are likely to be smaller, lighter and more energy efficient in the future. Together with partners from the UK and Germany, Cavendish Kinetics succeeded in making the production of electrical and computer nanoswitches economically viable for non-volatile memory devices.

MESCI-I makes use of miniature micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) switches to store non-volatile data in an add-on to the application-specific chip. This can slash the number of chips used and so reduce power demands. Key to the economic viability of the technology is that the production of the nanoswitches can be fully integrated into standard metal oxide silicon processes for semiconductor chips.

Mr Beunder welcomed the award, which again included 10,000 euro, but made a plea for funding for such projects to be more available to all: 'Funding is still a bit of an issue. Depending on which countries you work with, it's more or less easy for all parts of the project to get funding and to get the innovation on the road.'

For further information on EUREKA, please visit:
http://www.eureka.be

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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