EVITherM provides a mechanism to determine, from the shop floor, the needs for research and investment in thermal technology
EVITherM has a viable business plan as a sustainable entity
Over 60% of the processes used by manufacturing industry in Europe depend upon the accurate measurement and control of temperature and thermal properties of materials. Thermal metrology is also a key factor affecting the efficiency and environmental impact of many high-energy industrial processes and the health and safety of the general population. To support these activities Europe has a number of centres of excellence, such as National Metrology Institutes (NMIs) and universities, where research and development of thermal metrology is world class. It also has a wide range of regulatory and standards organisations targeting specific issues affecting industries using thermal processes. However much of this available expertise and information is fragmented, geographically scattered and not visible or easily accessible to people in industry, such as process engineers and designers, who could benefit most from it. This results in products, processes and organisations that are less efficient, less competitive and more environmentally polluting than they should be – to the detriment of Europe as a whole. This problem is addressed by the creation of the European Virtual Institute for Thermal Metrology (EVITherM) with the following mission:
“To facilitate the rapid flow of knowledge between users of thermal technologies in industry, research and teaching institutions and government bodies for the benefit of industrial processes and the environment.”
This project is in the Competitive & Sustainable Growth - Support to Research Infrastructures Programme and the proposal is of the ‘Setting up of Virtual Institutes’ type. The proposed work fully conforms with the fixed deadline call GROW/DC5MTI and the supporting information for needs in support of research infrastructures, thematic networks, related to the setting up of a Virtual Institute for Thermal Metrology (topic V.35). EVITherM will create a co-ordinated Internet based infrastructure specifically designed to link together the geographically scattered centres of excellence and other groups and organisations concerned with thermal measurements and technology to provide a focal point for information exchange and knowledge transfer between all these organisations and the user community.
The use of the Internet with its ability to provide easily searchable databases with up to date research, technical data, best practice guides and interactive notice boards and e-mail help lines will enable organisations to access the information they need in minimum time and with minimum disruption to production schedules. This is an important issue in industry, especially for SMEs where time available for developing technical skills is often limited.
A key feature of EVITherM is that it will develop this infrastructure based on the expressed technology and knowledge transfer needs of the end-user, in particular SMEs. This will be achieved by means of two work packages (WP1 and WP3) designed specifically to ensure that the scientific, technical and knowledge transfer content and the associated delivery mechanisms are appropriate for industry. A third work package (WP2) will ensure that the issues relating to the different languages used throughout Europe and the different regional requirements of the key industrial sectors are fully met by the EVITherM infrastructure. These work packages will be led and supported by representatives from industrial sectors, such as aerospace, combustion, food and medical, that are the key potential beneficiaries of EVITherM.
The scientific and technical material forming the core of EVITherM’s knowledge base will be provided by six technically based work packages each of which is led and supported by members with expertise in the appropriate field. Interaction with industrial participants will be encouraged in all these work packages to ensure relevance of the outputs to industrial needs.
One of the wider scientific and technological benefits of this project will be a much closer linkage between the NMIs, universities and industrial organisations participating as members in its development. Among the benefits of this will be (i) stronger and more industrially relevant collaborative research projects between member organisations and industry and (ii) a higher percentage of research outputs transferred to industry in a shorter time scale because of the increased industrial participation brought about by EVITherM. This will represent a significant contribution to European technological progress.
To develop EVITherM during the three years of EC funding a world-class consortium has been formed. A high quality team is necessary because thermal metrology is technically challenging and covers such a diverse range of scientific disciplines and industrial applications. The initial consortium comprises 34 member organisations from 12 European nations, including 3 accession countries. These represent 6 industrial research institutes, 2 industrial consultants, 2 manufacturers, 5 industrial R&D/ test centres, 9 national measurement institutes, 5 universities and 5 institutes of applied research. This group is well qualified to carry out the project by virtue of the competencies it has in all the key areas covering project management, industrial experience, technical expertise, knowledge transfer and small business management.
The plan is to establish EVITherM as an independent legal entity by the end of the project’s first year and for it to become self-supporting by the 3rd year, as described in the EVITherM business plan. It will be a non profit-distributing organisation whose operation and management structure will be supported by membership fees and income from thermal product supplier links, training courses and other specific projects. This income will also allow it to continue developing its knowledge base and knowledge transfer activities by contracting specific tasks to various key members who will retain an involvement in the virtual institute in its self-funded legal entity form.
In summary, EVITherM offers an innovative approach to thermal knowledge development and dissemination that is unprecedented in its outreach (having the widest possible European connectivity) and in its scope (having the widest possible range of subject matter and services), which is made possible by the existence of well developed European institutes of measurement, learning, technology and other services, facilitated by the existence of the world-wide web.