VB Project Idea - NRS ZERO-G Innovation network
Materials and Life Sciences: drivers for sustainable economic growth
Research in materials sciences and life sciences deliver innovations and new products to the market that contribute to a sustainable future, economic growth and quality of life. Examples of these innovations are e.g. new crystal configurations for solar sells, high performance nano materials or new diagnostic tests for rapid screening. Countries and regions within the NSR-region all have an innovation and economic development agenda in place that have materials and life sciences as a focus. The transfer of knowledge and know how from academia to SME’s and larger companies is a spearhead in each regional agenda. Southern Sweden for example supports the growth of material sciences and life sciences companies (www.investinskane.com), in the Netherlands the Topsector High Tech Systems and Materials and the Topsector Life Sciences (www.hollandtrade.com) set the innovation agenda for these sectors whilst in Bremen these sectors are also identified in the recently published Innovation Agenda 2020 (www.wirtschaft.bremen.de/sixcms/media.php/13/Innovationsprogramm_2020.pdf)
Research infrastructure needed
The research infrastructure for the material and life sciences is well developed within the NSR. Each region has excellent laboratory facilities available within universities and research facilities. SME’s, other companies and research organisations are stimulated to cooperate by grant schemes or other programmes, thus enabling access for industry to the these facilities.
NSR ZERO-G Innovation network
However for the more in depth understanding of physical, chemical and biological phenomena companies and organisations need to carry out experiments in a zero-g i.e. a gravity-free environment. Within the NSR there are only two research platforms available where experiments in the absence of gravity can be carried out. The ZARM centre of the University of Bremen provides research infrastructure (the Bremen fall tower) for short time experiments. For longer experiments the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) has the availability of a plane to carry out zero-g parabolic flights. The other alternative, outside the NSR, is the A300 parabolic flight airplane in Southern France. For most smaller companies and universities the use of the A300 is too time consuming and too costly. The Bremen and NLR platforms could provide an easy access, economical alternative, for zero-g experiments to companies and research institutes in the NSR. The NSR ZERO-G Innovation network aims to realise this access.
Relevance of Zero-g research
Gravity influences most of the physical phenomena occurring on our planet. It determines nearly all physical, chemical and biological phenomena occurring on our planet. Understanding the impact of gravity will support the search for new materials and therapies. This can be investigated under gravity free conditions. Also spacecraft components have to be tested under zero-g conditions before they are put into space.
Innovation areas where zero-g research can speed up innovation include
- Material Science: e.g. crystal growth, directional solidification, metallic foam, composite materials, thermal diffusion in liquid metal, production of alloys.
- Fluid physics: e.g. mass transportation characteristics, bubble generation, fluid flow, surface tension gradients, convection, two-phase flow, surface tension-induced, convection, capillary flow.
- Biology and biomedical sciences: growth of large proteins, cell division and separation, adaptation of the human body to the space environment, blood flow and heart rate, sensor and motor coordination.
The project goal is to realise more innovation and knowledge valorisation in the Materials and Life Sciences. This is done by improving the access to research infrastructure that is currently already available in the NSR, i.e. the ZARM and NLR platforms.
At the current stage of the proposal the output still has to be quantified. Main outcome of the project will be that innovation and valorisation in the Material and Life Sciences in the NSR will increase and speeded up. This outcome will be quantified with e.g. the following output indicators:
- Number of zero-g experiments with organisations from NSR
- Number of zero-g experiments with organisations from outside NSR
- Number of SMEs involved
- Number of Industry-Research cooperation started from the project
- Number of spin out startups
- Number of researchers involved
- Number of new or improved products
- Number of peer reviewed articles
Furthermore the project will disseminate results and enhance network forming by means of a website, workshops, an international conference and secondment / staff exchange between industry and academia.
Partners Found Already
The founding partners of the NSR ZERO-G project are V-Kvadrat AB (V2) from Sweden and the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR). V2 is an SME developing zero gravity parabolic flight platforms. NLR operates a Cesna Citation II research plane that will be made available to the project partners.
Other partners already involved include Linnkoping University and the Karolinska Institute.
Other partners can be organisations either active in low gravity research themselves, or SME’s, large companies and research institutes involved in aerospace, material science and life sciences. Furthermore regional enterprise and innovation agencies could join if they have an added value in binding SME’s to the project
Already a number of potential partners has been identified. These potential partners will be contacted and invited to join the project within the next two months (May – June 2015). These include e.g.
- Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), University of Bremen (D)
- Chalmers University of Technoly, Gothenborg (SE)
- Rigshospitalet Copenhagen (DK)
- Trondheim University (NO)
- The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM (D)
SMEs and large companies in the areas of Material and Life Sciences are explicitly invited to join the project.
Materials science, Life sciences, aerospace, zero-gravity, research infrastructure
20 April 2015