Isabel Matranga, Engineering Spa
ClouT is a collaborative Europe – Japan project that has developed a smart city platform which benefits from the latest advances in Cloud Computing and IoT domains. The ClouT platform provides the capability to acquire and manage data coming from heterogeneous sources in quasi real-time and offers a set of platform level tools and services aiming at facilitating IoT application development and deployment. At the basis of ClouT is the availability of data, data coming from different sources (IoT, citizens, web etc.) and in different formats; data which is not only captured, circulated and processed on-the-fly, but that that can also be stored for historical analysis or ex-post processing. The ClouT platform enables smart application developers to access and use a wide variety of information to combine and create innovative and efficient smart city applications/services. Prototypes of the ClouT platform have been deployed in four cities: Santander (Spain), Genoa (Italy), Mitaka (Japan) and Fujisawa (Japan).
The path towards making ClouT’s results sustainable
There is increased attention towards the identification of ways to make the research project results sustainable after the end of the project. The challenges project teams have to face in reaching such objectives must not be underestimated. In this paper we share the experience of the ClouT project focussing on two important issues that arise when we need to deal with exploitation, value proposition, customers, business models etc. within research projects:
- the different way of approaching these activities and the difficulty in establishing a common ground among the Consortium partners that work in different contexts (e.g. universities, research centres, SMEs, large enterprises)
- the translation of the innovative technological results of the project, into something that can be easily understood and the value proposition of which can be perceived by the outside world.
One of the first and key steps the ClouT team took at the early on in the project lifetime, was to find a common language inside the Consortium when discussing activities regarding business modelling and related topics.
With the difference in experience and background of the members of the Consortium, this led to interesting, fruitful and multi-view discussions but also difficulties with communication between the outreach team and the technical team. Marketing-oriented partners and more technical-oriented partners need to tightly cooperate in order to better understand what are the project results, what are the main features, what needs do they satisfy, why should users choose the project result and not another solution and so on. Furthermore, it is imperative that these questions are answered early on in the project and not left unanswered to later. Indeed, in ClouT we established an iterative process during which the initial ideas and assumptions were then re-discussed. This often leads to new or refined conclusions.
The initial ideas on what the value proposition of an R&D project result is, are usually too focused on technical features which are surely interesting and can satisfy one or more users needs. However, when it comes to taking results out of the research lab and into the real-world, this needs to be re-worked in order to, translate the “technical solution” into the “solution that addresses customer/user’s needs” and one with the customer/user can easily understand.
More technically-oriented people know exactly what the technology is doing and are eager to let everyone know how smart and innovative it is. However, it is vital that they understand the value in translating technological features into solutions which relieve pain and gain creators so that customers can understand their value. Customers are not really interested in what and how the technology ‘does it’ as long as it addresses their needs.
Within a consortium, partners running pilots pay a key role in this as they represent the easiest way to have insight on potential customers needs. They can be the first testers of the assumptions made as well as proof and advocates of how the solution has made their lives better.
There are a number of tools and methodologies available online that can support the project teams in performing the above activities. For ClouT we decided to use the tools and methodology proposed by Osterwalder and Co. that can be found on the Strategyzer website: https://strategyzer.com/.
These tools supported ClouT in different ways: in using the same terminology, in identifying the value proposition, in analysing potential business models but also in representing all the information collected in a simplified and visual way making it easier to involve all partners in thinking, sharing and discussing exploitation and business model related topics.