SMEs using research e-infrastructures

Following up on the article published few days ago on “Data infrastructures in the service of the agricultural community” I wanted to come back to this issue looking this time from a different perspective, the one of an SME using a research e-infrastructure.

I was trigged for this article through Agro-Know’s participation in the “European Research e-Infrastructures and Innovation Clusters” workshop that actually takes place today (3rd of October, 2014) in Brussels.The workshop aims to “explore the collaboration opportunities between European Innovation clusters and European research e-infrastructure providers to facilitate access to and use of research e-infrastructures by SMEs“.

A few days ago we were honored to be invited in the workshop and make a presentation during the session “Real examples of SME use of research e-infrastructures” where we are to present Agro-Know involvement in the agINFRA project and how we are exploiting the agINFRA e-infrastructure to improve our offerings. For the presentation of the Agro-Know case, Apostolos, one of our newest members in the Project Management team, is joining the event.

All presenters in the event were asked to provide to the workshop rapporteur Hilary Hanahoe a written statement on their views on exploring the collaboration opportunities between European Innovation clusters and European research e-infrastructure providers and facilitate access to and use of research e-infrastructures by SMEs.

With Agro-Know already being a successful example of an SME using a research e-infrastructure this is the feedback we provided:

 

How and in what terms are you collaborating with research e-infrastructures?

Agro-Know has already been recognized globally as a pioneer in delivering ICT innovation solutions for agri-food research stakeholders, participating in major, prestigious innovative networks and initiatives and being a key player in setting up a pan-European research infrastructures for agri-food called agINFRA. Our goal is to become a leader in delivering a set of innovative ICT solutions to agri-food research organisations and individuals, through a combination of existing and new knowledge.

Through our participation in the agINFRA project, Agro-Know has successfully evolved its products, taking advantage of the e-infrastructure to deliver high quality services to our clients. With our involvement in the agINFRA e-infrastructure we have been recognized as a leader in services for the agri-food research community and have achieved a strategic partnership with the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the ARIADNE Foundation, for hosting the Data Processing Unit of the traditional AGRIS service – a global information system collecting and making accessible bibliography on agricultural science and technology.

 

What are the lessons learnt / best practices including barriers and challenges?

There exists a lot of opportunities that arise from the exploitation of research infrastructures (e.g. agINFRA) to firstly connect with a niche market, as the agri-food sector and secondly provide high quality services to the end users.

While Agro-Know its achieving its aims, there a lot of barriers that were needed to surpass, with the most important being the correct business model to follow. Agro-Know is an open advocate participating in several networks and communities that support open source software. Our foreseen revenue model is not expected to include selling software installations or software licences but we explore alternative and innovative revenue models that are based on the high quality service and experience that we will offer to our customers. This philosophy affects the way that we expect to licence and protect our key knowledge (IPR) items. By adopting alternative business models, we are able to fully exploit research infrastructure to build data services, openly available to the public, which we can re-use to create and bring to the market end-products.

Still there issues to be resolved, but the concept and approach already used in the agINFRA project has shown us the way to proceed.

 

Do future plans include expanding that collaboration with other research e-infrastructures?

Agro-Know is always trying to connect and follow all related research e-infrastructures, in order to bring its expertise and knowledge from the agINFRA project. To this end Agro-Know already was included as partner in one project that has recently accepted for funding under the H2020 framework (FREME, ICT 15-2014: Big data and Open Data Innovation and take-up), while at the same time it has been included in the preparation of proposals for the different activities under the more related E-INFRA-1 call, and more specifically in the project proposals of DPINFRA, OpenMindTed and EGI-ENGAGE, the flagship project of the EGI. Especially for the later, Agro-Know collaboration with EGI and participates the EGI Virtual Team for Business Engagement, providing feedback and helping EGI form the Business Engagement Plan.

Even more, through our strategic participation in the AGRIS team, we aim at connecting AGRIS and OpenAIRE infrastructure as the main European node for all agricultural publications.

 

What type of funding support / instruments would facilitate increased collaboration with research e-infrastructures?

Agro-Know is a company providing high quality services to the agriculture research community. To this end, Agro-Know is always looking for new funding opportunities to collaborate with new or existing infrastructures. Agro-Know is exploiting as much as possible funding agencies, as the European Commission, to support such involvement. Especially under the Horizon 2020 framework, Agro-Know being an SME is in a strong position to take advantage of the programme which not only provides new opportunities to companies like ours (through the SME instrument) but also forces new proposals to include SMEs that will finally take advantage of developed services, as Agro-Know already has successfully done in the agINFRA project.

While participating in projects is one way to engage with the research e-infrastructure, we would expect the main existing research e-infrastructures (EGI, OpenAIRE, EUDAT, ESFRIs, etc.) also took upon this kind of support to SMEs. Such main organisations / project could use part of their funding to either support SMEs with much needed resources, trainings or even creating their own incubators/accelerators.

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