Interview with Jérôme Gavillet, coordinator of SmartEEs and SmartEEs2 projects

  • Now that the SmartEEs project is coming to an end, looking back at the past three years, as a coordinator, what can you tell us about your experience with the SmartEEs project?

SmartEEs has been a brand new experience for all of us turning our diverse and complementary competences and technologies into a consolidated portfolio of services, offering support to the industry in a quite new and efficient manner through open calls and application experiments.

  • What about the SmartEEs consortium? How good was the cooperation among partners and the team spirit?

SmartEEs consortium built upon a core of seven research organisations and one business development partner having a long and rich track record on collaborating in H2020 and previous framework programs.  Two other business development and network partners completed the team, enriching the business competences of the consortium and better balancing tech and non tech services to be offered to SMEs and Midcap companies. The cooperation worked out straightaway, simply, and efficiently, stimulating each other in providing integrated and seamless services to the companies selected and supported by SmartEEs.

  • If you think about the SmartEEs plan and targets, how successful were you in achieving them? And what is the feedback from the European Commission?

SmartEEs objectives were ambitious in the sense that we were really starting from scratch with the commitment to design new services for technology experimentation, launch & operate a one-stop-shop, set an open call process, communicate & disseminate widely in Europe to outreach and engage a sufficient number of innovative companies and to prepare the sustainability of the overall service beyond the project funding.  The EC has been fully supportive all along this project constantly encouraging us but also supporting us when lacking visibility or when facing uncertainties in our action.   

  • What are the major achievements of the SmartEEs project that you are most proud of?

As major achievements, one may highlight the successful launch of the one-stop-shop, the engagement of 20 innovative companies through the open call, their experimentation of TOLAE technologies and the production of 20 product prototypes and associated exploitation plans, and finally a relatively clear vision on how to proceed to make the SmartEEs service sustainable.

  • What were the major challenges of the SmartEEs project that caused you the biggest headaches? And how did you resolve them?

For sure we had challenges, but fortunately no headaches. One challenge was and remains to ensure the best match between what the early adopter is expecting from the technology (in terms of product functionality and value) and what the technology can actually deliver. Short feasibility study is one way to narrow this gap, searching for and assigning the most suitable technology and supplier is another.

  • We know that 20 Innovative Companies were selected through the 5 cut-off dates of the SmartEEs Call for Application Experiments, but what can you tell about the applicants and evaluation and selection process? How effective was your outreach campaign?

With a total of 101 applicants and 20 Innovative Companies selected following the 5 cut-off dates we consider ourselves successful in rising awareness about our program and benefits it offered and achieving our foreseen targets. From the very beginning of the SmartEEs project, we established a comprehensive outreach campaign and processes for the evaluation and selection of submitted application experiments which proved to be efficient with small adaptations during the SmartEEs project.

One of the unforeseen risks regarded the profile of most applicants submitting proposals for the first cut-off date which was not fully matching the expected profile of an end-product supplier integrating SmartEEs technologies. It was noticed that applicants had not fully understood the actual nature of the offered SmartEEs support (i.e. prototyping, instead of their own technology pushing), thus impacting the relevancy and adequacy of the proposals.

As a mitigation measure, it was agreed to improve the text of the Call for AEs by including more clear and specific instructions to applicants (inviting applicants to contact the Helpdesk before applying, adding detailed explanations of the nature of the support, mentioning that SmartEEs supports only one prototype per AE, etc.). In addition, all interested parties were suggested to contact the Helpdesk for a feasibility/technical check of their idea to make sure that it fits the scope of the Call and possibilities of the SmartEEs technologies.

Finally, the outreach campaign was intensified employing different communication channels, such as website, social media, newsletters, webinars and webmeetings, email campaigns, clustering with OE-A & AFELIM associations, etc. Particularly successful were the workshops SmartEEs partners organized for SMEs and Mid-caps and participation in conferences and other large public events. 

  •  Selected Innovative Companies were all given technical and business support in their ‘’experimenting’’ with the flexible electronics technologies. To which extents has the SmartEEs project eventually benefitted those 20 companies, and ultimately the EU industry?

Feedback was collected, as a survey, from the 20 companies on their SmartEEs experience. Generally, companies were really satisfied by the concept and implementation of the SmartEEs Digital Innovation Hub, even though some space for improving our service was identified here and there. But nothing really critical that cannot be improved in the next action. So yes, companies were actually accelerated towards their integration of digital technologies inside their product, process and/or business model. However, the level of business maturity differs from case to case, some companies being close to their new business and others facing real roadblocks. We’ll follow up these companies informally beyond the project as these companies are now part of our community and of easy access to us and keep on advising them whenever relevant.

  • Can you tell us something about the sustainability of the SmartEEs project? What comes after?

A SmartEEs2 proposal was submitted under the H2020 DT-ICT-01-2019 call, which was positively evaluated and granted. SmartEEs2 is a logical follow-up action, part of our overall sustainability vision that will take us one major step forward towards a fully inclusive community and ecosystem.

  • As coordinator of SmartEEs2, can you tell us something more about it? How similar / different it is compared to the SmartEEs project?

SmartEEs2 is pushing the envelope further pursuing the action along the same line but widening the service base sourcing third party services, activating regional networks &  their members, planning the support of 47 Application Experiments with a total financial support to third party (FSTP) companies of 2.9 M€ and accelerating the sustainability plan towards the creation of an association.

  • What are the opportunities for companies interested in flexible and wearable electronics (FWE)?

Interested companies can apply to one of the following two topics:

  1. EXPERIMENTING AND TESTING END-PRODUCT IDEAS WITH FWE TECHNOLOGIES: the types of activities that qualify for receiving support have to be related to industrial and societal adoption of new digital products, services and business models enabled by Flexible and Wearable electronics.
  2. SUPPORT TO MANUFACTURING OF FWE BASED END-PRODUCTS INCLUDING UPSCALING: the types of activities that qualify for receiving support have to be related to the FWE related manufacturing technologies.
  • Thank you for your time. What would be your message to our readers and other interested parties?

We are calling for candidates to run Application Experiments, but we are also growing up our public/private community of stakeholders around the topic of flexible & wearable electronics. This community is structured and animated inside our Marketplace and each one will find its interest there searching for technology providers, users, investors, etc. So, the message to our readers is clearly to spread the word around in order to bring wide awareness about SmartEEs opportunities and promote its uptake!

What is Flexible, organic and printed electronics all about ?

SmartEEs – Smart Emerging Electronics Servicing, offers an organized European innovation network to facilitate SME access to skills and technologies to implement flexible electronics in their product lines.

Let’s have a closer look at who are SmartEEs’ experts and what solutions SmartEEs can provide!

The word of the experts

LicTech Ilkka Kaisto led Printocent for over 10 years until the end of August 2020 and is now working as a Senior Advisor. He was also the Project Coordinator for the FP7- COLAE –project (Commercialisation Clusters for Organic and Large Area Electronics), which is the precursor to the SmartEEs projects. In SmartEEs, Ilkka Kaisto and the VTT team are involved the technical support and the innovation management of the application experiments.

SmartEEs: With Printocent and VTT, you have built a very strong Finnish ecosystem around flexible intelligence & electronics. Why is it important for you and your team to be part of the SmartEEs consortium?

PrintoCent is a Hub for Printed Intelligence commercialization and industrialization founded by VTT, the University of Oulu, Oulu University of Applied Sciences and Business Oulu. Since 2010, it has gathered a global industry cluster, a pilot factory manufacturing environment and an innovation accelerator with over 30 start-ups. But PrintoCent has developed a cluster having not only regional Oulu-based companies but companies largely from Finland and also from Europe. It also has developed an international network of clusters. The co-operation between international clusters was deepened during the COLAE –project gathering 17 partners in the EU working on electronic components. Early prototypes were brought in sight to promote flexible electronics. Since then various EU-projects have supported technology development, but the two SmartEEs projects have substantially boosted the prototyping and business case development of SMEs. Furthermore, they have strengthened the European value chain creation, as industry and RTOs around the EU have been jointly involved in the Application Experiments.

PrintoCent has also had a role in bringing industry, research and innovators together to work around an idea, as shown by the annual PrintoCent Innofest. Over 20 teams have been competing, pitching and developing their ideas in a 2-day international event, where many SmartEEs consortium members have been participated. Several companies like Movesole, New Cable Corporation, GreenerCell, have their roots in Innofest. Another important event has been the PrintoCent Industry Seminar, (PRINSE)-seminar, happening every second year and focusing on Industry Needs and Applications. Lately, due to COVID-19 we have been running the PrintoCent Webinar Series

SmartEEs: What were the main challenges PrintoCent and VTT had to face when building this ecosystem or developing those technologies?

I see three main challenges: building trust, making people from different backgrounds to work together and developing pilot manufacturing environment.

The first & main challenge has been building trust among researchers and companies, to make them confident that open innovation will stimulate and speedup the creation of new business cases. Another challenge has been making people with different backgrounds and education – technology, commercial – understand each other when building new business cases.

The last challenge was to develop the Pilot Manufacturing Environment to enable the scale-up of prototypes in close co-operation with research and companies. When investing in Pilot Manufacturing in RTOs, you have to predict what processes would be taken in use in future value chains by companies. It is very important to have companies involved in the value chains as early as possible, especially in research projects, to bring industrial mindset into RTOs.

SmartEEs: During the last decade, Flexible electronics have made huge progress. According to you what is the biggest differentiation brought by this technology and what are the biggest success stories you have in mind? What are the main achievements you would like to highlight?

The biggest differentiation is to make multidisciplinary teams work together, as the materials, substrates, wiring, electronics, optics have to be integrated deeply to a thin and light-in-weight structure, which in many cases is encapsulated inside laminated glass, plastics or laminate.

There are several achievements related to energy efficiency and space & weight savings in automotive, such as TactoTek IMSE –process and integrating flexible functional foil inside laminated glass by NSG Pilkington. In future, the rigid PCBs will be substituted with for example smart wall or roof elements with integrated functionalities. In healthcare and wellness, we will also see new smart patches monitoring ourselves wirelessly.

SmartEEs2 Open Call webinar by OES in German

We invite you to participate in the European project SmartEEs2:

  • Do you have competences, services or production capacities in flexible and portable electronics? Then place them on the marketplace and receive up to 60T€ for making your expertise available in cooperation with new customers.
  • Do you have an innovative idea with integrated flexible and portable electronics? Then apply for an application experiment and receive up to 100T€ financial support.

The next cut-off is 15 January 2021. In preparation we offer 2 identical web seminars in German, in which the SmartEEs2 project, the funding conditions and the application modalities are presented in detail.

Upon registration you will receive the free link to participate in the web seminar.

Visit the SmartEEs Marketplace, add your own competences and get inspired by the ideas.

More information from OES webiste:

SmartEEs partners at EBN Congress 2020

Over the past two days SmartEEs partners took part in the EBN Congress with a dedicated booth. The 2020 EBN Congress ‘’Regional Ecosystems shaping European Innovation’’ was a two-day online event featuring key actors of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The event was fully hosted on the virtual event venue, from 3-4 November 2020. 

Today, Europe’s innovation ecosystems are being tested by extreme circumstances. Standing with their member companies and their ecosystem actors, EU|BICs have been acting responsive, and are willing to lead with bold action on digitalisation, innovation and sustainability. In this context, deepening EBN community is more vital to our future than ever before.

The 2020 EBN Congress brought together all kinds of exceptional innovators to exchange ideas, foster co-learning, and understanding and on a wide range of subjects – to provoke forward-thinking on local/regional/EU strategies for boosting entrepreneurial innovation.

Don’t miss IMEC webinar: SmartEEs2 Open Call

We are happy to invite you to a seminar to tell you more about the SmartEEs2 project and its open call in January 2021.

SmartEEs2 is an original European acceleration program dedicated to helping innovative companies digitise their businesses thanks to flexible and wearable electronics (FWE) testing, experimentation and manufacturing support.

How do we do it? We open a Call for Application Experiments and invite all interested companies, satisfying the criteria, to submit their application experiment proposals. The selected companies are awarded support in line with our Call requirements and the others and welcome to re-apply their ideas and / or to enter the SmartEEs Community and benefit from it.


Subscribe to our online seminar to help you understand exactly how the project works. You’ll hear about its ins and outs as well as how you can benefit.

📆 17 Nov with imec

See you there!