The development of a thriving bio-economy is central in achieving a resource-efficient and sustainable economy, as well as a way of responding to increasing populations, depleting natural resources and global warming. One of the main challenges in the bio-economy innovation chain in Europe today is the step from technology to deployment, which in most cases require access to pilot- and demo plants. Pilot- and demo plants are, however, expensive industrial installations that most companies do not have direct access to. One solution is the ‘open access pilot- and multipurpose demo-infrastructures’, open to all companies and research institutes. Yet, there is a lack of awareness of the availability, type of facility and equipment modules these offer, which impedes actors from localising relevant facility. The aim of the Pilots4U project is to tackle these challenges and provide solutions that will support the development of innovations into products.
Pilots4U sets out to map all existing open access pilot and demo-infrastructures across Europe, with the aim of creating one, very visible and easily accessible network for the European bio-economy. This will help companies and research institutions operating in the bio-economy sector to gain easier access to testing facilities, in order to bring their ideas from development to market. To assure that the network meets the needs of the European bio-economy industry (SMEs, start-ups, Large enterprises), current European pilot and demo-capabilities are compared with the needs of the European bio-based industry. Up to six business cases of investments in additional equipment, facilities or capabilities will be evaluated, and the first steps will be taken to attract financing. Different cooperation schemes for the open access pilot- and demo-network will be considered.
As the network will build on six of the partners' existing bio-economy pilot or multipurpose demo-infrastructure networks, it will assure the involvement of at least 40 infrastructures. These six partners of the Pilots4U project, and the networks they represent, are: Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (SmartPilots), VTT (ERIFORE), Royal Institute of Technology KTH (BRISK2), Swansea University (Enalgae), Ghent University (Biorefine Cluster Europe) and NNFCC (as secretary of the BioPilotsUK initiative). The cluster organisation CLIC Innovation is representing industry that is contributing in cash to the project. The European Regions Research and Innovation Network with 140 member regions will attract interested European stakeholders (infrastructure owners and users) to get involved in the project, and NNFCC, the bio-economy consultant, is a professional, independent consultant who will lead the study.