WHAT IS IMS?
The IMS program provides the framework and support for conducting international research among large business enterprises, small-to-medium enterprises, universities, and research institutions. IMS makes it easy to become involved in global research through its support activities. Participants may join an existing or developing project consortium, or initiate their own project. To join a project, the organization maintains this web portal where researchers may browse the database for projects seeking partners and contact the originator, or an IMS Regional Secretariat or MTP Project Development Coach for assistance. Researchers that have an idea for research and want to initiate their own project will find all the necessary tools on-line including an interactive collaborative website, procedures, available assistance, and templates for submitting a proposal.
The IMS organization consists of an International Steering Committee (ISC) headed by a Chairman, Regional Secretariats in each member country/country group (Participant Region), and an Inter-Regional Secretariat. IMS provides an international collaborative environment for a robust exchange of ideas and synergy creation. The IMS organization is currently comprised of five Participant Regions including the European Union, Mexico, and the United States of America. In total, IMS serves over 30 countries throughout the world. IMS is open to new members and encourages governments to join as a full Participant or as an Associate.
IMS offers through its Manufacturing Technology Platform program the possibility for industrial research to share experiences, best practices, and to develop a common vision. Each Region has a host for IMS that supports the Regional Secretariat office and local activities. The organization is directed by the ISC that comprises delegations from the Region. Each delegation is led by a Head of Delegation (HoD), and comprises industry and government observers. The ISC holds regular meetings and workshops to promote research. The Regional Secretariats are the backbone of the program, as they implement program objectives and make recommendations to their delegation to help steer the organization. The Inter-Regional Secretariat (IRS) is the administrative arm of IMS, and is directed by the Chairman and the ISC. Chairmanship rotates every 30 months and is currently held by the United States of America.
As global manufacturing capacity is ever-increasing, manufacturers are facing pressures from increased competition, government regulation, scarce resources and ever-demanding customer requirements to provide innovative product and services. Solutions often lie in non-competitive areas where research investment can be pooled and innovation shared. The supporting governments in the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems program (IMS) recognize that multi-lateral research in advanced manufacturing is an opportunity to share resources and bundle efforts to addressing the global challenges.
The rationale for carrying out collaborative research at international level, involving partners from the major industrial economies of the world, stems from the following considerations:
The need to address global-scale problems jointly: The environmental impact of manufacturing and consumption is global in scale and necessitate a global approach to address it. Without an internationally consorted strategy, a sustainable balance between manufacturing and the environment cannot be effectively achieved.
Making use of dispersed knowledge: Tackling global problems requires access to manufacturing knowledge, environmental knowledge, and global market knowledge. These are not concentrated in one particular region or country but are globally dispersed. A research program that is capable of utilizing such knowledge must involve all concerned regions and countries.
Globalization needs call for joint efforts: Manufacturing is no longer of national or regional concern only. The opening of national markets, the strengthening of world trade bodies, and consumers’ desire for a free flow of products and services, require a global approach to research and development of new products and manufacturing technologies.
Global collaboration made feasible through ICT: Recent advances in information and communication technologies, as evidenced by advanced electronic networks, multi-media transfer of information and knowledge, and the internationalization of research, make global-level collaborative research feasible for the first time in human history. Such an opportunity should be utilized to advance the living standards and the knowledge level of human society.
Global manufacturing represents twenty-five percent (25%) of world GDP with over twenty million enterprises, and twenty-eight percent (28%) of world employment. Manufacturing is still a key economic driver world-wide. In a more integrated global market, the competition is not among companies but among global supply chains and business networks. Global value chains are increasing in complexity and competition. Supply chains and networks are no longer regional; therefore development of common international standards and methods help to master value chains on a global scale. Through international collaboration, IMS provides an opportunity for value-chain participants to develop world-class solutions. The accelerated pace of technological change is racing to keep up with new and increasing customer expectations. This is why many companies and research institutions join under the banner of IMS because IMS offers the only portal for international collaboration to address these needs and expectations of customers.
Collaboration as Win-Win
In many cases it can be more advantageous to collaborate than to “go it alone”. Some research and development activities are of such a scale that no single country can provide the necessary resources and expertise. Collaborative R&D projects can help achieve the required “critical mass”, while lowering commercial risk for participants and generating a leverage effect for private investment. International IMS consortia bring together resources and expertise from many countries and various research actors. Typical IMS projects have budgets of around 2-4 million USD and involve on average 10 participants from 6 countries. They bring together universities, public research centers, SMEs, and large enterprises.
Participation in collaborative research offers access to a wider network of knowledge. This enables participants to increase their know-how by being exposed to different methods, and to develop new or improved tools. Being part of an international consortium of highly qualified researchers triggers spill-over effects that are more important than the monetary investment. The experience from European framework programs shows that while all participating countries enjoy knowledge multiplier effects, the size of these effects is related to the country’s total number of participations in the program.
Leveraging Private Sector Investment
Another feature of collaborative research is that public R&D funding leads to what is called a “crowding-in” effect on investment. In other words, it stimulates firms to invest more of their own money in R&D than they would otherwise have done. A recent study conducted in Europe estimates that a € 1 increase in public R&D investment induces € 0.93 of additional private sector investment. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the attractiveness of collaborative research induces firms to invest more of their own funds.
International R&D projects enable participants to access a much wider pool of firms in their own industry than would be possible at purely national level. This mechanism offers clear advantages to enterprises compared with national level schemes. It broadens the scope of research, and allows for a division of work according to each participant’s field of specialization. It also considerably reduces the commercial risk, because involving key industry players helps ensure that research results and solutions are applicable globally, it enables the development of international standards and offers the potential for exploitation world-wide.
Improving Innovation Performance
Many projects lead to patents, pointing to an intention to exploit research results commercially. Firms that participate in collaborative research, irrespective of their size, tend to be more innovative than those that do not participate. Participating enterprises are also more likely to apply for patents than non-participants. A wide range of evaluation studies show that as a result of collaborative research program participation firms are able to realize increased turnover and profitability, enhanced productivity, improved market shares, access to new markets, reorientation of a company’s commercial strategy, enhanced competitiveness, enhanced reputation and image, and reduced commercial risks.
Results of econometric modeling further indicate that international collaborative research generates strong benefits for industry. A recent study in the UK used an econometric model developed at the OECD to predict international collaborative program effects on total factor productivity. It was found that such research generated a manifold return on the UK government’s investment in it.
MTP PROJECT FORMATION
Research and innovation projects are conducted under the Manufacturing Technology Platform (MTP) Program, developed to reduce or eliminate duplication in research. Through this innovative program, projects with overlapping research may easily join to find common solutions to manufacturing challenges in a simple and flexible way. To participate in an IMS MTP initiative (project), researchers identify where they can collaborate, briefly define the research to meet IMS requirements, and sign a simple Memorandum of Agreement to start their work in one of the established MTP platforms: sustainable manufacturing, energy efficiency, key technologies, standards and interoperability, and education and safety.
The MTP application process is both lean and effective –
- The proposed initiative must be related to manufacturing or process technologies.
- The initiative should address an ambitious issue with a critical mass, typically equivalent to a USD 1 million investment and a runtime of two or more years.
- A simple two-page description of the initiative must be submitted on a provided template.
- Companies or researchers from at least three IMS Regions must sign a Memorandum of Agreement to participate in the proposed initiative.
- IMS Regional Secretariats provide assistance throughout the process and the IRS markets the initiative proposal in all IMS Regions (of 30 countries) and on the web portal.
Support services for project formation are offered through IMS MTP project facilitator staff (coaches), available in every IMS Region, under the direction and assistance of each Regional Secretariat. These coaches provide assistance through partner search and other activities. They can also help interested researchers to find existing projects and facilitate networking. IMS also offers its new collaborative website designed as a work and meeting place for project participants to share information.
Five Manufacturing Technology Platforms
The established manufacturing technology platforms are focused in the areas of sustainability, energy efficiency, key technologies, standards, and education. IMS envisions that likely outcomes from this global program will be the stimulation of new collaborative R&D as well as creation of new networks and global-level recommendations on standards, skills, and policy.
Sustainable Manufacturing and Safety: Sustainable manufacturing is a platform for development of innovative manufacturing technologies that address world-wide resources shortages and excess environmental load to enable an environmentally benign life cycle. Measurement and assessment technologies and methodologies to ensure occupational safety including ergonomics, industrial disaster prevention, and mitigation and in particular safety of nanomaterials and related manufacturing processes are also addressed in this platform
Energy Efficiency: Energy efficient manufacturing is a platform for improving efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint in energy utilization for manufacturing and operational processes. The energy efficiency platform will result in reduced manufacturing costs and global warming impact.
Key Technologies: Key Technologies is a platform that includes those technologies that will yield a high impact on the next generation of manufacturing. These technologies include Model Based Enterprise, nanotechnology, smart materials, and innovative process and production technologies.
Standards and Interoperability: Standards is a platform that will focus on manufacturing research issues that can benefit from standardization to create open manufacturing and product standards that are accessible to everyone and enhance innovation globally. IMS involvement in standards would also focus on key areas where the lack of standards is impeding progress in any of the other MTP areas.
Education: Education is a platform for educational programs designed for an information based knowledge worker environment that supports manufacturing in the future. Research listed under this platform will contribute to the development of a coherent vision of manufacturing education across the whole vocational and professional community.