Launch of EXPLORE project demonstrates benefits of academia and industrial collaboration
November 12, 2020

Launch of EXPLORE project demonstrates benefits of academia and industrial collaboration

In this guest post, Jeronimo Bernard-Salas of ACRI-ST introduces the EXPLORE project and explains the mutual benefits of industry-academia collaboration.

Academics often ask why they should collaborate with industry and vice versa. However, there are many advantages, opportunities and synergies that come out of academic and industrial collaboration.

Firstly, these collaborations can help identify and exploit the financial value of research. Companies are more product-orientated and are closer to the market, so they are well-suited to understand how researchers can valorise their work to increase the impact of research and innovation investment. These insights can in turn enable researchers to write better impact cases in their funding proposals, so they have more chances of success in future bids. 

In addition, industrial collaboration can lead to new avenues of funding for academics. There are many calls now that are specifically targeted at industry-academic collaborations and others where they are clearly encouraged.

Participating in one collaborative project can also lead to other opportunities. ACRI-ST is part of the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), participating in the machine learning work package as well as the industry task to promote collaboration between industry and academia.

When we joined Europlanet, we thought that the best way to highlight the industry academic collaborations was to lead by example. ACRI-ST coordinated a proposal that has resulted in a success story with the EXPLORE project, launched this week. EXPLORE is a 2 million Euro project funded by the European Commission through the Leadership in Enabling Industrial Technology (LEIT) and Space programme in Horizon 2020. The project has eight beneficiaries, four of which are from Europlanet 2024 RI. Thus, being part of Europlanet 2024 RI facilitated putting the EXPLORE consortium together

EXPLORE’s main objective is to deploy machine learning and advanced visualization tools to achieve efficient, user-friendly exploitation of scientific data for astrophysics and planetary science. We will do this by developing six science applications related to lunar exploration as well as on Gaia galactic and stellar science. EXPLORE sits between data collection from space and ground segments, and the provision of these science data products to the science archives on cloud platforms. This example of an industry-academic collaboration that brings together different expertise, knowledge and backgrounds was very positively reviewed by the evaluators of the proposal. 

From an industrial perspective, ACRI-ST and companies with similar backgrounds can see that the era of big data is transforming the way of how scientists approach their research and how data is analysed. New missions and facilities are generating a lot of data that are becoming too large and complex for local analysis. These advances in observations require equal advances in data management, analysis, tools and cloud computing.  It’s in this spirit that ACRI-ST and other companies can provide services in different areas related to these new developments, for example, providing the support or data processing for mission facilities and ground segment services for new space, developing scientific data applications and automatic exploitation platforms.

Companies may also support research in other ways, for instance by funding or co-funding PhD students.

Finally, not everyone can get an academic job. If academics work more with industry, the transition for researchers who need to find a job in industry will be much easier. The skills that are required to become a successful scientist are very similar to those that are required to be successful in industry. It’s a really important message for early career researchers that there are many opportunities in industry and there are many different kinds of jobs, so if they can find what they like or what they’re good at, it’s possible to make the transition.

Find out more about EXPLORE at:

Innovative Scientific Data Exploration and Exploitation Applications for Space Sciences (EXPLORE) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214. 

About Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies

Aiming at new and breakthrough technologies, this part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme contributes to boosting competitiveness, creating jobs and supporting growth.

The emphasis is on areas of research and innovation with a strong industrial dimension and where mastering new technological opportunities will enable and drive innovation. The objective is to achieve the EU Industrial policy goals, which represents an important component of the EU Strategyfor Key Enabling Technologies (KET).

The emphasis for Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) actions will be on:

  • Research and innovation to strengthen Europe’s industrial capacities and business perspectives, including SMEs
  • Public-private partnerships (PPPs)
  • Cross-cutting KETs
  • Seizing the ICT opportunities
  • Contributions to solving Societal Challenges and to Focus Areas
  • Cross-cutting aspects, like international cooperation and responsible research and innovation.

The involvement of industrial participants, and of SMEs in particular, is crucial in maximising the expected impact of the actions.

More details about the LEIT funding calls