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Suppliers Portal to Research and Innovation in Transport

Final Report Summary - SPRINT (Suppliers Portal to Research and Innovation in Transport)

The automotive sector is one of the most important industries in the Romanian economy. Established in the years of communism, this huge manufacturing sector needed an appropriate supplying industry which was also created under the planned system. After 1989, the Romanian automotive manufacturing sector was faced with the realities of the market economy.

Against this background, the 'Suppliers portal to research and innovation in transport' (Sprint) project undertook the following mission:
- to help Romanian automotive suppliers enhance their research activities in order to develop new products in accordance to the demand of the manufacturers and of the European standards regarding environment, quality and safety;
- to link the Romanian automotive suppliers to the state of art regarding research results achieved at EU level;
- to raise the degree of awareness and knowledge regarding the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), and
- to help Romanian automotive suppliers (mostly SMEs) better participate to European research projects;
- to facilitate the collaboration in research between ACC countries in order to reduce the costs of implementing EU standards regarding quality, safety and environment protection in the transport field.

Concrete objectives of the Sprint were:

- the creation of a high quality innovative network of suppliers for the automotive industry;
- the creation of several research nuclei, which would approach current hot research issues in the automotive field, as defined within the 6th thematic priority;
- the organisation of a series of regional workshops in order to raise awareness about already achieved research results on European level and of the FP6 Programme in general;
- the organisation of a South East European Conference in order to enhance international research cooperation of the suppliers.

In order to establish a high quality innovative network of automotive suppliers, a very thorough preparation work had to be done. 191 entities representing automotive suppliers (115), research laboratories (26), universities and departments in universities (46) and research institutes (4) have been asked to fill in a very comprehensive questionnaire regarding their products, technologies used, quality systems implemented R&D capacities, R&D expenditures, human resources etc. To give only a few examples of the results only 18 % of the suppliers in question allocate more than 2 % of the turnover for R&D, but all suppliers have an ISO 9001 system implemented. 63 % of the suppliers have recently developed new products for Dacia-Renault, 37 % for Daewoo and 26 % for other car manufacturers. As a response, 50 organisations entered as founding members of the Sprint network: 30 suppliers - members of Acarom, 5 suppliers - non-members of Acarom, 2 research institutes, 11 testing laboratories and 12 universities or university departments. By the end of the project the network number as many as 80 members, i.e. an increase of 60 %.

A fine tuning questionnaire followed the launching workshop (March 2006) in order to better establish the wishes and needs the members expect the Sprint network to fulfil. Accordingly, a network concept was developed. The network would mainly have three functions: information regarding offer and demand of products, technologies, partners, available production capacities and equipment; collaboration in the field of R&D mainly by means of the research nuclei; building up of consortia for common projects.

Regarding the research nuclei, six such informal association have already been established on topics like: new materials, experimental studies for the improvement of the automotive components, design of new cars / car components, fabrication support, new technologies, fabrication systems. The Nuclei have already started to function. As a result we can account for three successful projects submitted, approved and under finance within the frame of the Romanian National Program for Excellence in Research with a total value of over EUR 1 million as well as other over 20 project ideas waiting in pipeline for the appropriate financing opportunity.

After the kick off meeting of the network (June 2006) and based on the members' profiles followed the designing of the web portal, the major tool of the Sprint network. The actual designing of the web portal was outsourced to a specialised company. The portal was officially launched on the 1st of September 2006. The portal contains a public area where general information about the Sprint project, events and useful links are available as well as a member area where members' profiles are available. Offer and demand of products, technologies, and partnership requests can be found and used by the members. The Sprint network is open for new members and the registration is free of charge.

The networking effort was ensured not only by means of the portal but also through a number of visits done by the Sprint team to selected enterprises in regions as well as via a series of workshops held in cities like Bucharest (Open Forum for Technology Transfer and Innovation), Pitesti, Timisoara and Cluj, each of them placing a strong emphasis on the opportunities offered by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The integration of the network from a broader European perspective was endured by the participation to several automotive conferences in Prague, Brussels, and Dresden as well as by the organisation in June 2007 of the South East European Conference in Pitesti. Representative of the automotive sector from Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania as well as the big car manufacturer Renault discussed together on actions to be undertaken in order to assure a better cooperation between emerging automotive clusters in SEE in order to avoid fragmentation in research and better integrate into the European market.