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Intersectoral Network for Innovation on Smart Thermal Solutions for Bicycle Helmets

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SmartHELMET (Intersectoral Network for Innovation on Smart Thermal Solutions for Bicycle Helmets)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-02-28

Bicycle helmets are a tremendously important asset against head injuries during accidents. However, their normal use is often associated with strong thermal discomfort due to the (thermally) insulating nature of the materials used in their structures. This directly affects the willingness to wear helmets, which has direct implications in terms of the risk the riders are exposed to. However, the capacity and expertise to improve the thermal performance of helmets exist on academic institutions (e.g. expertise in thermal physiology, monitoring of bio-responses, active cooling) but they lack a viable supply chain to go from prototypes to finished products, ready for exploitation. On the other hand, SMEs lack the technical skills and research facilities to perform R&D activities, to solve the mentioned problem. To solve this intersectoral problem, the SmartHELMET project created a sustainable ecosystem of collaboration and knowledge transfer between academic and industrial partners that developed the next generation of bicycle helmets with smart thermal management. The project’s innovative aspects in terms of new products, processes and applications were very significant, as the new knowledge has many potential applications in the development of other smart headgear products (e.g. motorcycle helmets, industrial protective headgear, sports related headgear, etc.) as well as smart products in other sectors where the thermal aspect is crucial (e.g. protective garments, sports clothing and footwear). To achieve its objectives, SmartHELMET put together research expertise and resources from three large academic partners (Porto University, KU Leuven and Strasbourg University) with market, commercialization and innovation experience from three SMEs (Biomechanical Solutions, Lazer Sports NV and Centre for Technology Research and Innovation) to exchange knowledge through intersectoral staff secondments. The project bridged research initiatives between the academic and industrial sectors, creating long-term cooperation between them, while raising society awareness about its implications for citizens.
All the planned activities for the first and second reporting periods has been accomplished, and the consortium has been worked smoothly together. During the first and second reporting periods of the project, several researchers have been seconded from one sector to another (i.e. between academia and industry, and vice-versa). The activities led by them made significant progress towards creating a solid network for intersectoral collaboration, by exploring the existing synergies between the partners. The Research and Training activities produced the expected results, developed the SmartHELMET prototype, a new generation of bicycle helmet with active thermal management, advanced the state of the art and engaged young researchers in science, as well as provided them with experience and expertise in several areas of knowledge where they had little/no previous experience (e.g. ESRs from industry, with more business-oriented skills, have learned about high-level research from an academia perspective, and had access to specialized approaches such as modelling and advanced design of protective equipment). In order to disseminate research findings, the partners have prepared 6 conference communications and 3 journal papers. We have also organised 6 public workshops, 6 public innovation events and 6 public outreach which focused on transfer of knowledge and expertise in technical and innovation-related aspects. Additionally, we have developed the project website (www.smarthelmetproject.eu),the project logo, created 8 SmartHELMET newsletters where we regularly uploaded information about the project activities, one video about the European Safety Standard EN1078 and four videos about the project activities widely disseminated in social media and the project website and/or UPORTO/SIMTECH Lab’s youtube channel, one SmartHELMET Executive summary, two popularization articles and multiple web activities. Furthermore, we have prepared presentations and/or lectures for the RISE Open Day event, the Summer-school course, and the event “fêtes de la science” in order to disseminate information to a wider audience. We also collaborated in a special issue on Human Health Engineering in the Journal of Applied Sciences as guest editor.
The SmartHELMET project generated a new prototype bicycle helmet, integrating the different components of the smart helmet system (electronics, sensing, hardware and software), which will be exploited through the business expertise of our SME partners. Additionally, SmartHELMET advanced the state of the art and potentiated innovation in the field of smart solutions for active management of helmets thermal performance. The knowledge generated gave a competitive advantage to the European SMEs involved, and offered significant benefits for the society as well: SmartHELMET will contribute to the improvement of bicycle rider safety, enhanced helmet acceptance and stimulated the use of the bicycle as an alternative means of transportation (e.g. for commuting), with obvious advantages in terms of pollution. It has also contributed to the establishment of long-lasting collaborations between academia and industry, increasing the transfer of knowledge between different organisations, helping translate the partners’ research and market/business expertise into innovative products.
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Researchers from one organisation travel to another
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Illustration of SmartHELMET components