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Developing a multispectral volume scattering meter for measuring the optical properties of sea andocean water

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SCATMET (Developing a multispectral volume scattering meter for measuring the optical properties of sea andocean water)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2015-07-31

Angular distributions of scattered light, which are described by the volume scattering function (VSF), are the least known inherent optical properties (IOPs) of seawater. This is because there is currently no commercially available instrument commonly used for such measurements. In particular, little is known about the spectral variability of the VSF.

The objective of Interspectrum’s innovation project is to devise a new type of spectrometer for measuring the VSF in aquatic environments – initially in seas and oceans, but later also in other bodies of water. As the VSF is a fundamental IOP of the aquatic environment, the multispectral volume scattering meter (MVSM) developed by Interspectrum will be of interest to virtually all private and public organizations that gather, analyze and utilize information related to sea and ocean environments.

The innovation project addresses a significant market gap as the new MVSM allows obtaining more accurate information about marine and ocean environments as well as the life that they support. The instrument thereby supports a better understanding of how to use the resources available in aquatic ecosystems in a sustainable way. The proposed instrument has several advantages compared to its competitors, allowing measuring the VSF more precisely in a wider range of angles and providing invaluable high-quality measurement data relevant for a large number of application areas. The economic advantages for end-users are primarily related to getting more comprehensive, precise and accurate information with less time and resources.

The main objective of Phase 1 was to verify the technological and economic viability of the MVSM, including identifying any bottlenecks and planning the respective measures to increase its commercialization potential as well as to elaborate a sound business plan as a basis for carrying out the innovation project. The specific objectives of the feasibility study were the following:
•establishing adequate information about the market addressed;
•developing an updated product description as an input for advanced prototype development;
•preparing a detailed plan for implementation of the innovation project;
•establishing additional contacts and building operational working relationships with potential partners.
The reporting period was divided into four main activity lines corresponding to the four specific objectives:
•market information (incl. market analysis, customer analysis and competition analysis);
•updated product description (incl. technical, design and usability specifications);
•implementation plan (incl. prototyping, piloting, roadmap development, budget planning, risk assessment and IP management);
•partners and collaboration (incl. additional partner search and analyzing conditions for cooperation).

Interspectrum now has a clear understanding and overview of the market opportunities and trends, customer needs and competitive products as well as technical, design and usability improvements and is able to manage all the potential barriers and risks in taking the product to the commercialization phase. This in-depth information was obtained through desk research and a customer survey and enabled to provide valuable input into elaborating the implementation plan and fine-tuning the overall business plan. The six-month time range also included establishing and diversifying the customer and partner base, which will further improve the viability and dissemination of the product.

The feasibility study revealed that the new MVSM has high commercial potential. Firstly, the optical spectroscopy market has a strong growth trend, especially in light of increasing environmental concerns and demand for specialized applications. Secondly, spectral VSF is the last unknown IOP of seawater, thus indicating good traction for products that fill in this gap. Thirdly, despite some strong large manufacturers, no-one has succeeded in developing a commercially available product for measuring VSF in full hemispheric angles. Fourthly, the customer survey reveals considerable end-user interest with many new contacts established. All in all, it can be said that the new MVSM meets all the key technological (ability to be deployed in-situ, wide spectral range, full hemispheric angles etc.) and commercial preconditions (user needs and interest, market gaps, competitive advantages etc.), but more effort has to be put into advanced prototyping, testing/piloting and market replication/uptake activities that would result in successfully commercializing the product.
In line with the blue growth agenda, Interspectrum proceeds from the idea that seas and oceans hold a great potential for innovation and thus also for the European economy and employment. Once commercialized, the spectrometer will yield more information about seas and oceans along with the life these environments support, enabling a better understanding of how to use the resources available in aquatic environments in a sustainable way. As such, Interspectrum seeks to bring a new product to the market while promoting its internationalization potential through shaping a thorough understanding of the seas and oceans that largely determines how effectively they will be managed.

Being able to analyze and make sound conclusions about aquatic environments has certain preconditions related to the fundamentals of optical oceanography and to the understanding of how various constituents of the aquatic medium determine the variability in inherent optical properties (IOPs). Until now, commercially available instruments have not been able to fully address one of the fundamental IOPs, the volume scattering function (VSF). This function, in essence, describes how the medium scatters light, which is highly relevant in the context of e.g. climate analyses, energy balance assessment and remote sensing. Interspectrum will offer a new instrument for measuring the VSF in sea and ocean water that features both considerably enhanced technical functionality and usability.

The device will contribute to developing methods for analyzing and forecasting the state of oceans and seas (along with environmental impact assessment, sustainable management of marine resources, national defense etc.), modelling and predicting the stability/changes in their ecosystems with the aim of devising new applications in the marine environment protection and management, and investigating the physical and biochemical processes of aquatic environments in a systematic and organized way. As such, the proposed instrument fills in a significant gap in a constantly growing and highly technical market, making it possible to explore and measure the sea and ocean environments in greater detail than before, thus allowing for more effective and faster analyses, better-informed marine action-planning as well as simultaneous reduction of costs.