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Building an Ecosystem for the up-scaling of lightweight multi-functional concrete and ceramic materials and structures

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LightCoce (Building an Ecosystem for the up-scaling of lightweight multi-functional concrete and ceramic materials and structures)

Période du rapport: 2020-07-01 au 2021-06-30

During the last decades a trend towards the use of lightweight materials in constructions and infrastructures, as well as for the aerospace, automotive and defence industry is observed. Lightweight durable components are easy to transport, handle and install and demand less operational energy reducing substantially their environmental footprint, as well as the relative costs. Among other materials, concrete and ceramics are on the focus of interest due to their wide range of applications and their durability. Based on end applications lightweight attributes must be coupled with enhanced properties and multifunctionalities, such as high wear and mechanical strength, self-sensing, self-cleaning properties, which can be achieved with the addition of nanoparticles (NPs) to formulations. Lightweight and nano-enabled materials represent today a growing market covering different sectors. Europe is leading research efforts in this domain with several RTDs and high-tech SMEs engaged in fine tuning formulations, solving several technological bottlenecks and manufacturing new products. Although, various open innovation platforms exist in domains such as Digital Innovation Hubs, when it comes to material science, the connection and distributed exploitation of Pilot Lines (PLs) suffer due to several barriers. Pilots are bulky and expensive facilities, which in most of the cases require upgrades to be modular and flexible in application, validating new processing techniques while optimising process parameters, from uniform dispersion and distribution of nano-particles within the materials to the association of dissimilar materials. There is also a local dimension and cultural barriers associated with the fact that most of the users are SMEs. For this reasons, although various new technologies related to lightweight concrete and ceramics have been developed, the majority of these efforts remain on a lab or in restricted pilot level with limited exploitation capacity for further industrialization due to a number of reasons.
The main objective of the LightCoce project is to cover the gap in the upscaling and testing of multifunctional lightweight concrete and ceramic materials by providing open access to SMEs and Industry to Pilot Lines (PLs) through a one stop shop ecosystem consisting of upgraded Pilot Lines (including three clusters of PLs; Concrete, Conventional Ceramics and Advanced Ceramics), characterisation & testing facilities, process modelling, quality assurance and monitoring, and standardisation, safety and innovation management services that will be accessible to the clients at fair conditions and cost. The ecosystem will be reached from customers through a single-entry point.
The value proposition of LightCoce is based on four main elements of high value for business and in particular SMEs, namely access to Pilot Lines and associated technology and competence (including IP and talents), access to network, access to finance and access to international markets. In this framework, the overall objective of LightCoce is to create the European wide reference network of PLs for the development, expertise, technology validation facilities and transfer services to industry and SMEs for advanced materials applications ranging from constructions materials, and infrastructures, to high tech applications in automotive and aerospace industry.
Several challenges of the targeted markets are difficult to be cost-effectively addressed without advanced materials, taking into account also the lightweight and durability dimensions and the disruption to business. The validation of viable solutions in full scale within the project will allow to set-up effective demonstrators which are key in conservative sectors. This will create awareness in industry and society and will initiate a virtuous loop which may ultimately trigger market take-up.
The effort achieved from the beginning of the project until the end of the second reporting period was focused on the the setup of the ecosystem groups (which included the upgrading of the pilot lines, along with the integration of monitoring and quality control systems), the fine-tuning of the cross-sectorial services, and the initiation of the ecosystem's validation, through the launching of the 8 selected Test Cases. Especially during the second reporting period, intensive effort was carried towards the setup of the legal entity to run the LightCoce ecosystem; the form of the legal entity was finalized (in the form of spin-off), and the statute and constitution of the partners was finalized. Additionally, the criteria, content and evaluation procedure for the open call were developed and the open call was launched, through the single-entry point platform to be easily accessed by the ecosystem clients that was developed.
Along with the the work that has been initiated by the Pilot Lines for the 8 selected Test Cases, all other complementary services have began, supporting the upscaling activities.
With respect to the progress beyond the state of the art, most advancements determined are expected to be achieved once the LightCoce ecosystem is established and operating. The major advancement during the second reporting period has been achieved with regards to the setup of the Single Entry Point to operate the LightCoce ecosystem and the development of the single-entry point platform to be easily accessed by the ecosystem clients.

Once the LightCoce ecosystem is established and ready to operate, it is expected to have the following impacts:
- Open and upgraded facilities at the EU level for the design, development, testing, safety assessment, and upscaling of lightweight, nano-enabled and multifunctional materials and components, easily accessible to users
- Attract a significant number of new SME users, with at least a 20% increase for existing test beds
- Increased access to finance for investing in these materials or in applications
- Improved industrial process parameters and faster verification of materials performance for highly promising applications
- improvement in industrial productivity, reliability, environmental performance, durability, and reduction of life-cycle costs of these materials
- Indirect reduction in energy consumption across sectors using lighter materials in their products and processes
The second reporting period focused on the setup of the SEP, while validation phase has been initiated through the 8 selected test cases and the launching of the open call for the additional test cases to access the LightCoce ecosystem.
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