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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VISUM (An IR-spectroscopy-based platform for the rapid integration and customisation of affordable, real-time monitoring solutions for the food and pharmaceutical industry)

VISUM Report Summary

Project ID: 684767

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VISUM (An IR-spectroscopy-based platform for the rapid integration and customisation of affordable, real-time monitoring solutions for the food and pharmaceutical industry)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2015-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

VISUM has received Phase 1 funding under the SME Instrument- NMP 25 – 2014/2015: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs. VISUM aims to develop and take to market an IR-spectroscopy-based platform for the rapid, easy integration and customisation of real-time monitoring systems for the food and pharmaceutical industries for improved process control, product quality and safety.

NIR is a non-destructive, reliable and accurate technique for monitoring chemical and physical parameters, whereby available fiberoptic probes has significantly improved the ability of NIR techniques to monitor and control processes especially using remote on/in line detection. While NIR is widely accepted as one of the most promising on/in-line process control techniques, a number of gaps are preventing its mainstreaming in industry, whereby typically NIR lab analysers are a) expensive, b) require time-consuming, costly and complex predictive models development and their further recalibration, c) generic systems do not properly fit to each particular product line or monitoring challenge and these mismatches are the source of major errors, d) on-line NIR optical interfaces are prone to biofouling and contamination which is a major limitation for accurate measurements and leads to high maintenance requirements.

The market reality is that there are a lack of players who are specialising in the development and customisation of fully integrated and customised in-process monitoring solutions and that can deal with the installation challenges that the technology is facing, such calibration of the optical device, addressing fouling, the influence of external factors affecting the system such as temperature, etc.; we tend to have instrument providers on the one side and manufacturers and processors on the other. So there is a clear ‘integration gap’. Industries willing to take the step to shift their laboratory analysis to the line (and this step involves an almost philosophical and cultural shift in the company, as opposed to merely a technological investment), cannot reasonably do so without a reliable integration, customisation and maintenance service that. A typical food or pharmaceutical manufacturer (irrespective of their size) will not be equipped with the in-house engineering and programming team to get NIR spectroscopy sensors reliably integrated and deployed in their processing lines. In fact, there is a general lack of availability of engineers and scientists with sufficient expertise working with spectroscopy. Consequently, companies that want to use NIR cannot find qualified people to help them do it.

The VISUM platform will overcome these limitations through its flexible hardware and software that will equip non-specialised engineers to perform the rapid, easy, and cost-effective integration of robust, bespoke solutions that are reliable and stable in manufacturing and processing environments. The VISUM® platform is based on an ‘integrated-by-design’ approach that has been born out of a mission to unblock the bottlenecks of the cost and complexity of integration of NIR-based solutions in the food and pharmaceutical industries, to enable improved product quality and safety, and improved process understanding and control for a first tier Process Analytical Technology (PAT) tool.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

With Phase 1 funding from the SME Instrument we have:
a) applied for a registered trademark for the VISUM brand and defined our brand positioning
b) secured the commitment of 4 first beta testing clients from the dairy, meat, olive oil and pharmaceutical sectors
c) defined the system specifications based on a kano survey of the beta testers and the implementation of the Quality Function Deployment process
d) performed a technical feasibility study on biofouling remediation technologies and defined the approach for going forward based on the results
e) drawn up a business plan and defined our IPR protection route
f) drawn up a work plan and costings for completing the VISUM development to product
g) participated in an Innovation diagnostic at Enterprise Ireland.
Thanks to the Phase 1 we have strengthened our knowledge of the market and the business opportunity, and we have a defined product spec with a clear market positioning. We are committed to completing the VISUM platform and our intention is to be market ready to launch the product at ACHEMA 2018 in Germany

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The final results of this project will be a completely disruptive NIR-based technology platform (VISUM®) that will be the world’s first NIR technology integration platform for enabling the cost-effective and ready customisation of robust and reliable real-time monitoring solutions and on-line quality control in a whole host of applications in the European and global food and pharmaceutical applications, as well as other manufacturing and process industries interested in real-time measurements of physical and chemical parameters during processing. The industry adoption of the platform will facilitate the transfer of applications that were formerly reserved for research-grade instruments to real-time, in-line monitoring and intelligent process control, enabling greater process efficiencies (and cost savings), higher quality products, reduce waste and environmental impact. In relation to the societal implications, VISUM®, as an enabler for in-process monitoring, will contribute to improved industrial competitiveness, job creation, prosperous regions, access to high quality, safe and affordable products - these are all benefits that are important for sustaining our quality of life as European citizens.

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