The following is an excerpt.
SFI CASA has established its very first commercial spinoff. The company is called «Enodo» and it will sell data, services and solutions for the modelling of materials exposed to extreme loadings.
Enodo is Latin and means to enlighten or analyse something or simply to untie a knot.
«We will evolve routines that able us to deliver our products quickly at competitive costs. Preferably, we should deliver both faster and at more attractive prices than our competitors», says Jens Kristian Holmen, one of six researchers from SIMLab and SFI CASA that now join the ranks of entrepreneurs.
Offspring from FORNY2020 project
The company´s customers will be in SFI CASA’s core areas: transportation sector, industry, oil, gas sectors and physical infrastructure security. The business idea is to offer high-quality material data combined with expertise in the modelling of materials. The product is material cards, which describe how different materials react to impact and extreme loadings. The specific customers will be in the material and production sectors, and also industry that requires advanced simulations. They all have one common requirement; reliable material cards to simulate, calculate, design and evolve their products.
It all started with the Research Council of Norway’s FORNY2020 programme. The driver behind the programme is to use publicly funded research to lead to more innovation in Norwegian industry. SFI CASA is running the Matcards project which is funded until the end of 2019. The project is about transferring knowledge to industry in the best way possible.
Matcards led to the spinoff company Enodo. NTNU Technology Transfer (TTO) has played a major role in Matcards.
Leaning on SIMLab´s research
One Monday, early in October, the entrepreneurs arrived in the TTO office for the final formalities. The end-wall of the conference room is decorated with a huge poster. It shows TTO´s management gravely overlooking the room and a message in capital letters: «Dedicated. For Action». At the end of the table there was a custom-made cake with the Enodo logo. Formation documents, shareholder- and licence agreements were signed, the slices of cake were passed around. At that moment, SFI CASA´s first spinoff became a reality.
«Now it is time to build a solid foundation for the company», states Jens Kristian Holmen. His co-partner Joakim Johnsen adds:
«We will use the experience that has been built up through many years in SIMLab and SFI CASA. Enodo will be a connecting link between the academic research in the Centre and industry».
Quicker, more efficient and more reasonable
Magnus Langseth, CEO in SFI CASA and fresh shareholder in Enodo states that «The FORNY2020 project has made the utility-value of our own research clear to us. Industry is supportive. For many of us, this process has been long, but it has been great value».
Karl Vincent Høiseth who is the Head of Department for Structural Engineering at NTNU, says that he is impressed and proud of SFI CASA:
«This is the ultimate attainment of an objective for a Centre for Research-based Innovation. Also, the FORNY2020 project is in itself an acknowledgement. It means that decision-makers have confidence in what CASA does».
Reply to the challenges
Oddbjørn Rødsten, the TTO project manager says that in many ways Enodo answers the challenges faced by CASA and other Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI):
The industrial partners can see that the research findings are interesting and useful. The problem is that industry often lacks the resources to transfer these findings into innovation. At the same time this the most important success criterion for an SFI.
Refrain from secretiveness
Enodo is heading for a market where competition is tough. Some of the material cards that are offered today are based on models with a high degree of secretiveness. According to Rødsten, this lack of transparency could affect customers’ confidence.
Enodo wants to make the most of this. Jens Kristian Holmen says that the company will be more open and pragmatic:
«Our customers will not only be offered high quality and accurate data. They will also be given insight in how the modelling of the materials is done. Matcards is an offspring from world-leading research. On the other hand, customers want products that are reliable, easy to handle and easy to understand».
Automotive industry upfront
Car-manufacturers have been using material cards longer than any other actors in the market. A new model consists of 300-500 different materials. Material cards are of special importance for components that have to do with safety: bumpers, bumper zones, joints and so on.
«This is exactly the special expertise of SIMLab and SFI CASA. We also believe that glass and polymers could be market areas of interest for us», adds Oddbjørn Rødsten.
Good response from possible customers
Through FORNY2020 Matcards runs pilot projects with Audi, Hydro and Dynamore Nordic. They follow the recipe of SIMLab: steel and aluminium alloys are subjected to different loads, physical tests are modelled and analysed, then the data ends up in new material cards.
Irrespective of whether it is car manufacturers, producers of special alloys or software companies. The customers are all focused on strengthening their positions in their respective markets. According to Rødsten there are also a couple of other big players who are showing interest in the tools and services from Enodo.
Shorter time of delivery – at lower costs
The project manager lists three challenges that have to be solved in the near future:
- Evolve a good workflow, so that material cards are produced quickly and in the most cost-efficient way
- Build up strategic partnership with pilot customers
- Develop business-models that fit the needs of different groups of customers.
He underlines that innovation occurs in partnership with industry and that they are dealing with demanding customers. «This is not research performed in a vacuum. It is research tuned in with clearly articulated needs».
Able to grow without external finance
Enodo is about to meet a large and mature market. Potential customers are knocking on their door. Rødsten believes Enodo might manage without investor or other external capital before they are up and running.
Jens Kristian Holmen expects to see the first revenues and a fully operative company towards the end of 2019. Nevertheless, he is down-to-earth. Most importantly he underlines that, in spite of interest from some large industrial players, no obligations have been made.
Frode Iglebæk is chairman of the Enodo board. He is a partner of Impello Management AS and has lengthy experience from project financing and the commercialization of R&D- and technology-based business concepts.