Back in 2006 when I visited the European Commission Conference From RFID to the Internet of Things, I didn’t fully appreciate the potential of an idea that was born during this two-day meeting. The smartphone as we know it today had not yet been invented – we called it “the device formerly known as the mobile phone.” The consumer electronics and telco industries have a history of reinventing themselves that goes back 25 years. But as the mobile communications market was driven in turn by voice, data, media, and sensors, the industries themselves have evolved into a global supply chain network.

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Former and new trends vs. mobile / smartphones worldwide

It was in 2006 that Europe also began thinking about the “next next” after the mobile phone. The driving vision went beyond making mobile phones smart – all systems, machines, and objects had to become smart and connected. Now in 2014, the European Commission has launched a new joint technology initiative known as Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) to enhance Europe’s electronics design and manufacturing capabilities. The aim of the initiative is to provide Europe with a unified approach for developing the innovative new products, systems, and services essential for a smart, sustainable, and connected European society in the year 2020.

ECSEL is a four-billion-euro initiative (public-private partnership) aimed at establishing the European Union as a global player in electronics. ECSEL partners include the European Commission, EU member states, and associated countries belonging to the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. Three private industrial associations (EPoSS, AENEAS, and ARTEMISIA) that represent stakeholders in micro-/nanoelectronics, smart integrated systems, and embedded/cyber-physical systems are also partners in ECSEL.

Whereas in the past communication has been a horizontal market driven by voice, data, media, and sensors, ECSEL will target the new growing vertical markets driven by societal challenges and application areas such as mobility, energy, health, and production.

Many European companies active in the field of electronics have recently undergone restructuring. For such companies, SMEs, and startups, ECSEL is an opportunity to form new alliances and partnerships. Bringing together embedded software solutions, semiconductor processes, and smart systems integration, ECSEL covers the entire added value chain to address the new vertical markets. In doing so, ECSEL supports the transformation of the European electronics industry into a network of system suppliers (R&D, innovation activities, and pilot lines) for the emerging IoT market. Two ECSEL calls for proposals are scheduled for 2014 and 2015 – Research and Innovation Actions (TRLs 1-4 ) and Innovation Actions (TRLs 5-7). Since they target the launch of new products, “innovation actions” are a very promising way for companies such as Bosch to bridge what’s being called the “valley of death” in product innovation.

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ECSEL applications and capabilities adapted from Adopting the ECSEL Multiannual Strategic Plan

 

Take smart mobility, for instance, which is driven by the need to reduce CO2 emissions and congestion, improve air quality, offer sustainable mobility for older generations, and move toward accident-free driving. Since future mobility applications are bound to shift requirements, what’s needed is a smart combination of sensors and actuators. Mobility has to be based on autonomous sub-systems. Automotive actuators will have to be self-sufficient in terms of their energy supply and communication. A self-driving car, for instance, must be able to maneuver itself to safety even if it has lost engine power. Experience in smart system integration is an important asset when designing this new kind of hybrid system.

Bosch engineers have brought highly automated driving to the German Autobahn. Test drives in everyday driving situations help to put functions to the test and to improve them. The safety concept worked up for the test campaign was tested and approved by TÜV Süd.

Bosch engineers have brought highly automated driving to the German Autobahn. Test drives in everyday driving situations help to put functions to the test and to improve them. The safety concept worked up for the test campaign was tested and approved by TÜV Süd.

Google’s acquisition of the Nest company is enough to highlight the importance of smart energy for anyone: electronic components and systems are key enablers for raising efficiency and for the smart use of energy along the whole energy value chain – from generation to distribution and consumption. Smart homes and smart grids are business opportunities with a future. Integrating electronic systems into buildings presents the challenge of making these systems reliable.

ECSEL will provide this new market with a new framework for creating technical solutions for Europe and beyond. A key part of this will be leveraging the “innovation action” approach to speed up the introduction of new products. With my many years of experience in the electronics field, it is amazing to watch as Europe progresses from having a market that is driven by solid consumer goods, to having a new electronics market that targets societal challenges and applications. By adopting the recently introduced Innovation Actions (e.g. pilot lines) approach, we might see a positive result – without it taking eight years this time.

Do you want to be a part of it?

Then hurry up – Call1 ends September 17, 2014. And the 2015 ECSEL calls are not far off either!

About The Author

Andreas Schaller

Dr. Andreas Schaller joined Robert Bosch’s Automotive Electronics Division in 2011 working in Technology Management. In 2009 he founded ASC - Technology Consulting to support the European businesses in getting active in the Internet of Things. He previously worked for Motorola Labs, Germany, managing the Motorola Labs research area ‘Short Range RF Communications’ in Europe. Andreas received a PhD in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

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