Carolina Sabbatini from 4Plays Italia interviews Marco Scandelin, Head of Grants and Strategic Partnerships in SoftJam.
Good morning Marco, thank you for this interview. We are moving in the field of Research and Development at SoftJam, and on the horizon, I see a prestigious and important project named Greener: can you tell me what it is about? Good morning to you, Carolina. Greener is SoftJam’s first European project and, proudly, I tell you that, among all, it is perhaps the one that best clarifies the ambitions we have, which is to increase our knowledge by raising the level of challenge in the application of technologies. It is a futuristic research project in the field of material engineering, more specifically we are talking about nanotechnologies, developed in an international context that sees the collaboration of eight partners, including one of Europe’s most important applied research centers, the Fraunhofer Institute. Greener thus represents an important step for a company that is growing in the innovative part and is doing more and more high-level research and development: after the experience we have gained in the regional and national context over the past years, today we present ourselves in front of an excellent interlocutor like Europe; certainly a great opportunity, to present SoftJam and its solutions but also to continue to enrich and improve our skills.
A great opportunity, the result of commitment and hard work, but also a testament to the passion that SoftJam puts into research and development activities: am I right? Absolutely, but I haven’t yet told you that we have a dual reason to be proud of Greener: the project is not only technically beautiful and advanced, it’s also beneficial for the planet. In fact, its purpose is to develop a revolutionary type of sensor capable of detecting pollutants in water, specifically hormones, even when they are present in very small quantities. To give you an example, one of the scenarios in which it will be tested is aquaponics, a totally eco-sustainable type of cultivation. We will use a cutting-edge technique to develop sensors that are increasingly accurate and versatile, with very high sensitivity.
Wow! And, in detail, what will SoftJam do in this ambitious project? In Greener, SoftJam will be responsible for developing an algorithm capable of recognizing the “energy signature” of a particular pollutant and determining its concentration in the water. To achieve this, the data arriving from laboratory machinery using the ‘traditional’ analysis technique will be compared with those collected with the portable device equipped with the new type of sensor that will be developed by our project partners. We will be a bit like detectives comparing the fingerprints of suspects to identify the culprit… of pollution in this case!
Truly fascinating… Indeed, but that’s not all: once consolidated, this technique will also be replicable on other substances, thus opening the possibility for new applications in various industrial sectors, such as the chemical industry, for example. Applications that could be of interest not only to the national market, of course.
What will it mean for SoftJam to go beyond the national borders of research? To put it better: do you think Greener could be the first step towards a series of international collaborations capable of expanding the scope, not just geographically, of the development of your technologies? Greener will be the business card that will allow SoftJam to accredit itself among companies capable of developing cutting-edge, technically advanced solutions, appealing to the markets. Today more than ever, we feel ready to take the big step, even more so at this time that sees SoftJam in great evolution.
What do you mean? The acquisition of SoftJam by Lutech is an incredible boost for future developments: the skills of SoftJam and Lutech are complementary, so by combining them we can enhance our market strength, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Sitting at the European table as a large company, in terms of size, resources, and turnover, opens up new opportunities: a synergy that will allow the development of the research and development area also thanks to a comparison on techniques, applications, and on the tools that can be integrated or implemented together.
So, after Europe… the world? We set no limits, although, while looking ahead to tomorrow, for the moment we remain focused on the here and now: Europe is an exceptionally important challenge for us who, thanks to the Greener project, are part of a group of partners managing research projects with very high innovation potential. To give you an idea of the scale of these kinds of projects, I can tell you that Greener was selected in a highly competitive call and will have a budget close to four million euros. I emphasize that it will be entirely financed by the European Commission, and this too is indicative of the importance and high potential of the technology we intend to realize.
What will be the exact role of SoftJam in this project and, most importantly, when will it start? SoftJam will be the leader of the Work Package dedicated to Data processing and AI algorithms development, and the project will start in January 2023, with an expected duration of about three years, at the end of which we aim to contribute so that the research can lead to the industrial production of these sensors, developed on a scientific basis.
One last question before we part ways, Marco: in your opinion, what was the characteristic of SoftJam that took it to Europe? What we might call its unique feature on the identity card… Good question, although difficult to answer. I could go back to talking about capacity and courage in the industrial strategy of this company that is eager to grow even more, but if you push me to identify a distinctive element of SoftJam that could have made the difference, I would answer: practicality. At SoftJam, we produce more substance than smoke! We have specific skills and are good at translating the most innovative projects into products.