EU project shows value of openness in research

After four years of research and development, the results from an EU project reveal that openness is successful. SMHI coordinated the project, which developed both information services and a virtual research lab. Now both customers and researchers are putting these open services to practical use. 

Fourteen commercial information services for better water management and contingency planning in Europe, as well as a virtual research lab with several published experiments – these are some of the results from the four-year EU project Switch-On that was coordinated by SMHI. The project has now been concluded, and 35 paying customers all over Europe have already discovered the value of these new services. More than 60 researchers from 16 countries have associations with the open lab.

“We launched the project in 2013 based on the EU directives and strategies that were then in place about open data. Four years is a long time, and about half way through the project the European Commission launched its new vision of the value of openness in the area of research and innovation. It fitted in perfectly with what we were doing, so we set ourselves a new goal of introducing the three Os in practice,” explains Berit Arheimer, head of the hydrological research unit at SMHI and coordinator of Switch-On.

The three Os in the European Commission’s vision refer to Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World.

Open, innovative science

At a rapid pace and with an agile work method, the 15 project partners from seven countries developed the 14 web-based services aimed at many different customer segments in the field of water. What they have in common is that the services support a safer, more sustainable society.

The project also developed a platform for open cooperation during the research process, a virtual water lab. This is a place where participants can cooperate and access each other’s experiments even before they are published, as well as checking each other’s work flows for published results. It is accelerating progress in the field of research and opening it up to examination.

“I’m really very proud of the way we actually succeeded in developing concrete examples of all of the Os, and that many of them seem to be surviving even now that the project has been completed,” says Berit Arheimer.

Small and medium-sized enterprises engaged

Within the project there has been cooperation with small and medium-sized enterprises all over Europe in order to commercialise the products. At the end of the project, all of the services have business plans, and ten of them already have paying customers in areas such as warning services, management of environmental cases, urban planning, irrigation, hydro power and tourism.

“The various product owners are now taking over the services. Hopefully the customer base is big enough to continue to drive developments and attract new customers for the companies even after the end of the project,” says Berit Arheimer.

The EU project Switch-On has been run within the EU’s seventh framework programme for development in research and technology, FP7. The project had a total budget of SEK 75 million.

Switch-On booth during Porto Water Innovation Week
During the Porto Water Innovation Week, the project Switch-On held its final conference. Then visitors could discuss with the product owners in the project's booth. Enlarge Image