As part of work package 4 Innovation Management and Virtualized Solutions Validation Services of the EU-CIP project, a questionnaire survey was developed by ICP (Inlecom Commercial Pathways) to assess the level of involvement of entities within the Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience (CIP/CIR) sector in commercialising developed solutions. The survey was distributed via the email list of the ECSCI group, the other projects within the same Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) call, namely the MultiRATE1, TRANSCEND2, and SEREN5 projects3, and other projects and entities engaged in CIP/CIR activities identified by the developers of the survey, as well as personal contacts.
The intention was for the questionnaire’s responses to help ICP identify the topics that needed to be covered in any training and support activities undertaken as part of the EU-CIP project. The survey itself was in two parts:
One of the issues covered by the survey dealt with barriers to commercialisation. The response to this question is shown in the figure below, where we note the most common issues concerned the lack of appropriate structures within the responders’ organisations that would support innovation and commercialisation, the lack of experience and training in commercialisation, a lack of qualified staff and team members (which would be related to the previous point), and a lack of finance. Regarding finance, it had been found in other questions in the survey that few responders had managed to secure funding for commercialisation actions, although most commented that they would be prepared to undertake such activities if such support was available.
When considering the barriers encountered by the responders, a range of answers were provided. With regards to regulatory barriers, those mentioned included the lack of a mandate or budget to make public bodies acquire such solutions, how regulated companies had no incentive to commercialise their developments, that for some organisations (such as government ministries) commercialisation and innovation were not part of their statutory activities, and issues surrounding interactions between EU and non-EU entities. Considering technical barriers, those mentioned involved the solutions or technology under development not being sufficiently mature to warrant commercialisation. Some of the other barriers involved a perception that there was a lack of priority given to CIP/CIR solutions in the budgets of critical infrastructures, that there was little “entrepreneurial spirit” within this sector owing to a fear of losing invested funds, that the actual development of innovative solutions and their use appears to be rather unstructured at the EU level, and that solutions under development are not “standalone” products, but frequently form part of a larger group of offerings.
Despite these barriers, several drivers for commercialisation activities were identified by the responders. These included a perception of a global security threat, where there are increased risks to critical infrastructure requiring a clear need to mitigate against them. For example, cyber-attacks on critical sectors are perceived to be becoming more sophisticated, targeting not only systems and technical vulnerabilities but also involving the use of social engineering to exploit people with insufficient technical background. These points imply anticipated business and market opportunities, especially considering the high costs (social and economic) of implementing traditional CIP solutions, which would act as a driver for the need to commercialise new and lower-cost solutions/technology/methods, while adding value in terms of co-benefits outside of the CIP/CIR sector. There is also simply an awareness that this is the right thing to do, although, a more structured focus and support (e.g., from the EU) would help. In addition, accompanying needs and gaps identified in education in terms of the provision of advanced skills, such as in artificial intelligence, would also be a driver in enhancing innovation and thus commercialisation, in this sector.
As mentioned, these points (and others covered by the survey) will be considered in ICP’s plans for training and support exercises for members of the ECSCI cluster, with the hope that such training will encourage these entities to consider and start commercialising their solutions. The survey4 itself is still active, and any further responses would be greatly appreciated (note, it will take only 5 to 10 minutes to complete).
Kevin Fleming, ICP, July 2023