Carbonsplash was conceived to showcase R&D results from the collaborative European project ENLIGHT (focussed on the development of CFRP – Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics materials and manufacturing technologies for high volume automotive parts). The Carbonsplash initiative integrates technologies from various innovative companies into an attractive water bike vehicle that catches the interest and imagination of consumers. Private companies working in the field of carbon fibre reinforced plastic materials, manufacturing technologies and advanced lightweight e-bikes join forces to showcase their innovations in a light-weight foldable carbon fibre water bike prototype. The participating companies invest some very limited cash (less than €5.000), as well their own resources (time, materials, machinery). The choice of the prototype was made following an initial market research, and was based on the attractiveness to the public, and the market potential of the application.
The main novelty of the approach is that it allows organisations with innovative technologies to apply and showcase them in an agile way, with a very low upfront investment, reaching a prototype stage that is then used to run a consumer crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising the substantial funds needed to initiate small series production. In this way, organisations can demonstrate their technologies and broaden their client-base at a very accessible cost, while creating a new profit-making venture.
STAGE 1: CONSORTIUM AND APPLICATION IDENTIFICATION
During this first stage, Bax & Company took the initiative of making an initial market research for the suitable application, which identified a gap in the market for “high-tech” water bikes. Following this, Bax & Company made the first preliminary conceptual designs, identified potential partners based on their innovations, and invited them to the consortium. The preliminary designs were made to satisfy the identified market needs for portability, speed, and appearance, i.e. the ability to fold the bike in a backpack (using inflatable floaters), reaching a max speed of 15km/h with the help of a small electric drivetrain, and making use of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) to keep the weight under 20kg.
STAGE 2: FROM CONCEPT TO PROTOTYPE
The second stage consists of confirming the interest of the partners, and dividing the manufacturing of the prototype parts to the different partners based on the capabilities and strengths of their technologies. For example, one company is assigned the manufacturing of small complex parts with their CFRP 3D printing technology, another company produces the beam like components while a third one focusses on the shell type components. The different partners are producing the parts in their facilities, and will ship them to one central location for final assembly.
STAGE 3: MARKET UPTAKE CHECK
This stage includes activities for showcasing/promoting, and checking market demand for the water bike. The first official showcase will happen at an open event in the port of Barcelona, where the prototype will be tested in water in public for the first time with the aim of attracting attention from potential users. Several local media will be invited, and a video will be made, to promote the product. Additionally, the prototype will be exhibited at appropriate events and trade-fairs (e.g. JEC Europe, Composites Europe), that will allow the partners to showcase the capabilities of their materials and manufacturing technologies, which could potentially generate new clients in other sectors (e.g. automotive). In parallel, a crowdfunding campaign will be launched on the Indiegogo platform, providing the possibility for 200 people to acquire a beta version of the prototype. This will serve as both, a way to check market demand for the water bike, and to generate part of the necessary capital for upscaling production capabilities.
STAGE 4: INCORPORATION AND INDUSTRIALIZATION
If the previous stage demonstrates that there is a market demand for the Carbonsplash water e-bike then the detailed business model will be developed, and a separate legal entity will be set up, involving all the partners. This model should be developed to best fit the interests of all founding organizations.
Additional water bikes will be sold to rental companies to further promote the product, and assess user satisfaction. In parallel, the partners will scale-up their production capacities (exploring the possibility of a joint venture) to prepare for market demand. Marketing activities will be carried out, such as targeted promotion in social media, water-sports enthusiasts’ media, etc.
TOUCHPOINT 1: INITIAL AGREEMENT
This touchpoint involves the initial contact with the potential partners. The interactions include face-to-face meetings, phone calls and email communications. The main difficulty in this interaction is that since the approach is completely new, companies have difficulty to assess the costs and the benefits of joining this initial prototyping step.
TOUCHPOINT 2: PROTOTYPING
This touchpoint refers to the interaction of all partners in manufacturing and assembling the parts of the prototype. Interactions will include: group and bilateral teleconferences between partners and the coordinator, workshops and meetings. The main difficulty will be to coordinate the remote manufacturing of parts which should be assembled together and maintain all partners on the same page, something very important to build a functional prototype.
TOUCHPOINT 3: CROWD-FUNDING CAMPAIGN
This touchpoint refers to the interaction of the consortium with the public through the crowd-funding platform. The online campaign will be planned and launched, and subsequently the consortium will need to follow-up, and answer any questions that might arise from the community. It is very important that the campaign is well planned, the promotional materials (videos, pictures) show the attractiveness of the water bike, and that the backing packages are appealing.
TOUCHPOINT 4: MEDIA
The interactions with media will include the press coverage at the initial showcasing at the Port of Barcelona and subsequent showcasing at relevant events, and press releases. In these interactions, it is important to shape the message according to the audience of the specific medium. For example, in communications through public media, the attributes of the water bike that are appealing to consumers will be emphasised, while in industry specific media such as NetComposites, CompositesWorld, the innovations of the new technologies will be emphasised.
The main success factors include the positive perception of the initial water bike concept from the public and potential users, the willingness of participating companies to invest initially out of their own resources, and lean and agile overall coordination of the project by an entity who has both the technology, as well as the market knowledge to push it forward.
The main barriers to overcome include getting on-board a “critical mass” of business partners willing to collaborate and build the prototype, remote collaboration with companies in different countries, and striking a good balance between what the partners are asked to invest, and what they get in return.
B2B crowd-sourcing a physical prototype is a new way to promote R&D&i results. This new approach facilitates exploitation of results and enhances visibility of new technologies that are difficult to show to a wider audience in an attractive way. Showcasing technologies in a “cool” prototype can also raise the interest of society to further support and promote scientific research. In addition, establishing a collaboration of at least 10 partners decreases the initial investment necessary to build the prototype. This model, together with existing consumer crowd-funding platforms, offers an opportunity to raise funding in a non-traditional way as well as to validate market interest in the product.
- Look at new funding sources.
- Aim for standardization of deals.
- Assess market interest.
- Consider all partners’ interests.
- Make sure the prototype is appealing.
- Underestimate the time needed to find the partners for the collaboration.
- Focus only on the technology, do make sure the prototype is appealing for society and the media.