Interview of Ramon Jane, WP7 leader

Ramon Jane recently joins NEDGIA, the Distribution System Operator (DSO) for gas networks in the Naturgy Energy Group as Business Development Manager.

Dear Ramon, can you please describe your functions at Naturgy and your role in EnSO?

Ramon Jane: My former position was at Corporative Technology Division where I was in charge of European and National Programmes and Grants for all business/activity areas. Naturgy was invited to participate in the EnSO proposal in 2015 when I played this position and my role as WP leader of Dissemination and Exploitation was to encourage partners to contribute actively in both fields and coordinate actions.

First, before we go directly into your work, can you tell me a bit about yourself, the city where you live, where you work…

RJ: I was born in Tarragona, a beautiful and ancient city founded by the Romans towards the year 2018 a. C. in the framework of the second Punic war. What began as a settlement of the troops led by Cneo Escipión eventually became the main Roman military base in Hispania and, later, in the city of Tarraco. If some Roman emperors as Augusto chose Tarraco to live, it is because it is one of the best cities in the Mediterranean to live,  but I had to go to Barcelona to study telecommunications engineering and my work path and life already developed in this well-known and touristic city that is not bad either….. I have three lovely children, a wife with whom I “fight” often, and I love to enjoy nature, for example walking, traveling as much as possible to learn of people and cultures, but also enjoying books and music at home.

How would you describe living in your area? What areas of interest do you recommend?

RJ: As I said I live in Barcelona but since this city is already quite famous, I prefer to talk about Tarragona that is only 90 km south. If I recommend this archaeological city, it is not just because its recognition as Unesco's World Heritage and its legacy of Roman times but because I think the city and its surroundings are of great interest for other reasons.

Tarraco was extremely important in the development of the Roman Empire's town planning, as it was the model to be copied by other provincial capitals in the empire. Among the Roman remains that can be visited are the city walls, and monuments such as the amphitheatre, circus, the Forum and the Praeorium, the Paleochristian necropolis, and not forgetting museums as Archaeological or Pretorio, the Cathedral and the narrow streets of the ancient city.  Part of the Tarraco archaeological site is outside the city, including the aqueduct, the sepulchre of the Scipios' Tower, the El Mèdol Quarry, the towns of Centelles (in the municipality of Constantí), and Els Munts (in Altafulla), and the Arch of Bará (in Roda de Bará).

But beyond the city and the Roman period the province of Tarragona has many other attractions to discover:  the human towers (els Castelles) whose origin is the town of Valls, one of the wine regions with higher quality wines in Spain (El Priorat), the largest region for a delta ecosystem (El Delta del Ebro), long and beautiful beaches but close of them quiet and nice mountains with, for instance, some of the best Cistercian monasteries (Poblet and Santas Creus). All of these are just some few visit references or thinks to do.

I know that within EnSO you are the WP7 Leader dedicated to communication and dissemination, what are the main challenges of such activities within an IA project?

RJ: A big EU demonstration project as EnSO always has a big responsability to optimise its impact, specially to the market. In the case of EnSO this is even more relevant considering the focus is a hot topic as Internet of Things (IoT) that is a clear reference of the huge competition of Europe with other countries. In this way our consortium is a complete and balanced ecosystem including different profiles of companies and partners who plays their role in different markets and domains as Health, Transport, Security, Utilities, etc. From this perspective the main challenges are to develop smart objects in all these markets/domains which integrates last technologies of microbatteries and harvesting developed in Enso project in order to reach innovative and attractive products to be introduced into the market. The great advantage to work all partners together in dissemination and exploitation actions is that we obtain significative synergies and the impact of EnSO Ecosystem is much higher than if each partner play individually his own role.

What's the good point of working with European projects in general? What does it bring to an organization and to the participating people?

RJ: In spite I have a long experience with projects under EU Programmes, the truth is that each project is a new experience and a nice opportunity to learn from the collaboration with organisations and people from other countries. Considering the size of our consortium with 32 partners of 8 different countries, this perspective is clearly positive. My previous experience is that after the conclusion of a specific project some links and collaboration among partners survive and the best example of such benefit is that we usually launch new collaborative projects and start bilateral agreements.

Other positive experience are the lessons learnt in project management. In general, European projects are very well defined in terms of activities, outcomes, milestones and documents or deliverables produced. Many times, similar projects which are developed in the framework of the company don't have such exhaustive definition and sometimes this becomes a problem in project management.
In addition, the management of a large European project is always a challenge for the leader and it is always a job that requires many different personal skills if it is compared to internal company projects. This is the case of EnSO where I have had the opportunity to observe the role of leader from outside and I have really learned things which I had not consider in the past playing the same role. Therefore these have been wonderful lessons learnt in more than three years and a half participating in EnSO Project.

Thank you very much, Ramon! 



Interview of Jean-Marc Gambin, WP6 leader

Jean-Marc GAMBIN is Program Manager of European Projects at GEMALTO, a THALES company, In EnSO, he is the Leader of WP6, focused on Autonomous Smart Objects prototyping and demonstration (use cases development with AMES integration). 

Hello Jean-Marc! Before we go to EnSO Business, can you tell me a bit about yourself, where you live, where you work …?

Jean-Marc GAMBIN: I grew up in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, West of the Paris area, where its castle was, for a long time, a residence of the kings of France. That probably explains my passion for history! Today, it has been almost 25 years since I live in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, initially more for practical reasons. It is not very far from Meudon, less than 7 km or 25 minutes because here we think "time", where I work at Gemalto as European Program Manager.

How would you describe living in your area? Is it nice?

JMG: What I like in Paris? I find this city offers its inhabitants and visitors the opportunity to travel through different moments of history, according to the different neighborhoods and museums. But of course and above all, what I appreciate the most is the French cuisine that is recognized and proposed and that you can enjoy both in small "cafés" located in nooks and in a restaurant more classic!

Back to business, what's your role in ENSO? I know that you are the WP6 Leader, what is it related to? What do you do?

JMG: As WP6 Leader, I’m responsible for the technical management of the tasks assigned to 16 end-users who develop 17 use cases related to Smart Society, Smart Health, Smart Mobility and Smart Production domains. My main role is to ensure the progress of the work plan and to interact with WP1 for project coordination, WP5 for batteries & AMES topics and WP7 for the dissemination and exploitation activities.

What are the challenges of WP6? What are the main stakes regarding the last year of the project?

JMG: The main objective of WP6 is to demonstrate the competitiveness of EnSO energy solutions for powering the different autonomous Smart Objects developed. I would say that there are several challenges, one of which is the management of energy density, for example in the context of a size limited and sustainable form factor integration. Another challenge is also to reduce the power consumption and have sufficient harvested energy for recharging and optimization of the use cases addressed. For all partners, the most important stake this year is to integrate, characterize and validate EnSO AMES in their different prototypes and for some of them make pilot tests.

Very challenging indeed! Now what's your experience with European projects and more particularly with EnSO? 

JMG: Since few years, I regularly participate in European projects mainly as a partner. Within EnSO project, I took on a new role as WP Leader, which allowed me to discover and understand new areas that were usually far from my day-to-day concern. Now, regarding feedbacks about interests of EnSO by others companies and particularly thanks to BLUMORPHO market segments' explorations, it appears that several organizations are interested to have access to an AMES module for evaluation. Perspectives are good.

Would you recommend to work with European projects? What's the good point of working with European projects in general? 

JMG: Absolutely! It's very important for a company to be involved in European projects. As Steve Martin said in the previous newsletter, it provides many opportunities such as reaching out to people beyond your usual network. In addition, it allows to exchange with international collaborators on new technologies in different fields as well with industrial companies as academic structures. Finally, I would say that it promotes the development of research and innovation culture. 

Gemalto recently changed name to THALES, how will this impact EnSO?

JMG: That’s right! Gemalto is now part of the Thales Group since last April 2nd. For a period of time, not yet determined, Gemalto will still continue to trade as a separate organization. As far as I know, EnSO will not be impacted.

Thank you very much, Jean-Marc! 



Interview of Steve Martin, WP2 leader

Dr. Steve MARTIN is Technical Manager/R&D Engineer of new thin film processes/materials developments for micro-batteries at the Embedded Micro battery Laboratory at CEA-LETI (Laboratoire d'électronique et de technologie de l'Information). In EnSO, he is the Leader of WP2, focused on Rechargeable Micro Batteries.

Hello Steve! Before we discuss your technical role in EnSO, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and the city where you live/work?

Steve Martin: Of course! I have been working in Grenoble for several years but since I prefer the countryside over the city, I have decided to live in St Marcelin, a small town about 50 kms away from Grenoble. I like to be out in the nature, climb mountains and play basketball. St Marcelin is a very nice little town which I highly recommend visiting! It is also well known for its cheese and walnuts!

That sounds lovely! I will definitely come and visit!
In EnSO you are in charge of WP2 whose main objective is to develop and demonstrate very high capacity and very high density, low profile, shapeable, long lifetime, rechargeable micro battery product family. Could you tell us more about your role, what you do, how you interact with the other partners?

S.M: OK! WP2 focuses on the production of micro-batteries for the AMES. As a WP Leader, I manage the internal development. We develop two kinds of generations of batteries in EnSO. I am also in charge of the interactions with other WPs, mainly WP4, 5.

What are the challenges of generating micro-batteries? How are they charged?

S.M: There are different challenges, depending on the generation of micro-batteries. For Generation 2 micro-batteries, the biggest challenge is to produce micro-batteries at very low cost. We therefore develop special processes, i.e. high-throughput processes. The challenge for Generation 3 micro-batteries lies in their size. They are indeed very very small, only a few millimeters square, and we need to use processes coming from the microelectronics. The biggest challenge here is to proceed with the integration of these very small components. As we aim to produce full autonomous components, micro-batteries should be charged by energy harvesters such as solar cells, piezoelectric or thermoelectric harvesting devices. The batteries are also compatible with other harvesters.

Very nice!
What is your experience with European projects, and EnSO in particular? What are, you think, the positive outcomes of participating in EU projects?

S.MI have already been involved in many European projects and I can say EnSO is a very good project. To me, one of its major strengths is that it involves many end-users, which is important to us since knowing the market’s needs and expectations helps us better orientate our research and produce the right batteries. Being involved in EU projects provides many opportunities such as reaching out to people beyond your usual network. For example, we have developed a very good collaboration with the University of Liège. At the end of EnSO, we will even replace our own materials with theirs since they have shown higher performance!

What are the expected benefits for your organization to be involved in EnSO? 

S.M: We, of course, expect to get more people interested in our technology, i.e. customers who will hopefully implement our technology in their products. Cairdac is, I think, a good example of a potential end-user since our technology is to my opinion the only one that perfectly fits their requirements. 

How is CEA positioned in the field of micro-battery in Europe and in the world?

S.M: Here we have to split between the 2 generations of batteries. CEA has been involved in the HV3 (the very small batteries) field for 15+years, generating lots of literature and patents, and becoming a key leader in this growing market. It is more difficult with the 2nd generation of batteries, which faces fiercer competition, in particular from China. The strength of EnSO is that we speak directly with end-users. This helps us get a clearer idea of what their real needs are so that we can develop the right products, which will stand out when placed alongside the competition and bring us to a leading position on the market.   

It is indeed a clear benefit.
What do you think about the future of IoT? Do micro-batteries play a key role in the field, you think?

S.M: Most definitely, yes. Energy is a key parameter for IoT development. All connected objects have to be powered. Our micro-batteries are perfectly suited for such applications because when you talk about IoT, well you want your object to communicate but you don't want to see how it communicates. You don't want to see a big battery sticking out, you want it to be embedded and for this you need small batteries with different form factors. So yes, micro-batteries are definitely a key parameter for IoT.

Thank you very much, Steve! 



Interview of Peter Spies, WP3 leader

Dr. Peter Spies is manager of the “integrated energy supplies” group in Fraunhofer IIS where he is doing research and design on the field of power and battery management and energy harvesting. In EnSO, he is the Work Package (WP)3 leader, focused on energy harvesting and smart recharge.

Hello Peter, so you work in Nuremberg, can you tell me a bit more about it?

Peter Spies: Actually I don’t live in Nuremberg city center, but in a little town 25km away called Herzogenaurach. Since the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) is located on the outskirts of Nuremberg, it’s very convenient to come by car, no traffic jam! Nuremberg itself is a very nice city, very lively thanks to a lot of students, technical schools, and Universities. It’s a really cool place to live in.

Sounds nice! Any specificity in your region?

P.S.: Yes indeed! Nuremberg is at the border of the Franconian Switzerland, a famous touristic spot, with beautiful landscape thanks to amazing rocky hills, forests and small villages. You can enjoy a lot of outdoors activites, like hiking, cycling and running. A fun fact: it’s the region with the highest density of breweries in the world! A lot of this small villages/towns have their own microbrewery where you can enjoy a beer after a little hiking.

Well, you convinced me to come and visit, for sure! Let’s go to the EnSO project. What’s your role in it?

P.S.: My role is divided in two parts. First, I’m the WP3 leader, focused on energy harvesting and smart recharge. The aim is to develop technologies that will use any ambient energy to charge batteries. It goes from light with solar cells to vibration and temperature harvesting systems. A further option is recharging by wireless energy transmission like NFC. The second part of my work in Enso is the development and research in the field of power and battery management to adapt the different energy harvesters to the battery. . My team at IIS is contribution to this topic in Enso.

Adapt ? So adaptation is needed between harvesters and batteries?

P.S.: Yes, it is a very important part in the development of energy harvesting systems. All harvesters have a different output profile (different voltage, current…), and might act differently in various environment. You always have to think of the best energy efficiency, i.e., the minimum loss and the best power output. For instance, a solar cell will not provide the same power when it is outside directly under the sun, than inside a house, or in the shade. It also means that when the power is high, the voltage or current that goes into the battery is high as well, and your battery might no support it. You don’t want to kill the battery! So you need to have specific power management to handle the issue. These systems are here to adapt the voltage and current in different conditions to get the maximum power into the battery without increasing the losses or even damaging it. Adapting the power is also a way to cope with battery ageing. To reduce it, you can adapt the charge profile, and use low current for instance.

This is very interesting. Besides EnSO, are you involved in other European projects?

P.S.: Yes, our group is part of three different European projects, and we have a couple on the way. Before, I was more involved in national projects, so for me it’s a new challenge to step up to a European level. I easily have access to German companies here, I know the national network well. Being part of European projects opens new opportunities, we learn a lot about foreign partners and their needs, and I hope to extend the collaboration after the end of the project.

Any particularity of the EnSO project, which is an ECSEL JU project, that you want to emphasize?

P.S.: EnSO is very interesting because of the many end-users we have access to. Of course as a RTO (Research and Technology Organization) focusing on applied research like Fraunhofer is doing, it is mandatory to have end-users to work with. This means that we concentrate our Research on real requirements. I expect a lot from EnSO, and first and foremost to develop Industrial applications and outcomes.  

Do you think Europe is a leader in your field, in IoT?

P.S.: My group is interested in any integrated systems for small electronics devices. I don’t know if Europe can be the leader in IoT, but I know that European Research in Energy harvesting is of high-value. There’s a strong development of energy harvesting and storage technology and microsystems  in Europe, with world-renowned Research centers like Fraunhofer IIS, CEA-Leti, Tyndall and IMEC working on IoT and harvesting technologies. So if it’s not now, it has definitely the potential to become the leader.

Last question. Anything you want to say to someone who wants to work on harvesting and power management?

P.S.: Ah! Vast question. I think it’s very important to be committed and convinced. All people I work with believe that the solution to sustainable and energy efficient devices is the harvesting technology. The benefit of energy harvesting is high and can be a real solution to energy efficiency. I also think that anyone who wants to work in this field needs to remain versatile. There is not only one solution, it’s not going to be only solar harvesting for instance, you need to keep an open mind and work on the whole spectrum

Interview of Raphael Salot, Coordinator

Dr. Raphaël Salot is Head of the CEA-LETI Embedded Micro battery Laboratory. Previously WP2 Leader of EnSO, he is now the coordinator of the project.

Tell me about yourself and your place of work.

Raphaël Salot: Raphaël Salot: I live in a small town, in the Vercors mountains surrounding Grenoble. It’s 1000 meters high, so you can picture a lot of snow and people doing cross-country skiing. I love the Grenoble area for its way of life and cosmopolitan population. With many Engineering schools, Universities and R&D centers, Grenoble is full of students and highly-skilled people. It’s clearly a New Technologies-focused city, with RTOs, big companies, and SMEs working together towards innovative solutions. Also since you have such beautiful mountains nearby, Grenoble is perfect for outdoor activities.

Seems a good combination, science and sport! Let’s get to the project. You’ve recently changed position in the EnSO project. Could you tell us more about that?

R.S.: For the first 2 years, I was the WP2 leader, focused on rechargeable microbatteries, more related to the energy storage part of the EnSO project. Since the beginning of the year, I’m in charge of the coordination of the whole project. In consequence, the WP2 will be led by Steve Martin, from CEA, and Prayon. The WP5 leadership will be picked up by TNO.

I guess it’s not easy to change position in the middle of the project.

R.S.: I did coordinate projects before, although smaller ones. The coordination position in EnSO is a challenging yet thrilling position for me, because EnSO is a multidisciplinary project, which includes numerous Industrial partners with high expectations.

Tell us more about EnSO. How did you come up with the idea?

R.S.: The project is dedicated to find new power and energy solutions for smart object. Basically the aim is to develop energy storage, energy harvesting and power management solutions along with their integration into flexible material (See the Interview of Corne Rentrop, EnSO Newsletter #2). The ultimate goal is to build autonomous smart systems. I’ve been working for many years on batteries, with numerous collaborations and partnerships.

What are the main outcome of the project so far?

R.S.: huge progress has been made in batteries manufacturing and performances. Moreover, we now have the first complete AMES (Autonomous Micro Energy Sources) ready to be sent to end-users for integration, testing and evaluation. EnSO is a great opportunity to push the maturity of technology to the highest level thanks to testing by end-users.

What would you say is the main advantage of this consortium?

R.S.: All the value chain is represented, as well as all the technical expertise needed. It’s amazing to have, in one consortium, all the people involved in the process of developing the technology e.g. material supplier, researchers & engineers, pilot lines, & end-users. I believe all of the partners will benefit from their participation in EnSO.  

Seems that the project foster great opportunities. How did you foresee the position of Europe in energy for IoT market?

R.S.: I don’t think Europe is leading for the moment, Asia and USA are the key players. However, developing innovative solutions as the one in EnSO is the next opportunity for Europe to be the leader in energy for IoT ! Indeed, we are leading the thin film solid state batteries technology with manufacturing processes already at a high maturity level. We also have the complete value chain working together to build up a fully autonomous system. Thus Europe could easily win market shares using EnSO solution.

Fingers crossed. Last but not least, any word for young researchers?

R.S.: I strongly encourage young people to get to work on energy solutions, it’s the way of the future. To get there I had a classic education. First an engineering school in Physics, from which I got to work on nuclear energy in CEA and then I switch to new energy solutions. I love the position I am in because it is very varied, I meet people from different countries, different background, and in different positions. One advice for youngsters: work on topics you are passionate about!

Interview with Corne Rentrop, WP4 Leader

Corne Rentrop is a senior research scientist who works in the hybrid printed electronics group of the Holst Center, TNO. Corne is also WP4 leader of the EnSO project.  


Tell me about yourself and your place of work.

Corne Rentrop: I have been working in TNO (the Netherlands Organization for applied scientific research) on materiasl science, and in the Holst Center for the past 2 years. The Holst Centre is an R&D independent open-innovative center, founded by both Imec and TNO. We focus on Wireless Autonomous Sensor Technologies and Flexible Electronics. It’s located at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the city built by Philips!

What do you mean? And how do you like it ?

C.R.: The campus is highly stimulating. It gathers more than 160 Institutes and companies, from SMEs to big names like Shimano for instance. It brings a very positive feeling of entrepreneurship. It’s also very international, just as in the Holst Center. We count 26 nationalities for a staff of 250 people. It means there are a lot of social events and more importantly, very good food! I’m encouraging researchers to come and work here, the atmosphere is very friendly and open-minded.

It seems like a good place to live in! Let’s get into the EnSO project. What’s your role in it?

C.R.: The WP4 of the EnSO project is the AMES (Autonomous Micro Energy Sources) assembly. Basically, we produce flexible electronic circuit boards by printing conductive ink on plastic foil. Thus electronic components are scalable at a low cost, since printed electronics can be easily produced at large scale with e.g. Roll-to-roll printing. The EnSO project focuses on energy for IoT (Internet of Object). One of the aim of the IoT field is to create products that are autonomous, i.e. do not need an external source of power. In EnSO, we were able to produce a hybridized flexboard which includes an antenna and power management system, and is used as part of an Energy harvester for small connected objects. So far we have produced prototypes of the flexboard with state of the art industrial production methods. We have received very positive comments. After few alteration of the initial design, we were able to meet the specifications and we are hoping to produce at larger scale in the near future.

It’s great news! It seems that thanks to this technology, you’re entering the LOPE-C competition. Could you tell us more?

C.R.: The LOPE-C conference and exhibition is a world-class event related to printed electronics. It’s jointly organized by the Organic Electronics Association and Messe Munchen. More than 1800 people are expected, thus it’s high visibility for us and for the project. In the LOPE-C competition, several highly innovative EU projects present their demonstration. We’re hoping to have positive and relevant feedbacks on the technology, and even win the competition!

Fingers crossed. Could you thus tell us the benefits you got from the EnSO project?

C.R.: What I really liked about EnSO is the link between R&D and Industry. Within the project, we were discussing with companies such as ST and Gemalto, and other end users. Performing research for such companies becomes more and more important for us, it keeps your feet on the ground. The ECSEL program is really good for bridging Industrial and Public Research. In EnSO, all the work we do is at a high TRL and can be expected to be on the market.

Talking about market, what’s the future of hybrid printed electronics?

C.R.: The printed electronics field is definitely on the rise. It’s flexible, low cost and can be produced in high volumes. Applications can range from the medical field to building facilities, packaging, and automotive. It’s rapidly growing. Scalability and Flexibility, but especially the fact that these electronics may even be stretchable is of particular interest. You can imagine to print electronics on rubber and insert it into clothes, or print it on plastic and then thermoform it into e.g. a phone.

It definitely stimulates imagination! And what about the place of Europe in this growing market?

C.R.: Tricky question! So far Europe was leading Research in the field but it may change. USA, China and Korea are now also big players in the game. In USA, the organic electronics (another way to call printed electronics) are funded by the Department of Defense. That’s why we need these EU Research project, which associates numerous countries, to redeem our ranking in the race!

Anything you want to add, any advice for young researchers?

C.R.: Look for your PEERs and be happy in your work.