Innovation hub for chemical and pharmaceutical industries in Abruzzo, Italy

To help bridge the gap between research and innovation in the Italian region of Abruzzo, the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Innovation Tank – or Capitank – launched its Pilot Projects initiative. Its aim: to foster collaborative innovation between academia, local government, SMEs and big business.

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Capitank groups businesses and research institutions in the chemical and pharmaceutical sector © Capitank SCARL Capitank groups businesses and research institutions in the chemical and pharmaceutical sector © Capitank SCARL

" The Pilot Projects are a replicable example of how a methodology for implementing collaborative activities can drive research towards the development of innovative products, processes and organisations. "

Edoardo Alesse, Capitank President and Professor at the L’Aquila University

Comprised of 56 members, including large enterprises, SMEs and universities, Capitank serves as the hub of innovation for the Abruzzo region’s chemical and pharmaceutical sector. To help promote collaborative innovation between these members, the organisation launched its Pilot Projects initiative. 

Using a model of innovation called the quadruple helix, the initiative brought together the region’s universities, SMEs, multinational businesses and local government with the purpose of developing innovative products and solutions that directly answer societal needs. The Pilot Projects also increased the know-how and competitiveness of member companies, particularly in the areas of industrial automation, telemedicine, environmental sustainability, biotechnology and healthcare.  

From ideas to market-ready products

The project aimed to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation by pairing businesses with academia. Whereas the universities could provide the research, the SMEs had the agility to develop innovative solutions, while the bigger enterprises had the resources and capability to create results. However, as technological advancements are often expensive and time-consuming, Capitank was highly selective of the projects it chose to participate in the initiative. Only those proposals carrying low risks and low costs, and that could promise certain results within a specified timeframe, were accepted. This bottom-up approach ensured that each of the pilot projects were well-positioned to effectively transform academic research into viable and sustainable commercial products. 

A total of six pilot projects were selected, all of which were successfully carried out over an eight-month period. Once completed, all six had produced viable and market-ready results. One highlight was the development of an experimental platform for managing and tracking liquid industrial waste. Today, the platform is being used as a new tool to battle ecological crimes in Italy. Another Pilot Project, called Minisosh, developed an automated equipment loading system for the pharmaceutical industry. This solution has significantly improved the safety conditions of machine operators while also substantially increasing their loading capacity. Topic, another one of the Pilot Projects, created a methodology and software for evaluating and reducing the carbon footprint of both products and organisations.

The results from all the selected Pilot Projects were presented during a dedicated life sciences event at Milan’s EXPO 2015.

Collaboration is key

Overall, Capitank’s Pilot Projects initiative successfully boosted collaborative research and shared development activities throughout the region. Although the Pilot Projects achieved a number of successful results, perhaps the most important – and far reaching – is the development of a replicable methodology for using collaboration as a driver of innovation. Specifically, the project clearly showed that by fostering collaboration amongst research institutions, local government, SMEs and big businesses, society as a whole will benefit from new innovative solutions.  

As part as its open innovation mission, Capitank has made all the project’s results available to its members.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “CAPITANK Pilot Projects Quadruple Helix Model for Smart Specialisation Strategy” is EUR 630 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 161 000 through the “Abruzzo” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


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