The SILVER project searches for new technologies to assist elderly people in their everyday lives.
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The first cross-national PCP project successfully competed!
 

The SILVER project had the ambitious goal of establishing and executing, the first multiple member state Pre-Commercial Procurement within the European Union. This objective was achieved by executing three-phase procurement process by five partnering countries: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This almost 4 year long exercise demonstrated the effectiveness of a Pre-Commercial Procurement approach when addressing societal and governmental needs. 

The second objective of the SILVER project was to find robotics based technologies to help the elderly to live longer at home independently. With the development of LEA (Lean Elderly Assistant), the SILVER project demonstrated the viability of Pre-Commercial Procurement when procuring innovations. LEA is a care robot disguised as a stroller that provides a number of fully autonomous functions. LEA Care robot helps the elderly, for example, when getting out of chair or walking and reminds of the daily routine such as medication or food and drink.

Tool for growing a sustainable business

The results of the SILVER project show that SMEs can greatly benefit from participating in Pre-Commercial Procurement projects. The SILVER contractor, Robot Care Systems, encourages other SMEs to enter a Pre-Commercial Procurement projects as they provide a good opportunity for developing new solutions and even starting up a new company. Furthermore, by participating in EU funded projects SMEs are able to gain credibility which can be helpful, for example, in getting additional funding. Robot Care Systems won several innovation awards in 2015 which helped them forward in further development of LEA Care robot.

– To the small and mid-sized companies that do not still have a funding, PCP is a perfect way from start-up company to make a sustainable company that can distribute products all over the world, summarizes Maja Rudinac, CEO for Robot Care Systems, the main benefits from the SME's point of view.

Cooperation with procurers continues

Even though the SILVER project was completed at the end of August, Robot Care System wishes to continue fruitful co-operation with the procurers. Firstly, Robot Care Systems needs information on most important stakeholders within the partnering countries in order to find the most potential markets for their solution. In addition, they would like to familiarize with the healthcare systems in each country. Secondly, they would like to have support in building effective and country specific pricing strategies. Thirdly, Robot Care Systems would like to cooperate with the SILVER procurers in order to test the future versions of LEA as well as to specify the user requirements.   

– The European Commission should be proud of the way they have helped to develop a new exciting SME specializing in Robotics from a small spin off into a successful business that is ready to go to market. More importantly, this has all happened within the time of Project SILVER. We look forward to working with Robot Care Systems in the future to scale up LEA to wider markets, says Andy Bleaden, Funding and Programme Manager for City of Stockport.  

Procurers see great potential in LEA 


All the SILVER procurers agreed that there is future potential for LEA Care robot to support the SILVER challenge of caring 10% more care recipients with the same number of staff after further development. Specifically, the prototype of LEA Care robot needs to pass several stages of re-design and certification to be ready for commercial procurement. These activities are not coordinated within the SILVER project since the commercialization of the solution falls out of the scope of the SILVER Pre-Commercial Procurement project. Nevertheless, all the SILVER procurers have agreed to support Robot Care Systems in the further development of LEA Care robot as well as in opening markets.

– In my opinion LEA has a lot of potential to our customers or other elderly who could buy it for themselves. In the future, LEA could be one of the equipment that gives a safer environment for the elderly and also supports him or her to move more at home, says Satu Siikander (on the right in the picture below), Administration Manager for City of Vantaa.




Valuable learnings

In general, all the SILVER procurers found the involvement in the project useful. Being part of the SILVER procurement process increased SILVER procurers’ capability to consider new technologies for home care. Furthermore, the SILVER project raised the level of capability to implement and test new technologies within home care. Especially the testing period during the Phase 3 showed that the elderly people are willing as well as capable of testing technologies which are still in a development phase. Also the staff was motivated to be involved in the testing period and gave valuable feedback for the development process. But even if the Pre-Commercial Procurement proved to be a useful tool for procuring innovations it has also some challenges. 

– Organizations planning to begin with PCP should have recourses enough and also focus on cooperation with the chosen suppliers, advises Satu Siikander.  

Regarding the future markets for LEA, all the SILVER procurers see that the most potential markets lie within the private markers. There are several reasons for this. For example, since LEA has relatively high price point, the traditional stroller is probably preferred due to the limited budgets of the municipalities. Nevertheless, even if LEA would be adopted only in private markets, this will contribute to the overall goal of the SILVER project. In other words, it will increase the level of independency at home and will lessen the care burden of the municipalities/cities. 

LEA testing – what we learned?

 

In the third phase of the SILVER Pre-Commercial Procurement the LEA Care robot was successfully tested in all partnering countries. The testing phase was launched in April by City of Oulu and was finalized by the City of Stockport in August 2016. The purpose of the tests was to support Robot Care Systems to further enhance and improve the prototype to better full fill the needs of the procurers by gathering direct input from end users in several settings in real life situations. Additionally, testing the prototypes in multiple countries provided Robot Care Systems with valuable experience of potential cultural and national differences. Both the end-users as well as the care staff evaluated LEA Care robot.

Encouraging test results

For the SILVER Consortium, the 5 month testing period accumulated a great deal of knowledge of both Pre-Commercial Procurement process as well as user-driven research in international context. Where as for the contractor, the testing period indicated the areas of improvement and further provided valuable insights into the use of the prototype. The prototype was evaluated in terms of its’ potential to meet the SILVER challenge in relation to the quality of life and independence.

Furthermore, there were numerous ideas proposed regarding enhancing LEA Care robot's functionalities. These included to make LEA Care robot operational outdoors, reduce the size of the robot, and make the sounds louder. With these adjustments, LEA Care robot would better fit to the needs of the elderly, and reduce the need for additional devices for outside or smaller spaces. Additional connectivity features would also be very welcome and value adding to the users.

Communication and risk management important

When testing technically complex prototypes with actual end-users, a careful risk management is essential part of the process. As expected, some product related risks were identified such as unexpected movements and charging. These were mitigated by not allowing users to use the LEA Care robot alone, and discontinuing charging unattended. Support and emergency hotlines were set up in case of an emergency. Some user related risks were also identified, such as the physical condition of the end users and criticality of care. The risks were mitigated by leaving out end users whose condition may be too frail for the testing. 



In addition to the risk management, it is very important to secure a smooth communication flow through the project consortium. In the SILVER project it was learned that one of the most critical success factors is an external coordinator working and communicating directly with contractors through all phases of the procurement. Also the early involvement of procurers is a vital in all Pre-Commercial Procurement exercises. Only this way it can be secured that the designed solutions match the needs of the procurers. 

– My advise for the future PCP projects is to engage procurers early in the process with the contractors. Procurers can provide valuable support for the development of prototypes and secure that they meet the needs of the competition in an optimal way, concludes Jon Hazell, SBRI Account Manger for Innovate UK.  

SILVER National workshops were a success!


During the spring and summer of 2016 partners organised several national workshops. The aim of these workshops was not only to disseminate the project results but also to change the mindset of public procurers and national decision makers to see Pre-Commercial Procurement as a lucrative option for innovations. Furthermore, the aim was to help SMEs to recognize the potential lying in the Pre-Commercial Procurement, for example, in terms of funding and finding new markets. All these events followed the same workshop concept in order to communicate the SILVER project results in a consistent way through all partnering countries. 



Most of the national workshops were organized  in parallel with the testing of the LEA Care robot. This way the participants had a chance to meet the developer of the solution, Robot Care Systems, as well as to experience a demonstration of LEA Care robot. First national workshops were hosted by the cities of Oulu and Vantaa. These workshops were followed by workshops organized by Odense Municipality, City of Eindhoven, City of Stockport and City of Västerås. In total, there were over 200 participants in these events and according to the feedback, the national workshops were considered very valuable and illustrative. 

SILVER documents and demonstration videos 


In order to help forward the use of Pre-Commercial Procurement tool, the SILVER Consortium has gathered valuable recommendations and document templates for the future Pre-Commercial Procurement exercises. These documents are available at: www.silverpcp.eu/deliverables. Some of the public documents are still being reviewed by the EU but will be available by end of the year 2016.

Three videos has been produced in order to demonstrate the key results of the SILVER project. First of the videos demonstrates the validity of the Pre-Commercial Procurement process to allow new innovations to be developed over a three-phase process. The second video demonstrates the validity of the testing process and end user engagement to support further development of the prototype. The third video focuses on demonstrating the validity of the LEA Care robot to meet the requirements of the procurers. These 4-minute videos are available via the following links:
Lean Elderly Assistant (LEA)
LEA Demonstration video
LEA User video

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 287609.
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www.silverpcp.eu


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