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Canada-Italy Concurrent Call on Automotive Manufacturing R&D

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Application Information for Canadians


Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2012, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Italian Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) have agreed to launch a concurrent call for joint research projects in the area of manufacturing research, with a requirement for a specific focus within Canada on automotive manufacturing.

Concurrent Call for Joint Research Projects

The concurrent call will be supported using the following mechanisms in Canada and Italy respectively:

NSERC - Automotive Partnership Canada

  • Duration: projects can range from 1 to 5 years
  • Funding: No prescribed minimum or maximum amounts

CNR - La Fabbrica del Futuro/Factories of the Future

  • Duration: 2 years per project
  • Funding: €600-700K for project.
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Elements of Concurrent Call


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in partnership with the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) of Italy have established a joint funding opportunity for academic-industry collaborative research and development (R&D) in the domain of manufacturing enabling technologies. NSERC-APC will fund successful Canadian researchers through Automotive Partnership Canada and CNR will fund successful Italian researchers through their Factories of the Future initiative, each according to its own regulations and practices.

Building on shared Canadian and Italian strengths in manufacturing, in particular within the automotive sector, NSERC-APC and CNR have focused the call on the priority area of Next-Generation Manufacturing.

Procedure for Potential Canadian Applicants

  • Canadian researchers interested in complementary research to that of ongoing, funded Italian projects (see summaries) should submit their letters of intent (LOIs) to NSERC-APC. Letters of intent will formalize the interest of Canadian proponents of cooperating with Italian research teams.
  • All teams must be comprised of at least one NSERC-eligible academic researcher, who will lead the project as the Principal Investigator, and at least one Canadian industrial partner.
  • NSERC-APC will accept only one letter of intent per Italian project. Interested Canadian researchers must contact the corresponding Italian research team to ensure that proposed Canadian research activities fit together with the Italian research project. Interested applicants are asked to contact John Wood to obtain the contact information of the Italian research team.
    • In the event that more than one Canadian research team may be interested in the same Italian project, all parties must reach consensus on a final composite team, in order to submit one final letter of intent to NSERC-APC.
  • Canadian researchers whose letters of intent are deemed to have met eligibility requirements for Automotive Partnership Canada will be invited to submit full research proposals (one Canadian team per Italian project). The proposal shall contain the full NSERC-APC proposal content, as well as a section to describe the cooperative activities with the Italian counterparts, as described below. Canadian-based cooperative activities must be included in the budget request as part of the overall NSERC-APC proposal.

    In parallel, the Italian researchers in the project consortium will submit cooperation proposals to CNR. The scope of the cooperation must be to advance research fields of mutual interest through the establishment of collaborative research, with complementary teams of expertise, each contributing tasks to the project as a whole. Italian-based activities must be included in the CNR cooperation proposal. In particular, cooperation proposals should include:
    • the description of expected results to be realized in the Italian and Canadian projects;
    • the organization of scientific workshops at the premises of the cooperating parties (at least one per country);
    • reciprocal visits of researchers; and
    • joint scientific publications.
  • NSERC-APC will select and fund Canadian full proposals according to its own peer review rules and processes.
  • After successful adjudication and final approval, projects will receive funding and researchers can begin their collaborations. Italian and Canadian teams will be funded by their respective agencies.
Competition Timeline
Item CNR Factories of the Future NSERC Automotive Partnership Canada
Deadline for LOIs to NSERC N/A June 21, 2013
NSERC selects APC-eligible LOIs and invites submission of full research proposals. N/A June 28, 2013
Submission deadline of Canadian full research proposals and of Italian cooperation proposals September 2013 September 30, 2013
Completion of eligibility check of Italian cooperation proposals, and peer review of Canadian full research proposals 3 months after cooperation proposal submission (December 2013) December 14, 2013
NSERC and CNR jointly complete cooperation funding decision and approve the list of funded projects December 2013 December 21, 2013

Industrial Contributions to Academic Research

The Canadian industrial partner is required to put forth direct cash/in-kind support associated with the academic research efforts, in accordance with NSERC-APC program guidelines.

APC supports projects, driven by industrial needs, which require active and engaged industrial participation and collaboration. It is expected, therefore, that direct in-kind contributions to a project on the part of the industrial partners will be significant and essential to the success of the research. For more details, please refer to Eligible Partners and Industry Involvement pages on the APC Web site.

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Policies and Guidelines

All NSERC-APC policies and guidelines apply to the academic and industrial partners in this funding opportunity.

Allowable Costs

For NSERC-APC eligible academic researchers, please consult the Use of Grant Funds page on NSERC's Web site.

Conditions of Funding

Successful Canadian applicants funded through this initiative and any other persons working on the project must comply fully with NSERC-APC funding policies.

NSERC's Policy on Intellectual Property will apply between the Canadian academic research team and the Canadian industrial partner(s).

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Reporting Requirements

NSERC-APC Project Monitoring requirements are summarized below:

  • An Annual Progress Report; and
  • A final report on completion of the project three months after the end of the grant's term, with inputs and outcomes from all the bi-lateral partners.
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Review Process and Evaluation

Full applications submitted to NSERC-APC will be examined according to standard APC Proposal Evaluation practise, using the APC Evaluation Criteria (the onus is on the applicants to address the criteria explicitly in their proposal).

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Funding Decision

Upon completion of the evaluation process, to determine which applications will be funded, NSERC-APC will compare its funding recommendations with CNR's recommendations concerning the Canada-Italy cooperation proposals. Only those projects that have been deemed meritorious by both NSERC-APC and CNR will receive funding.

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Contact Information

For questions on NSERC-APC funding guidelines please contact:

Mr. John Wood
Executive Director, Automotive Project Office
Automotive Partnership Canada
Tel: 647-215-4883

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Project Summaries

Project Full Title: FACTOry Technologies for HUMans Safety

Project Acronym: FACTOTHUMS

ERC Sectors of Reference: PE7_4 Systems engineering, sensorics, actorics, automation; PE7_5 Micro- and nanoelectronics, optoelectronics; PE7_6 Communication technology, high-frequency technology; PE7_7 Signal processing; PE7_8 Networks; PE7_9 Man-machine-interfaces; PE7_10 Robotics; PE8_8 Mechanical and manufacturing engineering (shaping, mounting, joining, separation); PE8_10 Production technology, process engineering

Project Abstract: The aim of FACTOTHUMS project is related to the development of new technological solutions and behavioral models for the definition of a safer workplace in scenarios where human-robot interactions are requested. Nowadays, to face the new manufacturing challenges, smart factories must speed up their processes and, at the same time, demonstrate an extremely high degree of flexibility to reduce costs and time. This kind of issues can be solved by the cooperation between humans and robots in a dynamical human-robot collaborative environment. In such a scenario of co-shared workplace and continuous human-robot workflow exchange, safety is a key requirement to avoid hazardous situations for both robots and humans.

For these purposes, the projects objective is two-fold: first to pervasively extend the architectural safety technology to the system (robots, humans) at large; second to enhance the task safety through the automatic understanding of the dynamical conditions of workers. The safety architecture is therefore made by (i) a ground safety equipment for robots safe states management (ISO standard-compliant), on top of which (ii) a set of smart wireless sensors networks for long range (0.5-2 m) and short range (5-50 cm) localization to be used and integrated on gloves and suits of human worker with the intent to monitoring in real time the movements of arms and body and trace the safe workplace around the worker. To realize such a technology integrated on smart garments, the sensor devices will be designed and developed according to the minimum space and weight and with low-power consumption electronic modules, trying to provide flexible and comfortable tags, exploiting some emerging technologies such as transistors dry transfer, wafer thinning, ultra-thin chip packaging, printed electronics, etc. In order to increase the wireless channel reliability and the Performance Level of the information system, in terms of residual communication error, and thus the whole system SIL (Safety Integrity Level), a robust communication protocol is implemented. The architectural layer makes use of both safety-graded and unsafe devices and wired/wireless protocols for data exchange, which are altogether combined in terms of functional (ISO 13489) safety.

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Project Full Title: Surface Nano-structured Coating for Improved Performance of Axial Piston Pumps

Project Acronym: SNAPP

ERC Sectors of Reference: PE5_3; PE7_3; PE8_9; PE5_1

Project Abstract: The project starts from the consideration that most of the power losses in such applications where a relative motion exists, like the hydraulic pumps or the hydrodynamic bearings come from the friction between parts in relative motion. The need to provide, especially at low rotational speed, hydrodynamic lift, causes power losses, in terms of volumetric and mechanical efficiency, due to the contrasting need to increase leakage to provide lubrication and to keep a minimum clearance in meatus to limit the volumetric losses. The potential for application of special surface treatments have been exploited in pioneering works in the past, trying different surface finishing or adding ceramic or heterogeneous metallic layers. The potential of structured coatings at nanoscale, with super-hydrophobic and oleophobic characteristics, as well as their opposite the super hydrophilic and oleophilic, has never been exploited in the automotive mechanical applications.

The project aims at investigating the potential of surface nano-coating, starting from the swash-plate surface of an hydraulic pump, in order to improve the overall efficiency map of this component through a significant reduction in fluid friction losses, and to acquire useful experiences which could be used to implement the same technology in other components normally used in the automotive industry, like brass bearings, hydrodynamic bearings, etc.

The Project will develop, as first step, a new generation of mechanical components, characterized by the presence of surfaces with relative motion presenting high repellence to fluids, using a surface treatment technology developed and engineered by ISTEC-C.N.R. at laboratory scale mimicking what is well known in nature as the "Lotus effect". In a second step, the super hydrophilic and oleophilic behaviour will be investigated, considering some chemical modifications in the surface treatment which changes the surface behaviour. The application of these technologies to a real product with measurable targets will open the door to an entire new generation of products to be applied, for example, in fluid power systems of mobile machinery (hydraulic pumps) or in the automotive application (gearbox, crankshaft, etc.) where the efficiency constraints are a main research driver for Horizon 2020 sustainable technology calls.

The project's main results will concern products and process innovation, as well as the improvement of knowledge in the field of lubrication and friction phenomena when functional new materials are applied as equipment elements.

Scientific and technological objectives can be summarized in the following:

  • Design and synthesis of functional layers to be applied to metallic elements with different composition and function getting a combined, direct structuring and chemical modification of their surfaces;
  • Feasibility of industrial processes and adaptation of deposition techniques to the metallic parts involved (swashplate, portplate and possibly pistons, slippers and cylinder barrel, crankshaft brass bearing, hydrodynamic bearing, etc.) at the laboratory scale; analysis of process conditions according to components nature, shapes, finishing, thermal behavior and expected operational environment;
  • Assessment of functional performances in terms of materials ability to repel (attract) fluids, combining very poor (good) wettability against both water and oils;
  • Tribological and mechanical studies of the functional layers in order to assess their performances in typical operating conditions;
  • Hydrodynamic lubrication test for single components and assembled parts;
  • Development of a mathematical model of the hydrodynamic lubrication in superhydrophobic/oleophobic layers; experimental analysis of the efficiency maps of the components using different combinations of modified parts.
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Project Full Title: Generic Evolutionary Control Knowledge-based mOdule

Project Acronym: GECKO

ERC Sectors of Reference: PE6_7 Intelligent Systems; PE7_1 Control Engineering; PE7_4 Automation; PE7_8 Networks; PE8_8 Manufacturing Engineering; PE8_10 Production Technology

Project Abstract: The manufacturing industry is facing a number of technological and production challenges such as the high variability of mix and demand of products driven by the short product lifecycle, the increasing need for re-engineering and reusing product models already in the market and the frequent introduction of complex and innovative technologies in the production chain by integrating very heterogeneous processes whose quality and cost severely impact the product final value. These requirements are fundamental for the automotive manufacturing industry in order to ensure an economy whose major competitiveness pillars should rely upon high value added goods, knowledge intensive production processes and efficient and safe manufacturing environment. This extremely articulated context constitutes a very promising chance for countries heavily operating in the production of instrumental goods, machine tools and complex solutions for manufacturing systems.

Currently implemented control systems, based on centralized/hierarchical control structures, exhibit good performance in terms of productivity over a restricted and specific product range. However, these large monolithic software packages require major overhauls of the control code - mostly manual - in case any sort of (even minimal) system adaptation and reconfiguration needs to be implemented. As a result, they are very inefficient to face the current requirements of flexibility, expansibility, agility and re-configurability required by advanced manufacturing system solutions.

These production system features deeply drive the way the automation solutions are conceived and implemented. The next generation of control systems must embrace the aforementioned capabilities so to match any logic or physical change of the production environment as well as to have the capability of evolving over time in order to anticipate and persistently adapt the control logics, functions and architectures to evolving production scenarios.

The current project proposes a control infrastructure based on an interactive cooperation of control modules named GECKO-Generic Evolutionary Control Knowledge-based mOdule. The Gecko entity enables the single device - from end-effector, complex machine equipment up to the integrated cell and system - to evolve from stand alone, rigidly and hierarchically managed component into an autonomous, self-declaring, heterarchically interacting and collaborating components. Gecko is conceived to detect and interpret the production environment features and adapt its capabilities on the basis of the specific requirements by automatically accomplishing local and global objectives, including energy efficiency.

The Gecko solution will be applied and validated within the project onto a pilot plant leaded by CNR-ITIA dedicated to flexible mechatronic products Re-manufacturing, with particular reference to products from the automotive sector (i.e. motor Electronic Control Unit, Robotized gearboxes, etc.). In fact Magneti Marelli S.p.a, a leading company in the field of automotive mechatronic products is involved in the project as industrial partner.

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Project Full Title: Sustainable Factory Semantic Framework

Project Acronym: SuFSeF

ERC Sectors of Reference: PE6_10 Web and information systems, database systems, information retrieval and digital libraries; PE6_12 Scientific computing, simulation and modelling tools; PE7_3 Simulation engineering and modeling; PE8_6 Energy systems (production, distribution, application); PE8_10 Production technology, process engineering; PE8_12 Sustainable design (for recycling, for environment, ecodesign)

Project Abstract: Sustainable development is a relevant issue in EU countries and for this reason it's supported with a specific research programme named "Horizon 2020". The world's energy consumption has doubled over the past 40 years and it is estimated that one-third of the consumption comes from industry. To meet the programme objectives we need to be more efficient in all industrial energy uses. For this reason, the optimization of the industrial production in terms of sustainability should consider both manufacturing processes and the behaviour of the building to optimize the energy consumption and pollution by encouraging the use of alternative energy and improving indoor environmental comfort for users. This need asks for the design and management of the factories as a whole, while exploiting as much as possible the most recent scientific and technological results.

The Digital and Virtual Factory (VF) paradigm can assist to answer to this need for innovation by addressing various key issues:

  • Effective integration of the virtual representation of various factory components, such as the buildings, facilities, production systems, human resources.
  • Optimization of energy and environmental performance together with the production operations.
  • Development of a knowledge repository to exploit past experience.
  • Improvement of workers efficiency and safety through training and learning on virtual production systems.

This project proposes a Sustainable Factory Semantic Framework (SuFSeF) to effectively and efficiently support both the design and management of the factory, in particular by an energy and environmental point of view. Such framework is based on the results of the European project Virtual Factory Framework (VFF). In particular, the proposed Sustainable Factory Semantic Framework aims at providing:

  • An holistic view for the factory, both considering its physical dimensions and its evolution over time (factory lifecycle);
  • A shared and extensible factory data model for products, processes, resources and buildings to face the poor interoperability among different software platforms using proprietary formats;
  • New planning methods and tools, in particular for the configuration and reconfiguration of production plants and optimization of energy and environmental performance;
  • Synchronization between the virtual and real factory.

SuFSeF should promote major time and cost savings, while enhancing the design, management, evaluation and reconfiguration of new or existing factories with particular attention to the energy and environmental sustainability, supporting the capability to simulate dynamic complex behavior over the whole lifecycle of the factory. SuFSeF will consist of three main components: (I) Virtual Factory Data Model, (II) Virtual Factory Manager, (III) Software Tools.

The Virtual Factory Data Model (VFDM) aims at formalizing the concepts of building, product, process and resource paying particular attention to energy and environmental-related aspects. The data model requires the orchestration and harmonization of geometric, physical and technological properties of the factory that are required to support its planning processes.

The Virtual Factory Manager (VFM) handles the shared data representing the factory, which is based on the common data model. The VFM ensures data consistency and avoids data loss or corruption while serving all the software tools through cross-platform services.

The software tools integrated in the SuFSeF framework become decoupled functional modules that implement the various methods and services to support the factory design, performance evaluation, management, etc. A connector must be developed to enable the module accessing the shared factory data and correctly interpret their meaning according to the VFDM. Both new and already existing software tools can be integrated in the framework to support the design of the factory, while carrying out evaluations of energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCA), and indoor environmental quality. Furthermore, specific software tools may be devoted to monitor the behavior of the real factory. It will be needed to identify monitoring sensors to survey the main energy-physical variables in a non-invasive way, while reducing the costs and the time of intervention. The information gathered by the monitoring system will be used to update the virtual representation of the factory improving the working conditions and contributing to the productivity of the factory.

In order to achieve the Horizon 2020 objectives the new SuFSeF framework will include rules and information for the design and monitoring of factories aimed at supporting the achievement of the following key goals:

  • Reduction of GHG emissions by 20%;
  • Increase of the proportion of renewable energy in final consumption up to 20%;
  • Achievement of a 20% energy efficiency.
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