Norwegian Catapult develops a national infrastructure for innovation

The Norwegian Catapult programme is a governmental scheme designed to assist the establishment and development of catapult centres, with the purpose of accelerating the process from concept to market launch of the product. We got the chance to talk to Bjørn Arne Skogstad, program manager at Norwegian Catapult.


Why are the catapult centres important? What needs do they address?

– The Catapult centres assist companies in developing prototypes, offer expertise and equipment for testing, visualisation and simulation needed in order to turn innovative ideas into new products and services in an effective manner at a lower risk. By providing expertise, contacts and facilities in various technological areas, the catapult centres can assist companies in their strive to access new markets and captivate interest from other potential business partners. In total, companies from all Norway can take advantage of 800 industrial experts and equipment-technology to the value of close to two billion NOK. The Catapult centres have already given Norway a substantial new innovation capability. In the first 3 years more than 1 600 projects has taken advantage of this innovation capability.

In the context of the digital bioeconomy, what issues do you see as the most important going forward?

– Innovation is essential in all business sectors. In today’s competitive market, enterprises in all business sectors need to constantly develop new solutions and designs to be able to provide the most favourable, cutting-edge technologies and products. Standards and manufacturing methods are being increasingly challenged by global competition, rapid technological developments, and the demand for more sustainable solutions. The ability to quickly utilise new technology and methods is for this reason an inevitable measure to ensure the competitiveness of the enterprises.

A strong capability for innovation stimulates competitiveness. Access to facilities and expertise enhances this capability. Small and medium sized enterprises need an infrastructure for innovation. Norway needs a resilient manufacturing industry to safeguard today’s level of prosperity. There is a clear necessity of developing a modern infrastructure for innovation that supports the industry to produce competitive, high-quality products and services for the future. With major technological developments and greater focus on sustainability, the need for such a strategic infrastructure is explicit.

All Catapult centres offer test facilities of high relevance for the transition of industries in various sectors to a more digital and sustainable bioeconomic future. The five Catapult centres established so far are:

Ocean Innovation Norwegian Catapult centre: This catapult centre offers design, prototyping, testing and verification facilities for the maritime industry. The test facilities include i.a. state-of-the art land-based RASLab (Recirculation Aquaculture System), test facilities offering unique opportunities for the study and development of sustainable, land-based fish farming. The centre also includes AquaCloud, a big data platform for the fish farming industry involving data sharing services and a digital standard for the aquaculture industry. The platform addresses standardisation needs related to sensor data, fish health and environmental data.

DigiCat: The centre offers test facilities, expertise and networks for virtual prototyping and development of digital twins for all industries. In DigiCat’s facilities you can test and validate ideas, concepts and products in a digital world, faster, more efficiently and with less risk than in the physical world. Here you will literally have the opportunity to enter into your product. For example, Optimar – a global leader for automated fish processing systems, conducted the design review of a factory using DigiCat’s virtual prototyping facilities.

Manufacturing technology Norwegian catapult centre: The catapult centre offers help to further develop, simulate and test production lines prior to full-scale production in the companies’ own premises. The centre holds the expertise, the equipment and facilities to give companies increased competitiveness by offering facilities that can satisfy the companies demands on innovation, environmental friendliness and advanced production technology. The centre offers a line of minifactories  i.a. an Additive manufacturing minifactory, a digital manufacturing minifactory, an automated injection molding and winding facility, a metal forming and machining facility, a digital design lab and a lean lab 4.0, supporting companies’ demands on innovation, environmental friendliness and advances production technology.

Future Materials Norwegian catapult centre: This catapult centre addresses the increasing global need for advanced materials. Future materials possesses infrastructure, equipment and expertise in materials, powders and additive manufacturing, as well as the combinations of these. The centre offers expertise for the development and testing of both traditional and new, sustainable materials, offering the opportunity to do analysis of materials in a product, run tests, measurements and characterisations in the lab, including both small and large tests in existing equipment and up to full-scale pilot. The solutions cover metallic materials, composite materials and polymers/plastic materials. Separations and recycling is a strategic area.

The Sustainable Energy Catapult centre: This catapult centre helps businesses develop and test sustainable products and systems for the production, storage, distribution and management of energy. The centre have equipment, facilities and expertise in maritime and decentralised energy systems – both suited for testing of small individual components and larger system solutions. Strategic areas are Floating Offshore Wind, Multi Fuel systems for maritime sector including ammonia and hydrogen, Smart Grid solutions and Hydrogen technology.

Photo: Bjørn Arne Skogstad, program manager at Norwegian Catapult