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A pioneer in passenger presence detection in cars, IEE has become a global leader in automotive safety sensing systems for occupant detection and classification. About 10 years ago, the company started to reflect on how radar technology could be used to take its sensor applications to a new level. “We will launch our first product using radar technology already this year: VitaSense, a module for detecting the presence of a child that has been left behind on the rear bench of a car,” says Chief Technology Officer Alain Schumacher. “However, the potential for radar technology is by far not limited to VitaSense applications. In order to expand IEE’s market opportunities, the next generation technology must be created now and immediately secured by systematic patent filing.”

Maintaining the competitive edge

The company’s research project “Distributed Collaborative Connected Electromagnetic mm-Wave Sensors” aims at gaining in-depth knowledge about the future possibilities offered by cutting edge radar technology. “This is a very complex matter, and we cannot be sure in advance of the final results,” says Mr Schumacher. “However, it is a logic continuation of what we are doing today. Maintaining a pipeline of new technologies has always been essential for our success.”

Maintaining a pipeline of new technologies has always been essential for our success.

IEE is implementing this interdisciplinary project together with the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT), headed by Professor Björn Ottersten who is widely renowned for his expertise in wireless communication and radar technology. The two organisations already have a long history of working together on challenging research projects. The SnT is mainly in charge of theoretical work (e.g. signal processing), while IEE focuses more on technology evaluation and experimental research. The Ministry of the Economy is co-funding the initiative for a period of four years.

Contractual agreements: a must for a sustainable partnership

The focus of academic and industrial research is not necessarily the same: researchers want to release publications and attend scientific conferences, while companies concentrate on developing intellectual property that they can commercialise. “Both sides need to understand
each other’s objectives,” Mr Schumacher underlines. “The SnT has extensive industry cooperation and the right professionals in place to handle such projects, which is a big asset for us. Beside the contractual regulations, there is a mutual understanding of the individual
needs and obligations of each partner. This is necessary for the project to succeed, not only in terms of high-level technology and academic results, but also to enhance the company and its national ecosystem.”

By asking crucial questions about the projects and how the outcome will be used in practice, Luxinnovation helps us avoid ‘inventor blindness’ and to keep focused on our business case.

IEE has been working with Luxinnovation for years. “The Luxinnovation team supports us to formulate R&D projects that are eligible for state aid and reviews that all documents are complete and correct,” says Mr Schumacher. “By asking crucial questions about the projects and how the outcome will be used in practice, they also help us avoid ‘inventor blindness’ and to keep focused on our business case. Having this support from external experts is very important.”

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