More specifically, we interviewed the scientific director, that is, the academic referent for technology transfer between research centers and industrial laboratories of R&D; the chief engineer responsible for realization of the prototype; and some representatives of fisher association involved in the project.
Considering the topics involved in our study, from the respondents’ interpretation, we gained further insight into the meaning of SUS, OI and VCc when investigating the interdependence of actors in the project, and the model of interaction adopted.
3.1. Case Study Context
As is well-known, also in the maritime sector, traditional energy systems are mainly based on highly polluting internal combustion engines (diesel) that supply energy for propulsion and electrical power. These systems are characterized by low thermodynamic efficiency that causes pollution (emissions and noise) or alteration of the ecological equilibrium, as well as of the seas and ports. Thus, widespread use of echo-compatible technologies for vessels represents a goal determined by the need for re-directing the entire transportation field to achieve low environmental impact and high sustainability.
The case study concerns the construction of a prototype of fishing vessel, built according to sustainability criteria using cutting-edge techniques and modern scientific knowledge. The project was financed under the National Research & Competitiveness Operational Program (PON R & C) funding program. Funded with European Structural Funds managed by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research), the program involved four underdeveloped regions in Southern of Italy: Calabria, Campania, Puglia, and Sicily.
The construction of the prototype (TESEO I) as explained below is a part of a larger project called TESEO. The acronym of the project (also the name of the vessel) stands for Tecnologie ad alta Efficienza per la Sostenibilità Energetica ed ambientale On-Board (High Efficiency Technologies for On-board Energy and Environmental Sustainability); it was chosen as it evokes the mythological figure of Teseo—Theseus, the son of Poseidon, King of the Sea.
It is worth noting that the TESEO Project is one of the many projects developed by the Sicilian Maritime Cluster “Navtec”, the collaborative network founded in 2008, in the form of a consortium company, with the aim to fostering innovation in the maritime sector by promoting collaborative relationships between private industrial actors and the main public scientific organizations operating in Sicily (the three major Sicilian Universities and the National Research Council).
The mission of this collaborative network is strictly linked with fostering innovation by sharing research and development (R&D) activities among partners, and likely the most important role of the network is to coordinate the efforts of each partner in the process, above all facilitating access to public subsidies [116
]. On this topic, collaboration among firms seems to have been assigned a central role. As outlined by a recent study conducted in this field with regard to Italy, “public authorities willing to enhance firms’ innovation capabilities are increasingly recognizing inter-organizational collaborations when granting public financial research and development (R&D) incentives, also referred to as public subsidies (PS)” [117
] (p. 1).
Although R&D subsidies can alleviate firms’ budget constraints and contribute to innovation, since the application process for public funding requires energies and specific know-how not always in the domain of an SME, firms under time and budget constraints, or lacking such expertise, may choose to focus on their own investment efforts rather than on public grants. The creation of a network can encourage the single firm to take this path, thanks to the external support coming from cooperation.
Furthermore, there is wide empirical evidence that public subsidies improve the efficiency of collaboration in the OI approach. As argued by Greco et al. [117
], the positive effect of public subsidies on OI adoption can have three desirable outputs: (1) By enhancing OI, public grants may transitively improve fund beneficiaries’ innovation performance, generating positive externalities for the society in terms of occupation and value creation; (2) Public subsidies can positively impact in environmental and social terms, especially where funds are directed towards incentivizing research fields in which a higher gap between private and social returns is assumed to exist, such as in the sector of sustainable energy; (3) Other positive externalities are expected by stimulating knowledge dissemination.
Consistent with the previous experience in this field, the role of the Cluster “Navtec” in this field is twofold: first, it supports firms, helping them to access public subsidies; secondly, it fosters interaction and cooperation of partners on R&D activities [118
]. In both cases, the network is an instrument that is able to overcome some limitations of each firm, rendering the investments carried out more effective.
The fact that the regional universities and the National Research Council (CNR) joined the network, thanks to their reputation and to knowledge-based nature, attributed a particular feature to the cooperation. Thus, as emerged in literature, their participation can produce positive effects in terms of efficacy of the OI process [119
] whilst increasing trust among partners [118
More specifically, the TESEO project, coordinated by the National Research Council (CNR) of Italy, ITAE (Messina), was developed with specific CNR institutes, the Institute for Advanced Energy Technologies “Nicola Giordano” (ITAE) Messina, the Institute for Coastal Marine Environment (IAMC) Torretta-Granitola, Mazara (TP), the Engine Institute (IM) Naples, three Sicilian Universities (Messina, Catania, and Palermo), and a leading Italian company in the maritime sector (CETENA-Fincantieri), as well as a Sicilian small firm (Cantieri Tringali) that is closely linked to the local context and highly specialized in certain production phases.
The general aim of the project, which is in full agreement with European Directive 2008/56/CE [120
] issued for the protection of the marine environment, was to contribute to implementing energetic technologies already available for ships (fuel cell systems with hydrogen and liquid fuel, 3rd generation batteries, and photovoltaic and wind generation systems). The main purpose was to stimulate the adoption of maritime transport systems with high efficiency and low environmental impact, by preparing, at the same time, an embryonic framework for the diffusion of hybrid ships; this latter issue has been an interesting opportunity for both end-users and constructors. In this project, two general objectives were addressed: firstly, the aim to apply some energetic systems and related devices, representing the state-of-the-art of industrial research, in the area of high efficiency technologies with low environmental impact, in several kinds of ships; secondly, to create new, more advanced energetic systems, suitably developed for maritime applications. Table 1
summarizes some information that refers to timing and cost of the project.
3.2. TESEO I, an Emblematic Case of Integration of Sustainability, Open Innovation, and Value Cocreation’ Paradigms
The realization of the prototype vessel (TESEO I), considered the most significant result achieved by the project, is here outlined following a temporal path whose sequence is deemed helpful in order to analyze (a) how the partners cooperated in this project, (b) what benefits they obtained, (c) the collaborative aspects that characterized the project, and (d) which critical aspects emerged from this cooperation.
The main purpose of the TESEO project was to develop the use of energy technology and apply it to the maritime sector. It regarded two main objectives: (1) to make available and install energy devices and systems representing the state-of-the-art in the field of energy efficient technologies on different types of vessels, and (2) to study and realize new, more advanced energetic systems directly developed for the maritime sector.
The purpose is entirely embedded with sustainable development issues that have been constantly taken into account during all the various phases of the project, in particular regarding the development of high efficiency energy technologies with low environmental impact that are to be applied in the designed and built boats.
To demonstrate the application feasibility of such technology, different types of vessels were identified, such as mega-yachts, yachts, and sailing and fishing boats. In parallel, new technologies with a strong innovation character, specifically dedicated to the maritime sector, were developed for medium and long-term application. New energy technologies that were directly tested on board were supported by structural and engineering studies, together with appropriate energetic analysis.
In the course of the project, cooperation among the various partners was crucial in the development of the several systems addressed in the project plan. Specific testing controls were identified and applied, and appropriate subsystems were designed for every new technology.
The first objective was developed in three projects that aimed to realize a prototype or a pre-industrial product:
Pleasure craft, such as yachts and sailboats, should use a polymeric electrolyte fuel cell. Therefore, both hybrid and purely electrical configurations were studied. Particular attention was paid to renewable sources, such as photovoltaic sources, to ensure energy sustainability and efficiency. In addition, specific studies were devoted to methodologies based on the integration of renewable energies (available on-board), which aimed to generate electricity for auxiliary systems.
For the electric propulsion of large vessels, the project dealt with the development and implementation of a complete power generation system with a maximum power of 210 kW, comprising control and management systems, and the study of constraints in current legislation with the purpose of issuing specific guidelines on new security criteria related to the use of new technologies and their certification.
For small and medium size vessels, such as yachts and sailing boats, both hybrid and pure electrical engines were investigated.
To achieve high technical performance and low environmental impact, improving efficiency and reducing fuel consumption, cooperation among partners was aimed at designing a fishing vessel prototype, characterized by high innovative solutions for hull fluid dynamics and structure. At the same time, it was necessary to optimize the propulsion system by also studying different configurations with different degrees of thermal-electric hybridization. The most modern pollution abatement technologies were applied, making them suitable also for heavy duty diesel engines, such as those used on fishing vessels.
The second main objective regarded the study and development of new, specific technologies for maritime applications, which were not intended to be used to obtain prototypes or pre-industrial products within the result of the project but only to carry on in-depth studies in the specific field within the basic research.
As fishing provides a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade, and economic well-being for people throughout the world, it should be conducted in a responsible manner, for the sake of both present and future generations. Therefore, the implementation of new, more ecological vessels could represent an important step forward towards ensuring sustainable activity of (commercial) fisheries and effective mitigation of putative risk to species and habitats of conservation concern (see Figure 3
In line with Figure 3
, one of the three projects related to the first objective of the TESEO Project involved the production of a prototype vessel for fishing: the TESEO I. The specific aim was the realization of a prototype of high efficiency and low environmental impact that, at the same time, was able to meet the needs of comfort and safety of fishermen during the various phases concerning their activities on board. Indeed, over the period of the development of the prototype, not only were issues identifying innovative solutions consistent with low environmental impact considered, but quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure to support well-being on board was also promoted and realized.
TESEO I, realized according to the aforementioned objectives, has characteristics that make it completely compatible with the sustainability principle.
Moreover, it represents the result of a concrete example of how OI, which is a pervasive aspect of the project, can be linked to VCc in the implementation of economic, ecological, and social solutions obtained through knowledge sharing.
Retracing the various phases (from the generation of the idea to its development) of the realization of TESEO I, it is clear that the outward opening aimed at VCc regards, almost indiscriminately, all the phases of the process, even if to different degrees. They will be described below, highlighting the contribution given by different partners, each with their own specific knowledge. The following Table 2
shows the partners involved in the construction of the prototype.
It is important to underline that, as mentioned above, the realization of the TESEO I prototype represents, in truth, one of the conclusive phases of the wider TESEO Project. Therefore, the complex, important upfront or fuzzy front-end of the product development (FFE) [25
], as a predevelopment step of the innovation process, must be considered as accomplished during the determination of the larger aims of the TESEO project.
The first stage of the activity regarded analysis of the regulatory framework and an evaluation of the real needs of the fishing industry. Different types of fishing were considered in relation to the structural characteristics of the prototype. In this phase, both CNR Sicilian institutes, ITAE and IAMC, played a primary role.
In the following stage, the designing the prototype, and the support given to the project by actual stakeholder engagement, which was carried out by the network itself, was fundamental. Fishermen, in particular, need to be mentioned for their role in building the prototype. They were engaged through a questionnaire devised by IAMC and CETENA to help identify issues related to:
different technical and structural features when adapting the layout of the ship;
specific conditions of safety that needed to be taken into account, among which was the impact of noise on people and fish;
comfort level for fishermen, considering the long time they usually spend onboard;
the need to customize the vessel according to the type of fishing activity;
the need to ensure the correct preservation of fish in special refrigerated cells on board;
the operating speed of the vehicle in the different phases of fishing (research, transfer, exit, and return to port) and the duration of transfers for the different types of fishing.
This category of stakeholder was considered the most important for two reasons: first, for their specific competence on the type of fishing and then the opportunity to meet their expectations, as they are the users of the ship; secondly, for the competence of such people regarding the nature and degree of environmental impact of the vessel, along with the opportunity to learn from their knowledge and experience.
During the realization of the prototype (Figure 4
), the procedure foresaw continuous inter-functional involvement always supported by the coordination activity carried out by ITAE. People responsible for the various functions were involved in working together under constant supervision. It is important to highlight that the entire management of the collaboration took place not only through frequent meetings but also through the use of technological communication tools and highly professional, scientific software.
Having collected and checked data related to the questionnaire, boat features were tailored to the needs of fishermen, considering permanence on board of 10 people for 3–5 days maximum, with intermediate support from other ports.
Researchers were looking for innovative solutions for the hull that addressed the optimization of fluid dynamics of the keel, and different types of hull were defined and studied through numerical simulations and hydrodynamic analysis to assess hydrodynamic performance and optimization.
In this phase, Informatica Navale and Cantiere Tringali were supported by CETENA S.p.A. (a Fincantieri Company), an important study center in the maritime field, located in Castellammare (Palermo). As well as needs relating to livability on board (see Figure 4
), the propulsion system was developed by studying possible configurations of different degrees of thermal-electric hybridization and designing the propeller to maximize efficiency and silence of the ship.
Great emphasis was put on optimizing the hybrid propulsion system. Taking into account performance and overall requirements on board and the relative fishing operations, CNR IM, Informatica Navale, and CETENA, together with the technicians of the Cantiere Tringali, identified a specific diesel-electric hybrid architecture. The solution allowed the adaptation of the hull profile to fishing and the achievement of high efficiency by reducing pollutant emissions. Diesel engines can be switched off when maximum power is not required, for example, at the moment the nets for fishing are down (Figure 5
Greater efficiency of the boat and reduction of fuel consumption were obtained thanks to innovative solutions found for the fluid dynamics of the keel and hull structure. The most modern techniques for reducing polluting emissions were also evaluated. In particular, CETENA S.p.A. provided a fundamental contribution to the hull design through optimization of the hull shape and propeller tunnels, in particular with reference to levels of radiated noise. Structural solutions were also developed, aimed at improving hull resistance without increasing the weight of the boat, and at the same time a more rational redistribution of the components’ weights of the hull resulted in greater stability of the boat.
The next step involved the construction and preparation of the vessel prototype. This phase was carried out at the Cantiere Tringali, located in the port of Augusta (Syracuse). After having prepared the construction plan and drawings that were related to the type of single-hull vessel, types of systems and accessories on board were identified, as well as the materials to be used. The engineering-structural study of the hull for the evaluation of spaces, dimensions, and weights also concerned the fishing plants, refrigeration, and preservation of the catch on board, and a sizing of their maximum. In this phase, it is worth citing the participation of another CNR institute, IM in Naples, which aimed at improving combustion efficiency, choice of the particulate filter, and the hybrid on-board propulsion and power generation architecture. As well as other activities carried out within the project, also the construction of the prototype in the Cantiere Tringali was coordinated by ITAE, which also developed, realized, and tested the specific components of an adsorption cooling machine for the preservation of the catch, which uses the waste heat produced on board during navigation.
The realization of the prototype was completed with the construction and launch of a semi-displacement hull, with an innovative design concept 17.44 m in length, width 7.62 m, height 2.70 m, built entirely in steel, 4 mm grade. Stability tests were carried out on board with positive results for obtaining the final test.
There are two key points that make the experimental prototype decidedly innovative for high energy efficiency:
Dedicated Maritime Geometries;
With regard to the first point, the main geometric innovation lies in the hull of the prototype based on the principle of “partial hydrodynamic sustenance” that, compared to a conventional displacement boat, ensures higher speeds at equal power. A second distinguishing aspect is the empty weight of the prototype, which is less than half compared to the traditional type but is able to ensure the same commercially useful flow rate. A further innovation is the geometric profile form with a drastic reduction of the sail area, which is used to get a better grip to leeway during mail operations. Finally, the advantage offered by the new geometry concerns the safety and comfort of the crew, thanks to the considerable increase in the area of Covered Bridge, which is available for the equipment and operation of the vessel (see Figure 5
), as well as the increase in accommodation space for 10 people.
The second key point is the introduction, to the fishing sector, of hybrid propulsion, the simplification of plants, and the control and management of energy resources. For the type of fishing envisaged, it will be possible to use only electric motors in fishing zones to maintain position or move at very low speeds during the phases of lowering the fishing gear.
A comparison with existing fishing vessels from an energy point of view, through the forecast analyses conducted, indicates a significant reduction in diesel consumption resulting from the combined effect of the two above-mentioned characteristics, giving the vessel greater energy efficiency with consequent lower environmental impact and a lower operating cost. This may pave the way for the modernization of the fishing fleet, also in view of the selectivity of fishing gear and the preservation of fish on board which, by increasing the value added by the fishing vessel, improve the cost-benefit ratio of the fishing activity.
3.3. The Results
Working through the design process of the realization of TESEO I has given us the opportunity to better understand that value of co-creation, which is seen as a possible way towards open innovation; this point has already been highlighted in the theoretical background. More precisely, from case study it emerged that the co-creative process is linked with the innovative process in a general context deeply inspired by sustainability since energy saving, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which represents one of the foremost global environmental issues.
Indeed, it is well known that OI can be characterized in terms of level of integration, organization, and forms of governance [121
] but according to Lanzarotti and Manzini [122
], studies of other variables are significant to OI: “namely, the number of and types of partners and the phases of the innovation process which are “open” to external contributions” (p. 616). On this topic, “the number of and types of partners with which a company collaborates is something that determines the level of openness of the innovation process of a company: the more partners the company has, the more “open” its innovation process”, as well as “the number and type of phases in the innovation process for which the company accesses external sources of technology and know-how” [122
] (p. 616), giving information of openness of the innovation process [123
From literature, a number of different approaches are used to measure the degree of openness of companies, which are consistent with the multidimensional nature of the phenomenon [124
], but the use of the two aforementioned different variables is considered useful to the aim of this paper. This approach is consistent with the fact that the various stages in the innovation process have very different features, and OI can be addressed only to specific phases, such as idea generation [123
] prototyping and engineering and production [125
By focusing on such variables starting from the first and until the last phase, we measure the degree of OI also by considering the number of and type of partners involved in each process; see the Table 3
As said above, the context of OI represents an ideal environment for VCc, which is considered as a dynamic and continuous process that is able to cocreate stable value in the long run, engaged each time in different ways and generating different “values” both for firms and individuals in a continuous cycle [126
The model proposed in this work regards the coupled process of OI and fits with the investigated case study, as this kind of OI process is realized when partners actively collaborate and cooperate [81
] and thus when outside-in and inside-out processes are run simultaneously [127
]. Moreover, the network in which the cooperation took place led to an authentic co-creation of value in which each individual co-creates value and captures it continuously in different forms and ways over time. The suitable application of different knowledge and skills, together with the integration of resources and enforcement of competencies, enhanced the value of each entity by creating benefits for all partners into one mutual exchange through a collaborative and dialogical process. In this context, a variable that undoubtedly impacted the designing process is time, a strategic factor that deeply influences innovation processes in terms of development, adoption, and diffusion of technology. Indeed, the lead time played a crucial role in this project, in which many actors were asked to act under a common management, given the need to coordinate the various phases and the simultaneous contribution required from each one, to achieve the goals of the entire project.
It is acknowledged that the time factor is fundamental in every environment, sometimes representing a not negligible obstacle to overcome, especially for SMEs that have fewer organizational resources with which to address research activities that are embedded in managing innovation processes. This aspect represented one of the major challenges, and the synergic and synchronic cooperation of actors required a great deal of effort (also considering problems faced during the process that were not foreseeable in advance). The case under investigation, as well as others studies in literature [122
], demonstrate the importance of the time dimension along with the achievement of different innovation goals.
The previous Figure 6
shows tasks and phases detailed in the project, which were assigned to the various partners, considered also in reporting documents required by public administration as lead time to respect for the success of the process. It allows a deeper understanding of the complexity of the interaction among involved actors.