Acceleration of commercial uptake

The purpose of Business Prototyping was to help research groups in HPC identify and evaluate business cases based on their research results. Around each technology, Business Prototyping Project teams were formed that consisted of the principle investigator, an entrepreneurial lead, and a mentor with industry experience.

Each team was then guided through a method of how to quickly and effectively identify and test critical business-related hypotheses, e.g. who is the customer; what problem are we solving for them; what should our offering be (product/service/IP); how do we reach the customers with our offering; how and how much should we charge for it. While good technology is critical, the focus of the business prototyping projects was on testing business related hypotheses, e.g. by talking to customers and other external stakeholders.

Each Business Prototyping Project team included the following three roles:

  • Principal Investigator (PI)

    The senior researcher associated with the technology on which the BPP is based.

  • Mentor (M)

    A person with experience from taking research-based technologies to the market, preferably from the same technological field or industry.

  • Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)

    A person with the commercial interest and technical competence needed to investigate the commercial potential of the innovation. Typically a Masters student, PhD student or post doc.

To support the efforts, each team received €25.000 in financial support, to be used to test the most critical business-related assumptions, e.g. by paying for the time of the entrepreneurial lead and mentor, by paying for trips to meet with potential customers and partners, by paying for development of necessary prototypes and presentation materials.

Example projects

SORT-ATM (Solutions On Real-Time for Air Traffic Management)
  • Entrepreneurial Lead (EL): Alejandro Marti Donati, PhD student, Department of Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (CASE), Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS)
  • Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Arnau Folch, Environmental Simulations Group Manager, Department of Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (CASE), Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS)
  • Mentor (M): Mónica de Mier Torrecilla, Business Development Officer, Department of Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (CASE), Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS)

Atmospheric dispersion of hazardous substances (e.g. volcanic eruptions, sandstorms) influences many economic markets, and poses a variety of problems to the aviation industry. For example, the presence of airborne volcanic ash at low and jet-cruise atmospheric levels compromises the safety of aircraft operations and forces re-routing of aircraft to prevent encounters with volcanic ash clouds. The forecast of these catastrophic events relies on the development, implementation and execution of computational intensive atmospheric transport models in order to simulate the dispersal of each hazardous substance.

Using HPC to run these models in an operational way to develop customer-based solutions that digest and present this information to the aviation industry should enhance the speed and quality of decision-making during such events.


The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) was awarded a EuroLab-4-HPC 2017 BPP grant to help bring its SORT-ATM (Solutions on Real Time for Air Traffic Management) technology to market. The BPP grant has allowed us to learn about the lean startup methodology and to interview potential customers (and other external stakeholders) to get relevant insights. It has also allowed us to undertake thorough market analysis with the help of a consultancy company specialized in the aviation sector.

The interviews in combination with the broader market analysis has allowed us to identify the Airlines as the most promising customer sector. Volcanic ash losses to the aviation sector can be of hundreds millions yearly. However, most airlines have no system in place to forecast the impact of volcanic ash. Very few airlines have worked on methodologies to mitigate the impact at a qualitative level but they are still interested in quantitative forecasts such as those provided by our technology. Airlines find that services improve their efforts to cope with the anticipated future traffic upturn and improve air traffic management due to our MITIGA-VIEWS service (Volcanic Impact Early Warning Subscription). This service includes a 24/7 operational service and high spatial and temporal resolution simulations. In addition, they also highlighted the benefits from having a real-time impact analysis to respond to the volcanic ash impacts to Air Traffic Management. Finally, we got very good feedback from the engine manufacturers sector in regards to our engine dose calculator.

On the other side, Air Navigation Service Providers were initially identified as a potential important customer, due to their efforts to cope with the anticipated future traffic upturn and air traffic management. However, research shows that their mission is not to provide an operational service and therefore our products were interesting to them but not critical.

Thanks to the BPP grant, the business idea is now on the way to becoming a BSC spin-off company.

Blind Docking Server
  • Entrepreneurial Lead (EL): José Pedro Cerón Carrasco, Universidad Católica de Murcia (UCAM)
  • Principal Investigator (PI): Horacio Pérez Sánchez, Universidad Católica de Murcia (UCAM)
  • Mentor (M): Mark Berger, NVIDIA Corporation

This project pursues vastly accelerated drug discovery by use of High Performance Computing, molecular modelling techniques, and concretely, and techniques commonly known as computational drug discovery and in-silico high throughput screening. Traditionally, these techniques usually assume a unique interaction site (active site) between potential drug leads and the chosen protein target. This can lead to drastic limitations regarding the number and types of novel drugs that can be discovered, since allosteric sites and other interaction spots different from active site are not explored. In order to solve this problem, the BIO-HPC research group at UCAM developed a technique called Blind Docking (BD), which, by exploiting HPC architectures, is able to scan the whole protein in the search of novel and unknown interactions spots.


Participation in the Business Prototyping Project—and the many interviews conducted and events and conferences visited that this entailed—produced a lot of insights that we could not even remotely have imagine before. Three of the most important of these were:

A) User interface: we believed that our Blind Docking Server (BDS) had a straightforward user interface but the majority of interviews from different customer segments revealed the opposite. Based on the feedback received, we are redesigning it.

B) Selling point or benchmark data: we thought we had enough benchmark data to be able to convince customers about the main advantages of BDS, but we were wrong. Most interviewed researchers pointed out that several relevant benchmarks were lacking, and now we are performing the relevant calculations in order to include them. Some of them are very time consuming, but we think this time investment is very worthy.

C) Marketing: our vision was that the main advantages of the Blind Docking technique against classical docking methods were pretty clear, but we reached the conclusion, after lots of user meetings that this was not the case. We are investigating how to make the message more clear and plan to test it with different cohorts to evaluate whether it communicates well.

The series of videos below describes the Business Prototyping Process: