Lightweight solutions strengthen Swedish competitiveness and growth – for a more sustainable world
Our strategic research and innovation agenda for lightweight
Driving and developing innovation in lightweight solutions requires a strategy. That’s why Lightweight Member Programme and SIP LIGHTer are guided by our strategic research and innovation agenda. The agenda was created based on actual needs expressed by industry players. Using the agenda, we hope to create links among projects and areas of research as well as define new ones so that we can sharpen our focus on meeting our goals.
Download the agenda in Swedish or English:
Lightweight Agenda 2020–2022
- An even clearer lifecycle perspective that pervades lightweight development. By continuing to use and refine our sustainability tools along the entire TRL scale, we ensure that the developed solutions also meet the UN's sustainable development goals.
- More multidisciplinary research and development projects to produce solutions that deliver radically lower weight. This requires more sustained funding so that larger and broader research groups can be established.
- A coordinated national approach to create a stronger test and demo infrastructure with more facilities in the interplay between several strategic innovation programmes (SIPs) and other key stakeholders.
- Improving the conditions for small and medium-sized companies to collaborate with large stakeholders in order to strengthen the entire value chain. Opportunities to finance efforts in later parts of development projects are vital.
We have long known that we can develop more sustainable yet lighter components. The challenge is to find the design and production solutions that make every innovation attractive to use, even from a cost standpoint – whether for photovoltaic solar panels or automotive components, or whether the company is IKEA or Volvo.
For example, if cast iron cannot be replaced by a composite in a profitable way, the improvement will never reach the market no matter how climate-smart it is. The general opinion in the aerospace industry is that every kilogram of reduced weight is worth about SEK 10,000 during the lifespan of an aircraft, in the form of reduced fuel consumption among other savings. It is therefore also the level of cost per kilogram that must be taken into account when it comes to possible increased production costs for lighter solutions.
More efficient development methods
The investment in LIGHTer Product Optimisation using virtual solutions has been successful. The network is an industrial initiative for boosting the industry's ability to use optimisation methods early in product development. Optimisation methods are ideal for new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, in industries with high quality requirements and short product development times.
Demands for even shorter and more predictable time schedules continue to increase on all global markets. We therefore need to further develop safer, faster ways to verify new technologies and development methods prior to introduction into a business project.
Mixed material designs
Sweden has leading producers of high strength steels. But we must strive to take the lead in the use of mixed materials too, such as steel and fibre composite. The durability and functionality of various materials and joints in different climates and temperatures must be ensured, while reducing weight.
In addition to material knowledge and developed joining methods, broader skillsets in joint calculations are increasingly in demand. Today we see successful outcomes with sandwich materials that meet the demands for durability, lighter weight and mass production potential at a reasonable cost. In parallel, effective recycling methods must be developed that make mixed materials fully sustainable.
Side by side with the development of multifunctional materials, we must continue improving material properties through continuous enhancements.
As a result of the gradual analysis and development of new materials, components and products can gain improved properties, such as becoming stronger or having increased rigidity or lower density. This not only brings functional advantages but can also reduce environmental impact through lighter shipments and reduced material consumption.
The innovation theme, “Innovative functions”, has been added to this third Lightweight Agenda with the clear ambition to stimulate completely new approaches and embolden researchers to test ideas judged to be "high-risk" - but we prefer to use the concept "high-potential". So by developing more funding models that promote an innovative mindset and encourage radical ideas, we also hope to establish more projects in this category.
Multifunctionality means integrating two or more functions in a single component or material and represents one way of achieving innovative functions. One example is the area of structural batteries, in which LIGHTer Academy is a partner.
LIGHTer intends to keep on creating new structures for strategic Swedish research. LIGHTer Academy and LIGHTer PhD Network are positive examples of initiatives that promote interdisciplinary collaborative research among industry and academia.
From working in parallel and competing for resources, KTH and Chalmers are now collaborators and have made major research advances on carbon fibres that can store energy. This project was made possible by LIGHTer Academy and was judged by Physics World to be one of the ten most significant scientific contributions in 2018!
Industry-based development projects
LIGHTer aims to strengthen multiple industries and supplier levels at the same time. We thus offer an annual call for innovation projects with two specialisations: projects whose results can be implemented within five years of project completion, and more visionary projects at lower technology maturity levels.
Industry needs are what always drive our projects forward. By stimulating and finding the best approaches to industry collaboration, we know from experience that we can achieve positive results.
Test and demo activities
In the years ahead, we intend to create more test and demo activities for small businesses. We must continue to increase availability, minimise risks to the business and create synergies across the entire value chain and between various industries.
One path to a stronger test and demo infrastructure with more facilities can be an increased interplay between several strategic innovation programmes. But this is only part of a possible solution. Here, we need to enhance national coordination to enlarge the scope for Swedish lightweight development. LIGHTer has conducted several pilot projects with good results.
Exchange small and large companies
What is the best framework for encouraging the interplay between small technology-oriented companies and Sweden's major global manufacturing industries? This is definitely a key issue that we as a nation need to find a variety of good answers to.
Involving suppliers in ongoing development projects with specific assignments at an early stage lowers the threshold to volume orders and frees up time and resources for investment for more SMEs. This is an important parameter for success. LIGHTer’s regional nodes offer a way to create more meeting places, and this kind of development work will continue.
As we continue to develop a forum for skills exchange and education, we’ve seen an increasing awareness of the role that lightweighting plays in competitiveness. LIGHTer reaches a broad target group through a combination of our online courses, seminars and workshops as well as our growing PhD network for doctoral students.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach, we complement industry's own training and raise awareness of the need to collaborate. Here, of course, our regional nodes also play an important role in creating new structures for skills development.
Regional, national & international coordination
The interplay between regional, national and global levels is one of LIGHTer’s many success factors. We have several successful examples of new research collaborative initiatives that have culminated in new insights, radical research results and advanced excellence.
We constantly strive for solid collaboration with public-sector funders, industry-specific organisations and other strategic innovation programmes to create even more resources for lightweight projects. The great interest in our international lightweight conference shows that LIGHTer has established itself as a major player in Europe.
Management & coordination
The ability to coordinate financial resources and the roles of cross-industry parties are essential for creating continuity and a clear direction in research and development projects.
Over the years, we have built up great trust in our role as a hub. So, what’s our main driving force? To enable Swedish organisations and other actors in lightweighting to get the most out of each other's innovation capacities. Our overall management function, combined with individual project managers in industry, academia or research institutes allows us to create opportunities together.