M Sora – Develop innovations with the University of Ljubljana
Bold ideas and breakthrough innovations are essential for companies’ success on the market. This is something that is well-known by M Sora from Žiri, a company where innovativeness pervades all areas of operation and which collaborates successfully with the University of Ljubljana on its path to innovations.
Transfer of knowledge to the business sector is the strategic mission of the University of Ljubljana. The University still has at its disposal a vast unused potential of technologies suitable for commercialisation, and the Knowledge Transfer Office acts as the entry point for companies seeking technologies, knowledge or project partnerships.
M Sora, which takes pride in holding one patent and three international trademarks, is the leading manufacturer of building fixtures in Slovenia, focused on the production of wooden or wood-aluminium windows, doors and panoramic walls. The company is keeping up with new technological features and is focused on innovative solutions at all levels.
We asked Ms Barbara Šubic, Head of Development and Technology at M Sora, about the company’s collaboration with the University of Ljubljana. We invite you to read about how M Sora selects its staff for innovative development projects, what are the results of the company’s collaborations with the University, and much more.
How do you tackle innovation processes at M Sora?
“When it comes to innovation, it is difficult to define at which precise moment it begins, as well as when the development of a product really ends. Ideas on which we work are gathered via the development department. This is where ideas, along with suggestions for improvements or revolutionary changes, come in from all our departments (sales, technology, manufacture and assembly). Ideas often come from the outside to these departments, dictated by trends, the market, architects, buyers, suppliers, etc. If all is as it should be, ideas for changes never run out. Everybody at the company can contribute ideas for improvements, and we strive to implement all of them as soon as possible. With product innovations, we try to respond to all the customers’ wishes, while in the second stage our process improvements ensure that product innovations are realised through procedures in as optimised way as possible.”
How and where do you seek the staff needed for innovative development projects?
“There are currently five of us in the development department, covering the fields of wood technology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and industrial design. Whenever we lack knowledge to solve a particular problem, we contact development organisations and faculties in Slovenia, where such knowledge is abundant. Mostly, we collaborate with the University of Ljubljana, i.e. the Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering, and the Biotechnical Faculty, the Department of Wood Technology. We also work with the University of Primorska, the InnoRenew Centre of Excellence and the Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute.”
In what way do you collaborate with the University of Ljubljana?
“We collaborate through research projects, in which we are both involved. We have just completed the TIGR4smart project and we began working on the WOOLF project in December. In TIGR4smart we produced components for smart buildings and a home with a wood chain, while the second project involves us developing methods of predicting the life span of wood.”
Why did you decide to look for collaboration opportunities at faculties?
“Collaborations have been taking place for a long time, and there have been countless instances where we have seen that there is a lot of knowledge at Slovenian faculties. In addition to the activities we carry out within projects, collaborations also take place on other levels: conferences, lectures, diploma and master’s theses, and often through solving specific issues that come up in projects.”
How did you approach the faculties and researchers at the University of Ljubljana?
“Everyone in our development team studied at the University of Ljubljana, and we still knew some people there from that time. This is how it usually begins, with familiar faces that share your ideas. It continues through joint projects, where some new members might join, and so the circle expands. Over the past year we have published a number challenges via the University’s Knowledge Transfer Office, and these were forwarded to researchers at all faculties. The response to these challenges was quite good.”
What are the results of your collaborations with the University of Ljubljana?
“Over the past four years, we worked with the University of Ljubljana on seven Slovenian or European projects, and the results were always very positive for us. In addition to developing products, we gained an enormous knowledge base on wood, which is very helpful in general. Under the Wintherwax project, we protected a trademark and were honoured with a Puh Award for the successful transfer of knowledge from the university to the business sector. The innovation resulting from our recent project, TIGR4smart, was patented. There are a great many direct results, but perhaps there are even more indirect ones that are not immediately measurable but which definitely contribute to the recognisability of the company, its qualities and placement within the research and business sphere. One of such direct results was the call from the European Commission, informing us that we have been selected as the best example of a medium-sized eco-innovative enterprise in Europe. A short promotional film was made about us, and it will be available on the European Commission’s website. Collaboration with the University enables us to access the knowledge our company lacks. It is safe to say that Slovenian universities are by no means lacking top-quality knowledge, and we have no need to look for it abroad. We are also pleased that an increasing number of faculties are interested in working with companies.”