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Innovation, research and development

IMA’s vocation in the pursuit of innovation reflects its strong orientation to be seen as a solution provider rather than just as a product vendor. This approach has always been a distinguishing characteristic of IMA and has resulted in a strong market leadership position. Research and development costs in 2019 amount to 53.9 million euros, slightly down from the 55.3 million euros last year, representing 3.4% of revenue. This item primarily includes the research costs incurred on the technological upgrading and normal revamping of standard products.

The cost of customizing standard products and the cost of custom-made developments on the specific request of the customer are not included, as they are part of the cost of sales and, as such, invoiced directly to the clients.



Given the complexity of the markets in which it operates and the dynamism of its growth, IMA requires a greater centrality and transversality of research and development skills, implemented by following two guidelines:

  • research and development of machinery and equipment in a specific market segment: carried out within the individual divisions;
  • experimentation and implementation of new technologies, technological scouting, creation of international cooperation relations, cooperation with research centres: performed by the Innovation structure.

In IMA, the development of innovation is widespread, that is, deriving from the ideas of individuals, from Marketing inputs, from the analysis of competitors’ machines, from collaborative innovation or from scouting enabling technologies.

To ensure the dissemination of knowledge and stimulate new ideas, new hires from the Research & Development departments follow a path of continuous training on technological innovation, for example on real time operating systems, on the software framework produced for the use of Personal Computers as a machine controller, on mechatronics, on the development of industrial software for automatic machines.

These technologies are developed with a view to implementing open innovation, fostering cooperation worldwide and with research centres, and taking part in funded projects. IMA is consolidating its presence in Boston by supporting the creation of innovative start-ups and working with departments of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on projects of mutual interest. These start-ups are developing technologies that, once they are part of IMA’s research and development structures, will enhance its innovative capacity, as happened with Continuus Pharmaceuticals Inc. and INKBIT LLC.

Given that IMA is a leader in the production of machines and plants for the pharmaceutical industry, various projects have been initiated with Continuus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which perfected integrated continuous manufacturing technologies that increased the efficiency and speed of the manufacturing process for pharmaceutical active ingredients.

In 2017 IMA also contributed to the birth of INKBIT LLC, spin-out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on additive manufacturing, a totally innovative technology based on integrating artificial intelligence techniques into the additive printing process.

In Silicon Valley, IMA activated a design thinking project on collaborative robotics, in cooperation with the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, which will involve a group of talented students from University of Bologna and Stanford University (SUGAR/ME310 project).

The smart machine and smart factory projects are being developed in cooperation with research centres and funded projects.

In 2019 the MaXima (Multiple Actions for Innovation in Machine Automation) project, co-financed by the Ministry of Economic Development, was completed. It dealt with adaptive, smart, high-performance, efficient and environmentally friendly production systems, in line with the Industry 4.0 paradigm.

The projects currently under way include:

  • ROSSINI (Horizon 2020): design and development of modular platforms for the integration of robotic technologies and human operators in an industrial environment;
  • IDM (IMA Digital Manufacturing), co-financed by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Authorities: creation of an IMA research centre to support digitisation of the Supply Chain and the use of additive manufacturing;
  • I-MECH, co-financed by the European Commission and MIUR: intelligent mechatronic systems.

Lastly, the SENECA (Systems Enabling Efficient Cognitive Automation) project, which focuses on the use of artificial intelligence in machines and systems, is nearing approval.


The other IMA companies around the world are also supporting various projects and cooperating on research and development with universities and research institutes.

In the United States, IMA companies work in cooperation with several technical schools and universities on school-work alternance and internship projects. Other research projects have been developed in cooperation with local universities, associations and research bodies.

In Asia, several IMA companies are members of international research and development associations, such as ISPE (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering) and IPEM (International Pharmaceutical Engineering Management).

PATENTS FILED AND GRANTED IN 2019 (out of a total of more than 1,700 patents and patent applications pending worldwide)




IMA Life North America inc. 2 14
GIMA S.p.A.(absorbed by IMA from 01/01/2020); 14 43
Telerobot S.p.A. 9 2
Corazza S.p.A. 6 3 (2) 

Ilapak Italia S.p.A.

8 4

Eurosicma – Costruzioni Macchine Automatiche S.p.A


IMA Medtech Switzerland SA


Ilapak International SA


Delta Systems Automation LLC

IMA 141 143

Teknoweb Converting S.r.l




IMA Active went as far as exploring Continuous Manufacturing, the new production paradigm that combines together into series the various production technologies, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of materials, from raw materials to the finished pharmaceutical. The process is constantly monitored in real time thanks to the latest generation of PAT instruments and upstream and downstream regulation algorithms, so as to obtain a product that is invariably compliant. Recent studies on the possible increase in efficiency arising from the implementation of Continuous Manufacturing in the pharmaceutical sector show the drug cost would be lower by up to 40% than the current batch production, a reduction of up to 80% in the size of plants, with a consequent reduction in energy consumption, and a reduction in production times of up to 90%, with an increase in the quality of the drug.

CROMA, the new continuous tablet coating machine, marked IMA’s first step towards Continuous Manufacturing. Scaled to work downstream of a medium speed tablet press, CROMA is designed to work on a continuous and seamless product flow through the modules. Modularity is the key feature of the project: CROMA can mount up to four modules, which can be connected either in series for increased weight tolerance, or in parallel for a greater capacity. The result is maximum flexibility in terms of machine configurations and process performance.

IMA SAFE is exploring innovative and flexible packaging systems suitable for the production of small batches and innovative sensors applicable to its systems. Below are some examples that will be presented at Interpack 2020:

Trit-one: robotised cartoning island. Modular cartoning machine suitable for producing virtually any pharmaceutical package without the need for format parts;

New count sensor: a sensor for counters, capable of detecting flaws in the tablets with great precision before final packaging.



Growing attention to environmental sustainability issues within private and public companies has triggered multiple projects and initiatives. In the processing and packaging machinery industry, actions aimed at sustainability are geared to obtaining innovative packaging materials, while reducing the consumption of resources during production.

For some time now, IMA’s development policies have generated themed projects, working side by side with high profile customers and partners. Among the various initiatives, the activities of IlaLab, the laboratory within the Lugano production site, stand out. There, for several years IMA has supported the development of flexible eco-sustainable primary packaging.

More recently, to give greater impetus to the theme and direct the production chain to a growing environmental sustainability, IMA launched IMA NoP – No Plastic Program, a company-wide project to bring about a wider and more systematic introduction of eco-sustainable materials throughout the entire supply chain.

• “IMA funds a research grant to acquire skills on packaging materials. The research fellow of the Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering (DICAM) of the University of Bologna will carry out his research on the topic of “Polymeric materials for an eco-sustainable packaging”.

The MaXima project includes a line of research entitled “Use of eco-compatible materials”, which seeks to overcome the restrictions that limit the use of PLA (Polylactic Acid) and equivalent materials. This activity is carried out in collaboration with an important company that produces filters made from PLA.