IMA’s vocation in the pursuit of innovation reflects our strong orientation to be seen as a solution provider rather than just as a machinery vendor, this approach has always been a distinguishing characteristic of IMA and has resulted in a strong market position. Research and development costs in 2021, equal to 3.6% of revenue; amount to 61.0 million euros, up from the 60.2 million euros last year. This item 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.
THE ORGANISATION OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION
Given the complexity of the markets in which it operates and the dynamism of its growth, IMA aims to improve centrality and transversality of research and development skills, implemented by three guidelines:
• research and development of machines and plants for specific market segments, made within the individual divisions;
• experimentation and implementation of new technologies, technological scouting, international cooperation relations with research centres;
• adoption of a widespread and collaborative approach to innovation, which aims to stimulate the ideas of individuals, including through continuous training in the field of technological innovation of new hires in the Research and Development departments and to enhance the contribution of Marketing, constant analysis of machines and scouting of enabling technologies.
With a view to open innovation, IMA is consolidating its presence in Boston with support activities for the birth of innovative start-ups and collaborations with departments of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on projects of common interest. Among the various activities, we note the collaboration with two spin-outs of MIT. Firstly, Continuus Pharmaceuticals Inc., a project focused on new integrated Continuous Manufacturing technologies that make the production process of active pharmaceutical ingredients more efficient and rapid, thus helping to strengthen IMA’s leadership in the production of machines and plants for the pharmaceutical sector. Secondly, INKBIT LLC.MIT., a project on the innovative “additive manufacturing”, technology, which IMA helped develop in 2017 to integrate artificial intelligence techniques into the additive printing process.
The smart machine and smart factory projects are being developed in cooperation with research centres and funded projects.
The currently active projects are:
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: development of intelligent mechatronic systems;
SENECA (Systems Enabling Efficient Cognitive Automation), financed by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Emilia-Romagna Region: cognitive automation, advanced sensors, autonomy, simulation and artificial intelligence;
Seven projects managed by the BI-REX Competence Center and co-financed by the Ministry of Economic Development on the topics of additive manufacturing, big data, cyber-security and predictive maintenance.
RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION WORLDWIDE
IMA subsidiaries 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 carry out school-work rotations, internships and research projects, in collaboration with technical schools, universities, associations and local 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).
IMA AND PRODUCT SUSTAINABILITY
In response to growing attention on environmental sustainability issues, both within the company and at the global level, IMA has carried forward projects and initiatives aimed at reducing the environmental impact of production processes, in continuity with the policies developed in recent years to meet the needs of high profile customers and partners. In the packaging machinery industry, actions are focused on the development of solutions aimed at reducing the resources used, while at the same time favouring the use of new materials with a lower environmental impact.
In 2021, IMA committed to strengthening the network of laboratories OPENLab, with the establishment of a new laboratory in the United States, which will join the IMA one in Ozzano dell’Emilia and the Ilapak ones in Lugano and Arezzo. The expansion of the OPENLab network aims to encourage an ever greater understanding of local needs in terms of environmental sustainability, with the aim of supporting the path towards the use of eco-sustainable wrapping materials.
The OPENLab laboratories have the following aims:
to accompany the various divisions of the IMA Group and customers in a conscious choice of packaging materials;
to direct manufacturers of packaging materials towards more sustainable choices
to actively work on the development of low environmental impact materials, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable;
to collaborate with research centres, for example via the Ph.D study grant made available to DICAM (Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering) at the University of Bologna for work on “Polymeric materials for eco-sustainable packaging”;
to contribute to the creation and development of working groups, projects and/or consortia including all the players in the supply chain, in order to accelerate and strengthen the circulation of ideas and the creation of solutions specifically addressing any critical issues related to new types of eco-sustainable packaging.
For years, IMA has promoted the IMA NoP – No Plastic Program, a transversal project across the whole company to realise a wider and more systematic introduction of eco-sustainable materials within the entire supply chain. Among the many projects under development focused on sustainable packaging, the following initiatives are worth mentioning:
the new CT11 machine for the packaging of tea and herbs in sachets, using biodegradable packaging materials of natural origin;
the innovative cardboard wrapping “Parenteral Paper Packs”, for parenteral products on the continuous cartoning machine of the DYNAMICA model;
the new model of horizontal flowpack machine “Delta full ultrasonic” with high speed for the flexible and interchangeable management of both new generation hermetic recyclable polyolefin-based (PE or PP) packaging and old generation non-recyclable materials.