Eurostars Success Story – Interview with Thierry Muller about MaPS System/ DatBIM
Luxembourg based data management SME, MaPs System, and DatBIM (formerly Pluristop), a French company specialised in construction, partnered up for a joint Eurostars project in 2014. The objective was to develop a Building Information Modelling (BIM) platform that supplies technical product information to different operators collaborating on construction projects starting with architects, then the construction companies involved and finally the people doing building maintenance.
Luxinnovation interviewed Thierry Muller (TM), founder of MaPs System, about this R&D project and the Eurostars experience:
How did you learn about the Eurostars programme?
TM: The French company, Pluristop, was looking for a partner with our technological competences to develop a European platform that centralises technical data of products in the construction industry. But since we needed to adapt our technologies to that industry we could not afford the development costs on our own. This is when Pluristop suggested applying for Eurostars funding in order to finance the creation of this innovative online platform.
You call your project innovative, can you explain why in more detail?
TM: Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an important topic. New standards are being set by national legislations. In the next few years, the use of BIM data will become mandatory for public procurement in the construction sector for most European countries. Through Eurostars, we had the opportunity to begin working on our BIM platform and product library already in 2014, 2 years before the rules in the building sector began to change. We were ahead of our time with our idea.
How did you get started with the Eurostars programme?
TM: Together with Pluristop we built a consortium and applied for Eurostars funding in 2013. In this first round we failed because our project still had weaknesses. The feedback from EUREKA helped us to improve our application. Consequently, we added an Open Source product library to our BIM platform that can be used free of charge by anyone. This feature increased the impact of our new technologies for the European construction sector significantly. Thus in 2014, we successfully secured Eurostars funding.
What role did Luxinnovation play in the application process?
For those who don’t know, Eurostars is a European programme conducted by the publicly-funded, intergovernmental network EUREKA, which has to approve every project first. As the programme is co-funded via national budgets, we had to follow another specific procedure in our home country to receive the funding. Therefore, we started discussions with Luxinnovation – the National Contact Point (NCP) for SMEs in Luxembourg – to figure out how a Eurostars application works here. Luxinnovation supported us mainly in this financial preparation phase and helped setting up the funding scheme with the Ministry of Economy.
Did you encounter any other difficulties during the project and how did you overcome them?
TM: Yes, the first months were critical for us. In the beginning we lost time during our first project quarter because our collaboration was not working well. Only when we changed the project managers and introduced a common online wiki did everything start to run as planned. I can only highlight how crucial it is for a successful Eurostars project to be well organised and to assign strong, full time project managers. Dedicating only a few hours per week if you can find the time will not be sufficient! However, it is also normal that the first months are the most difficult because each partner has to adapt to the different work rhythms, mentalities and cultures of the other.
Your former partner Pluristop changed its name to DatBIM and is the one commercialising the new BIM technology in the construction sector. Did the collaboration still help your company MaPs System to gain access to new markets?
TM: Yes, because the joint project helped us gain access to new markets; more precisely the construction industry. We gained expertise in structuring product data for BIM purposes. Before, we offered multichannel platforms for data management in the marketing field but now we are also a specialist for BIM platforms. Many companies interested in using the DatBIM platform consult us for BIM data management services. Companies used to work with their own data structure before, which made it difficult to interact with other operators in the construction business. The library we developed uses a single standard to insert the technical data of products, so that all parties communicate on the same basis and understand each other.
What other benefits did you take away from the Eurostars programme?
TM: The biggest benefit for us was learning how to collaborate successfully with international companies and partners. To work on multilingual, multicultural projects is completely different from collaborating on a local level in many respects. First, it forces you to be structured and stick to the plan. Second, it’s also a real team building lesson to manage such a European project. Third, from a more cultural point of view, you get to travel, meet new business partners and discover opportunities.
Will there be follow up collaborations or activities in the future?
TM: DatBIM will stay our client using the BIM platform and library. Since the Eurostars project fostered a close relationship between us, we plan on collaborating on other projects in the future. DatBIM is already considering extending the functions of the platform as well as creating new systems and they have a bigger joint project in mind. In the end, I would recommend Eurostars to anyone even if it is difficult to set up all the documentation and agreements in the beginning. Finally, the effort pays off because you gain real partners who work with you towards the same goal.