I met Cristina Jarabo from Grupo IFFE during my visit to Global Robot Expo 2016 in Madrid. IFFE Group supports the development of the Spanish startup Dronlife which is dedicated to the design, development and implementation of several technological applications to provide a very special service for the healthcare sector by the use of a specially built drone. To better understand what is DronLife watch the video (link: https://youtu.be/QmWJYsCbaWg).
Andrea: Let's start our interview talking about Grupo IFFE. What is it?
Cristina: Grupo IFFE is not only focused to robotics. The industrial division is dedicated to the development of several technologies, some of them for precision agriculture, which is another big market for experimental technologies, other than this specific project for Dronlife in the healthcare sector.
Why the group decided to finance this Dronlife project?
This idea was presented by four girls of the University of Industrial Design in Ferrol, Galicia. Their professor decided that the project was worth a look from IFFE Group. The idea sounded very good and IFFE Group decided to back the project. The Group gave them the financial and logistical support to participate at the Dubai contest “Drones for Good” where they won the third prize and got the attention of the media and potential investors. Watch the video taken in Dubai (link: https://youtu.be/RaItHGoenI0).
Today, IFFE Group is still backing the project in its development. The Group is providing some resources to identify market and to afford the different developments associated with the project. The Group is still looking resources (investors) to industrialize the project.
Does DronLIfe try to raise money from Horizon 2020 or other European / National funding?
Cristina told me they were still in an experimental phase of the project and they cannot apply for money since the EU is keener on financing ready-to-market projects. Grupo IFFE is directly financing the project putting in the R&D phase some new skilled human resources like electronic engineers, telecom specialists, chemical specialists, computer engineers and so on. But to continue to the industrial phase they need investors. Probably public funds for innovative projects will be requested.
How many people work in the team?
Three design engineers, two chemical engineers, a PhD in telecom, an industrial engineer, an expert in information technology, an economist and a marketing expert.. This is very important due to the fact that usually projects that fail have a motivation: they are driven by engineers very good technically speaking but no good at doing business and accounting. The people with the degree in economics and marketing are put there by Grupo IFFE to interface the market and the potential investors. This is the added value of working in Grupo IFFE. The team is complemented with all necessary resources to become a multi-disciplinary team, with organizational, marketing and business development skills.
What is the lifecycle duration for bringing this project to the market?
When the financials necessary for the project are available they estimate that the first operational prototype will be ready in less than 15 months.
When I speak to start-ups for this kind of projects I see that the time-to-market is shrinking, from years to months. Is it correct in your opinion?
In this kind of technology, you cannot say “in three years” or you are obsolete. The market is changing very quickly and you’re out easily of the market. The teams must be very efficient and fast. Over 18 months you also need to change the technology used.
This is an interesting point. How to change or adapt the technology you’re using to build your machine “in progress”, meaning during the project development?
Cristina agrees with me and also told that we also see an acceleration of this problem. The technology is changing and for example two years ago you could not imagine all the educational robotics products we are surrounded today (during the interview at DronLife booth during the Global Robot Expo). And in one year’s time all these toys will be obsolete as well!