Innorobo Interview with Catherine Simons

Welcome to, I’m your host Philip English and we’re here today with the President and CEO of InnoEco Catherine Simons. She’s the founder of Europeans’ only international event 100% dedicated to robotics and disruptive innovation, Innorobo.

Created in 2011, InnoEco is an impact consulting firm focus on business development through innovation and expertise in world wide robotics market. InnoEco drives a community of over 3500 robotic companies world wide of nearly 10,000 leaders and decision makers who receive robotics technology, products and services and opportunities for technology field growth. Innorobo is Europes’ only summit dedicated to innovations in robotics a unique forum where decision makers and international experts discuss their visions. Its’ mission is to present the world of robotics through an exhibition that provides a vast array of robotic technologies compassess with renowned specialist and a host of workshops in all to encourage innovation and open up new opportunities for growth and development, diversifications in nearly all sectors. We’re speaking to Catherine today about Innorobo, the event that attracks exhibitors and visitors from around the world from forty plus country. As well as how she set it all up and the plans

Innorobo Interview with Catherine Simons

Philip: Right, welcome Catherine and many thanks for joining us on the show today, it’s very appreciated and so what we’ll do is start with some of the basic questions to start with. So could you quickly introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

Catherine: Alright, so I’m a consultant in an organization and strategy I’m a trained consultant, as well. I’m a coach and I’ve been looking into disruptive technology and how it can change our world and society at large in the past 8 years namely on robotics side. So I put up together a show called Innorobo and I intend to accelerate the global robotic ecosystem to absorb great technology to help us build sustainable humanity or in the future.

Philip: Brilliant, thanks for the introduction, so you’re saying Innorobo’s been running for 8 years now, is that right?

Catherine: No, I’ve been interested in robotics for 8 years but Innorobo will be 6 edition in Paris in May and we are already at past 5 edition and growing.

Philip: Ok. Yeah brilliant, so I’ve been to one in Lyon so it’s the first one I’ve been over there in Paris. So does it change location every year?

Catherine: No, so the first 5 years we’re in Lyon and then we felt that we have to move to, you know, gain this sort of stability of being the national first reference in robotics and then the International reference in robotics and France is so really is a little bit centralize in Paris and Paris is very attractive city in May so we thought we had to

Philip: Perfect, so is it gonna stay in Paris now or is it still gonna…

Catherine: We’re trying to figure out actually how to make a world tour of Europe with Innorobo, because we think we have to be near to the local and national ecosystem of Europe to really become the reference in Europe it’s not that easy. I’m a very small firm we’re only 4 person and so we’re trying to figure it out maybe like every 5 years we change location or I don’t know yet I’m trying to figure it out.

Philip: Yeah, I’m gonna say you run like a brilliant show for such a small team. So yeah, that’s quiet impressive actually, so I supposed the idea of like, maybe some more country like do you reckon like UK will be in there, maybe like eventually or is it

Catherine: We have lots of discussion with London and the Catapult System and UKTI and you know you have this great campaign in the UK like UK technology is great actually, so you’re great campaign and I hope one day, yes we can end up in London or Bristol. Bristol is very good with the robotics cluster and Manchester swell is very welled in new technologies.

Philip: Yes it is, Bristol we got like Bristol robotics labs. So make sense to do it over there, but yeah I mean like it will be great to see like in the future cause I know you’ve, see folks in the UK we have to sort of go over to Europe or go further field to see these shows so it’ll be very brilliant to have it in UK one day.

Catherine: So we’re trying to find partners that would help us, you know, national or local partners that could help us and you know I don’t think Europe is really set yet to have multiple national show. I think the best like you have one big show that is a reference and so Germany, obviously has several shows but they are very different so trying to find our own style geared on innovation, start-up helping start-up so I think entrepreneurs, visionary people meet and discuss visions of society with new technology which I think is important to discuss before we do it.

Philip: Definitely, definitely so you get the interaction and you get the networking and you get other projects so spawning off from there so yeah it’s brilliant show, brilliant show. So could you just give us a run through of what to expect in Innorobo this year cause we’ve got some extra things this year. I think we’ve got 3D printing in the show this year and obviously you’ve got your Innorobo key note speeches and the exhibition as well.

Catherine: Right, so this year we’re trying to actually, I have 3 events in one event even four. So we have the national general assembly. So the French ministry of economy is trying to gather the French ecosystem to talk about robotics and the excellence but as well as the challenges of France in robotics. Then you have Innorobo key notes this year, we’re trying to make them more geared towards director of innovation, CEO’s’, decision makers, so that big corporation, whether French or International can go out and just doing market watch on robotics but go into active plan of action in the mid to long term to enter into the robotic dynamics. So somewhat get the director of innovation out of the show for one day, out of the exhibition for one, so that they  can discuss together and learn much quicker and more in-depths about how they can get robotics into it and then we have in-site 3D printing event which is in collaboration with  rising media, German media firm and it’s a co-production that we do with that firm and it’s an event that is reference in the US guaranteed but that introducing the world into 3D printing. So I’m trying to get knowledge of the 3D printing ecosystem with a help and its gonna be a very small show to start with in Paris but it’s encouraging and there are links between 3D print and the robotics obviously, first its a disruptive technology potentially even if it’s not yet sought by experts to become, you know, everybody will not have right now right there, a person with 3D printer at home. At least that’s what expert say.

Philip: Yeah

Catherine: But we can do rapid prototyping, we can manufacture with the additive manufacturing in metal or in plastic. We can manufacture pieces of planes, for instance or different type of equipment which much more light weight much more complex shape and I can see is that 3D printing is set to become also a general purpose technology because I can see in the medical area, it already transform the dentist, prosthesis, potentially for rehabilitation or surgery purposes. Food is actually a very interesting new fad, even fashion, in France we like luxuriant fashion so Chanel I know for instance is working on with 3D printers and we’ve seen great designers looking into 3D printing. So for me it’s a world of innovation as well and its a potential to all purpose technology rather disruptive.

Philip: Well yeah, this is it, I mean there was a few company I know already in the UK, one of them being Open Bionics and they basically do prosthetic hands so they 3D print the prosthetic hands and obviously they put all the robotics components inside and I was speaking to like one of the owners down there and she was saying it brought the cost down from like you know tens of thousands of pounds for one of these arms right down to basically a few thousand pounds.

Catherine: Right if this is accessible to a more people where you know robotics or bio-mechatronics prosthesis, currently are very expensive so not accessible to everyone and you have actually a video, I don’t know the reference anymore but you have a video on you tube that shows the one handicapped person that has been equipped with the high end bio-mechatronic legs and the other one was like low end bio-mechatronics, and they don’t go down stairs the same way so I think 3D printing might actually level with that to everybody that has a, you know impediment or handicapped should have access to great technology and great prosthesis to reduce that handicapped.

Philip: Well this is it, this is it, I think it’s a perfect merge there aswell, say you know like a perfect cross, so I bet we’re looking very forward to seeing the 3D part of the show in May aswell so we’re looking forward to that. So the next quick, quick question I had, so you know Innorobo splitting in a few different section so we have smart cities, smart home, medical and health, smart factory and let me just get my notes, and field robotics and technology and foresight.

Catherine: Technology and foresight because it’s like everything that. So we currently have a try to set up a taxonomy as we call it, so because its a general purpose technology it really goes all over the place robotic so but if we want the big corporation to come, if we want the direction of innovation to identify themselves into robotics we need to split it into a fields of application so the more disruptive field of application so far, or far from within the industry obviously within the manufacturing has been medical and health and field robotics with precision agriculture or in the medical and health rehabilitation. Smart city are yet more into internet of things but we believe robotics system should be put in place to make a machine to machine connections of all those connected objects and equipped them with actuators, actually so a physical action that is more than just sending me my information or closing my shutters or shutting off the light. We believe to bringing robotics into the internet of things world for smart cities and you know improvement of environmental and well-being of people within cities of communication, safety maintainers, transportation, mobility is a big thing as well, is a plus. So smart city is not yet there but coming to robotics and many is from mobility. And for smart home, well the kind of thing is like, home automation again. Social robots like the buddy from Blue Frog that has made a lot of media recently with its great campaign. A crowd tending campaign and soon to announce some other things. I believe social robots together with internet of things together with home automation all of these will properly transform the way we live in our places and home and etchetera. And this I think is an interest, the education is part of smart home aswell and entertainment of course and the last one technology and foresight, is just to say there this conversion of several disruptive technology coming at the tipping point all at once and so we do believe we need to have this foresight vision of society of the way we want it to make the best out of those disruptive technology is because or else we just like, you know put them out there and see what the users will do with it so we’re capable of the best as the worst so we’ve seen that in the past and so we need information first so, you know Innorobo is informative so we’re open to the general public on the Wednesday 25th, but also that people that truly know what robotics is capable of where it’s good etchetera. Start to think of vision of society a vision of the ecosystem of what was technologies are for. I’ve discuss with Daniel Theobald, who is the CEO of VECNA, a great company for logistic robots for instance, for hospitality robots.

Philip: Yeah

Catherine: Or deliveries and he say’s, you know we have to figure out, do we want robot to take care of my elderly mother while i  work next to a robot in the industry or do i want a robot to take my job in the industry, why not, you know it’s one of our fear, so I pinpoint on him on purpose. Take my job in the industry so that I have more time to do to stay with my loved ones and I think it’s fairly good question, so you know it actually robot is great because even the term robot when you say it, it triggers some fantasies and so but it triggers as well question of what is the real place of the human being in society, what are where for and I think we’re here for to be happy and live and to be in social interaction and discover the difference between people, the difference in junctures, the difference in creativity and it’s such a, we’re not necessarily here to, you know, make repetitive or dangerous or tedious task everyday so that we earn a living right, we have to live.

Philip: Yeah now what it is, I totally agree. Like I know VENCA robotics myself. They deal with like the logistics solutions that basically go around a factory so instead of some one getting up and walking down the same aisle again and again, back and forth, basically we have this little robot that will go up and down, for you, which basically leaves you more time to do the more important task and to do the more interesting work and get rid of like the repetitive work so I understand.

Catherine: I think the social responsibility of companies is actually to be active in that matter, you know when you replace potentially worker by a robot you should aswell you know, make sure better principle of creative distraction at work and create aswell innovation in service or in a new product design or something that makes that person have a new job. I honestly think it’s important and it’s a responsibility of the different corporation and companies to try and make sure that these robot transformation is accompanied by the creation of new job, new services, new things for the well-being of the people.

Philip: This is it, this is it I know, basically push the right generation forward and push a technology forward. One thing I did when I was checking the day, you’re sying, so you see Innorobo is on the 24 to 26 of May, so the Wednesday is the public day is that right? And the other day are business day?

Catherine: Wednesday is the public day and the other days are the professional days and so we’re gonna have great international presence aswell, for the first time the bastion of Canada for instance with the…. sorry I’m a bit sick. State of Ontario, we have SKOLKOVO cluster coming back from Russia. We have Finnish deligation, people coming of course Korea, it’s Europe, Korea guest of honor, some Japanese and some Chinese a bit more present this year, thanks to our partnership agreement with the Chinese Robotics Industry alliance in Shanghai and you know lots of different nationalities as usual so 3 international show. Size wouldn’t be that bigger than last year but truly with innovation lots of start-ups again and we made our goal for start-up this year as in the past 6 years and we had something like 88 answers from more than 30 different countries and we freeze electric 44 and our jury is actually working in making it in top 5 that’s gonna come to Innorobo so we are fairly happy with some of the innovation that we’ll gonna see there. I can see robotics is evolving and Innorobo is evolving together with the ecosystem. The very first Innorobo was really a prototype made of wood or cardboard or you know that was clumsy, really clumsy.

Philip: I see, yeah I know

Catherine:  And the second one prototype are a bit more advance and the third year we started adding product that could be commercialized, we add Carlton link campaign as a starters, we had some companies producing robots and manufacturing them and willing to sell them and make business with. And this year we do have like you know, the commercial robot, the one that already like kind of done, finish, commercialized, able. They are improving so you see lots of artificially intelligence improvement, vision, slam, navigation, grippers improvements. You see lots of finally accessories or what’s within the robot being you know improved and but you see it’s a same kind of body shape. The mechanical part, I think is figured out for some of them and so that’s what’s inside and how robot is, you know, clever. That is actually improving so technology is actually is a big part this year.

Philip: Yeah, I know and this is it, quiet like saying from the show you had last year, while you had all the different booth of course from China, Russia and everything else and it’s interesting to see how different culture are building different types  of robot, so that’s what I find really really interesting like when I was there last time and as you’re saying as the technology advances and advances that you can see how depending on the country that different types of robots are actually starting to come out so that’s what I’m saying really really impressive.

Catherine: Yeah and I think France, we really have something to say about professional service robots and a home robots if i can say so, like because we started finally being more into internet of things, we have lots of great stuff up there and we have this very good knowledge of artificial intelligence of human machine interaction and interface and so software, we’re really good at software. So we tend to build a, you know more of these sort of a for the home, for the assistant to the person type of robot even if, you know we do have, underwater robots are really great or logistics robot as well and the bigger system or medical robots with med tech. But we tend to add the flavor with a human robot interactions to be really worked through and in Russia they recognize it themselves they are into the more designer to build strong and robust type or robots. And in the Unite States they’re into obviously professional service robots, it’s a great thing, medical robotics, you know, the world wide leader of intuitive surgical, but East  Coast and West Coast are very different in their type of development of robot and Asia, Japanese is definitely gearing towards the industry of robotics even if they do lots of humanoid robots that like COCORO thing, but experiments in the research lab but they really commercialized and are ready for the industry of robots and Korea is much more into a professional service robots as well that’s why we think there are links between Korea and France, to make a connection. And Germany they’re more on industrial robots, even within Europe we have great differences in field robotics, medical robotics, medical robotics is more in Scandinavia, field robots to be in station. Now I have I need to check that.

Philip: Oh so the field robotics as in farming like robotics and stuff like that, so I’m speaking to one of your exhibitors last year and they had a robot that would basically go accross the field and it would spot weeds in the actual fields and dig up the weeds or rather spray the weeds like with some chemicals

Catherine: Yeah that’s NAYO technology is right they are doing great, they are little French start-up. I think that need to be followed by investors. We try to gather the ecosystem aswell to understand that, you know lets invest now in those technology because it can do real good for humanity and as well in any case they will come and those technologies would be integrated all over the place in our life so now it’s time for us to do it.

Philip: So invest, I mean like you have firms like with interstellar firms like you know, most of the farm is done by robotics, so yeah it makes sense. So right what I wanted to do, brilliant overview over Innorobo and also I got my notes, that also you guys have got a new web site called distributor and

Catherine: The disruptory

Philip: Oh disruptory, sorry, sorry

Catherine: the disruptory, so its a contraction of disruption and laboratory or disruption and factory. The idea every year almost everyday I get phone call or my team get phone calls, do you know a company that does this, does that, can you introduce me to this and that. We’re an intermediation firm in fact and we thought you know, there are so much we can know even if we know a lot about robotic companies there is so much we can know. And so much that we can, you know, answer directly in a timely fashion so we decided to put up together a web platform that is collaborative. Where we already push, let’s say something like 500 robotics companies we know about with some description with directory. We push news, so we try to do syndication of news or original news aswell that we’re writing ourselves and the important news is the one with a kind of publishing content is always geared towards a human approach to robotic technology is we think is an important baseline and there were opening that platform for people to sort of declare themselves as a robotics company, look for a robotic solution to one of their problem and they can even make as an ecosystem evolves themselves with the taxonomy we put there. Currently the taxonomy we put it, you know our smart cities, smart home and set a type of a, you know, robotics category or robotics type but we believe it’s not enough and it’s not us to decide the taxonomy or segmentation of general purpose technology, like robotics we think it’s the task of the ecosystem itself and according to what they would look for the ways they’re gonna search we’re gonna make taxonomy evolve so that there are more and more capable of finding the robotics solution that suits them or the sort of a different robotic solution that they could have, so we’re trying to make it global and with our agreements, partnership and agreement with the Japanese Association of Robotics automation, the Korean one, the Chinese-Shanghai one, and the Singapore one and of course the French and European membership of robotics community we have, we hope to make it as global as possible so it’s a basic, you know, putting that ecosystem in virtual interactions when we do them physical ones a year for Innorobo.

Philip: Yeah, well this is it, I mean it given a like, everyone access to all the information really and again so like if they want to find out about something about a robot company they can go and see if you wanna learn a bit about a particular type of technology, they can go there and like it’s all in one place and it’s nice and easy to get there and interact. It’s like in my tutorials, to lots and lots of school but then, you see I can’t be in every school. It’s one of the reason why I’ve decided to post tutorial on my website it’s only i one place, it’s easy for everyone to access and get all the information, so yeah. What I’ll do then I’ll put links below for that so anyone watching this can get access to it. So they can go and have a look

Catherine: Good. Yeah and it’s now collaborative, it’s truly collaborative since 2 days, 2 days ago we started being collaborative. That is before you know, we’re claiming your company or say I want my company to be there and that was the poor guy within my team that was like, you know, putting it putting the information, typing it. And now, what we do is send a code and we give access to that person, that company, once we have identified and of course that if it’s a true employee and you know executive of that company, so it’s a, that’s it, it’s  collaborative and I’m really happy about that.

Philip: And the whole while again as it links in within Innorobo and all the other phases, it’s nice to have the full circle of like solutions of that actually to get access to so

Catherine: Exactly

Philip: Ok so, the one question I did have was just about so the business mono and economy side, over Innorobo. So could you just give us a quick run down on where it sits and how it’s growing?

Catherine: So right, Innorobo, the first one cost about 300,000 Euro to put through, to put together and then the last one of 2015, about 850,000 Euro, so you know it’s growing and about 20% per year. So we are balanced, just balanced, we don’t lose money, we don’t earn that much, we’re happy to give that service, actually I can pay my employees, I can pay for some flying tickets and some boozed lay out for start-up and from that my busy ecosystem happily gathering at Innorobo with no big financial problem. So we’re like another event, I’m sorry about that, we have some sponsorship, obviously private and public we have some exhibitors paying for their booze-up, hopefully and we do have some visitors paying for their entrance, of course the key notes. With that we can put together a good show in, invite the right experts and make the right start-up, be there whether they have money or they don’t and you know try to aswell invite as many people as we can and that can make a difference cause they will invest or they will trigger another to start-up and etc. So we’re fairly good and we have a lot of travel expenses, travel around the world to be at all everybody else show in robotics to meet our ecosystem more than once a year but in different country, in Korea, in Japan, in the United States and soon I’m gonna go to Russia aswell to see SKOLKOVO cluster at heart.

Philip: Ok, now that’s really interesting. I actually work with a few of like the exhibitors aswell and shows like this brilliant firm because they actually get to make the business and the corporate and the corporation that they’re looking to sell into, you know, and they can discuss like ideas with them or maybe improvements maybe or just get that networking. It’s why the show is brilliant, just to get that sort of business so.

Catherine: And they get the user request user needs, you know, so I remember one of the exhibitor last year, says I don’t understand what you do Catherine, but it works and he says because I don’t see most of the client that I usually see, I don’t see them that much, but I see lots of people asking me the same question and gives me ideas of diversification, new segment or new application for my robot. If I just change that little thing and then it’s a new market story. So I think we help establish robotic companies find new ways, new application or the way that they can cover better the needs of the industry or the service company and we help hopefully start-ups getting their first grip of the market.

Philip: This is it and I suppose specially when you’re dealing with the bigger sort of bigger corporation with a thousand of employees and thousands of processes, just like when they see that something can, can work, you just needs those tweeks, those are the talks of the robot company, and the corporations have, to have to actually get something that you say

Catherine: And they want a sort of executive level which they get at Innorobo, it’s amazing to see like that the way with the ENGIE, which is a big energy firm in France invested in partnering robotics you know first year partnering in robotics was like the start-up  booze and the last year like the 36 square meters so they give it back, they have this great benevolance with us because we’re benevolant with them, that you know they say, hey come on I met my investor at, in Innorobo so I’m happy to make income the next year. Which I think is good so it’s a great community, it’s exciting

Philip: Definitely, definitely. This is it, I mean this is the future really, this is the way that started to go. That’s very nice actually, I mean that’s all the questions that I have to ask obviously so excited about Innorobo. So that’s from May the 24 to May the 26 and I’ll be down there as well and just have a look at all like exciting new technology and speaking to all of, like the exhibitors down there. And so yeah, that’s perfect Catherine. I wanna thank you very much for your time today. Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Catherine: Oh no thank you to you and I look forward to welcome you in person at Innorobo. I’ll see you around, we’ll see.

Philip: Thanks Catherine thanks very much, take care, ok bye

Catherine: Ok bye.

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