Q&A  | 

Virginia Palacios: speeding up innovation with 3D printing

Tags: 'COVID-19' 'Digital transformation' 'Tecnología'


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Virginia Palacios is the director of New Business Incubation 3DP at HP. With extensive experience in innovation and 3D printing, she believes Barcelona has the opportunity to become the leading hub in additive manufacturing for Southern Europe. Virginia analyses the potential of 3D printing and its impact on innovation and entrepreneurship with The Collider.

You are the director of New Business Incubation 3DP at HP. What does your job entail and what are your responsibilities?

My team’s goal is to find the next endto-end businesses for the 3D Printing and HP Personalisation business. We do so by collaborating with startups, helping them speed up their scaling and improve their product or even by investing in them. What we are looking for is that they encourage the disruption of their industries through the use of additive manufacturing.

Could you highlight a successful project created in your department?

We have invested in a company that makes bolus material for radiotherapy, which is personalised with 3D printing. The joint work of the HP engineers and the company has improved part designs to adapt better to each patient. We produce these parts in line with US FDA standards, and are working on a roadmap of new applications and technology to speed up their growth.

In which sectors does digital printing have most potential?

The health sector has the highest growth figures. The value of 3D printing lies in its personalisation, along with designs that are not made in any other way. The availability of parts that adapt perfectly to each patient is essential in the health sector. Standout examples of this are the scaled applications in the dental and hearing aid fields. Nowadays, 99% of all hearing aids are 3D printed.

Another sector that uses 3D printing extensively is industry, particularly low volume machinery and production equipment.

What opportunities do the advances in 3D printing offer to innovation and entrepreneurship?

3D printing speeds up development processes quite considerably, allows for more tests to be performed to ensure the product market fit for hardware, and for reductions in total pre-market investment.

3D Printing makes a difference when it is used to allow complete freedom of design in order to make the best product, and when it is used to promote new, more personalised business models with short series and fewer production units.

Sustainability is another key to 3D printing: producing what is needed, when it is needed, and where it is needed.

Why is Corporate Venture Building strategic for companies and major corporations?

Major corporations are often excellent at scaling businesses and handling everyday operations on this scale. However, the same processes that help with scaling can also delay the start of business, and corporations do not always have time to work internally on very early stages of research. Therefore, working externally with universities and startups enables corporations to identify new ideas and help them scale.

During the pandemic, HP worked with doctors and researchers to produce medical ventilators. Is this collaboration between science and corporations necessary to promote innovation?

Yes, definitely. Real innovation requires domain expertise, which means having  a great deal of experience in the field of innovation to understand the problem to be solved. In the case of Covid-19, the combination of doctors who knew what had to be done and engineers who knew how to do it led to innovation at a speed never seen before.

What role do Barcelona and Europe play in promoting digital manufacturing and 3D printing?

Germany has a consolidated digital manufacturing ecosystem, but there is none in Southern Europe. Barcelona has the opportunity of becoming this additive printing hub. The city has an important factor in its favour:  HP has headquarters in Barcelona, with the entire development team, hundreds of R&D engineers working on 3D printing, and great capacity to attract local companies.

3D printing is also part of Industry 4.0, one of the major strategic areas of the European Union in terms of the new recovery funds. This means there are resources available for companies to speed up their adopting of this technology.

What relationship do you have with The Col-lider, and what are its benefits?

The Collider has helped us follow a methodology to incubate an internal initiative. It has significantly speeded up the development and validation of business potential by applying startup methodology, which is very different to what corporations do.

More importantly, The Collider has helped us connect with the entrepreneur system in Barcelona, which is much more extensive than we expected and with which we will certainly collaborate.

Which quote do you think defines the way you work or live?

Believe you can change the world. This is the first rule of the HP garage. I am a purpose-driven person, and it is important for me to ensure that everything I do on a personal and professional level helps leave a better world for my children.

What professional advice would you have liked to receive at the start of your career?

The importance of the network. We often believe, particularly women, that doing a good job is enough, but the network is very important.

Another more personal piece of advice: you can not turn back time. Time with your family, with your children… it only happens once.