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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?

The goal of my team is to find the next end-to-end businesses for the 3D Printing and HP Personalization business. We do this by collaborating with startups, helping them speed up their scaling and improve their product or even investing in them. We try to ensure they encourage the disruption of their industries with 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 combined work of the HP engineers and the company has improved the part designs to adapt better to each patient. We produce these parts in line with the FDA standards in the United States, 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, and designs that are not made in any other way, and having parts that adapt perfectly to each patient is essential in the health sector. Particularly noteworthy are the applications that have already been scaled 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, and allows for more tests to be performed to ensure the product market fit for hardware and for total pre-market investment to be reduced. 

3D Printing makes a difference when it is used to design with complete freedom and 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 allows 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, 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:  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 also forms part of Industry 4.0, one of the main strategic areas of the European Union in the new recovery funds. There are therefore resources to speed up the adoption of this technology by companies.  

What relationship do you have with The Collider, and what does it provide?

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

More importantly, The Collider has put us in touch with the entrepreneur system in Barcelona, which is much more extensive that 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 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’t turn back time. Time with your family, with your children… it only happens once.