Society relies on science to progress, but few choose to venture down this path where uncertainty and risks are an everyday occurrence. Arquimea Research Center, based in the Canary Islands, is an oasis within land where private research is scarce. Today, Arquimea is one of the few high-tech companies established in Spain that grows exponentially each year. Its business model is based on research. What do they research? Imagination is the limit.
Any potential invention that is marketable has a place in the company’s laboratories. Their mission is clear: “We want to create R&D that surpasses the state of the art from its very conception and whose initial objective is easily transferable to the markets.” In short, Rubén Criado, CEO of ARQUIMEA Research Center, explains the operating method of this research center. ARQUIMEA is the parent company of the group, and its passion for innovation has led to a turnover of 112 million euros this year. “We have been chosen for three consecutive years as the fastest-growing company in the aerospace sector,” explains Criado about ARQUIMEA.
A commitment to innovation
Thanks to its commitment to innovation, ARQUIMEA Research Center can now boast a team of nearly 90 experts in technology-driven areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum. And in each of these areas – or orbitals, as the company prefers to call them – cutting-edge research is being conducted with fewer bureaucratic obstacles and much more freedom to let imagination soar. “We have such ambitious projects that they border on madness,” confesses biotechnologist Sara Vidal, who insists that behind them, there is always some “logic.” Vidal spent seven years working in Switzerland, and Arquimea “rescued” her so she could return to Spain. Today, she focuses, among other things, on studying extremophile bacteria to see how they could contribute to crop growth in a climate change scenario or if their properties are effective in creating new therapies.
Arquimea is determined to break free from the burden weighing on global science. A recent study published in Nature has shown that, in general, discoveries are becoming less disruptive. “A company that wants to stay ahead in technology must have a strategy for agile research and innovation to create cutting-edge R&D,” insists Criado. The company is aware that this approach is riskier than others. “You are ahead of new markets, and often we don’t even work with previous specifications; we create them ourselves,” explains the CEO of ARQUIMEA Research Center, emphasizing that they are working on new state-of-the-art technologies every year and a half. Although the path may be uncertain, when results are achieved, the benefits exceed the investment and even the potential losses. That’s how science works. It may be challenging to pursue, but when it delivers results, the rewards are substantial.
There are two projects that, in less than three years, have achieved such solid results that they have been launched in the market. On the one hand, the company has begun commercializing a post-quantum cryptographic process that protects current computers from future hackers. Behind this breakthrough is the team led by engineer Cristina de Dios, who manages a team of 20 people in the Quantum orbital. It is an encryption mechanism based on current techniques “but protects against future quantum communications,” reveals De Dios. The company has sold this technology to other companies in Europe and the United States. This international relationship is considered one of their major driving forces. “Our research center is global; we have investors from Los Angeles and Silicon Valley,” highlights Criado, emphasizing that their ability to attract funds from other countries allows them to continue growing. Another gem is Pulsar, a series of motors and actuators developed in the robotics orbital. “We wanted to find a way to improve the joints that robots use to move,” explains engineer Miguel López, principal investigator of this orbital at Arquimea Research Center. When he began working in this field, López and his team realized that much of the progress in robotics was focused on improving software. “This trend became more apparent with the advent of artificial intelligence,” he explains. That’s why they decided to focus on what had been neglected: the hardware, the body of the machines. “Having highly intelligent robots that move clumsily is of no use,” he insists. The technology they have created is the first step toward giving robots more dexterity.
The center also houses the AI orbital, led by Orlando Ávila, whose goals are oriented towards achieving improvements for the film and television industries. “We want to create cameras that reconstruct 3D photographs in real-time,” explains Ávila.
The idea is to generate a revolution in audiovisual production. “At the beginning of the 20th century, projections were used in the background of actors to record scenes; this technology aims to offer a similar solution but with screens,” highlights the author. Through a technology called Nerf, researchers are focused on developing multiple screens that can provide the authenticity currently achieved only in outdoor locations.
Another strength of ARQUIMEA Research Center lies in collaboration, both within and outside the company. Despite being divided into sections, or “orbitals,” employees are not fixed to one specific area. “They can switch projects and, therefore, orbitals at any given time, which intensifies collaboration and creativity,” explains Vidal.
In terms of external partnerships, Arquimea also takes care to establish close relationships with public universities and research centers in Spain. The objective is to always have access to the best minds and resources. In fact, Laura Trigueros, one of the researchers in the biotechnology orbital, shares her work with the University of Malaga. Trigueros is developing an alternative therapy for pancreatic cancer. However, for her studies, she is not using the laboratories available at Arquimea’s Science and Technology Park in Tenerife (PCTT). “Instead of obsessing over having those costly resources, which could take years to install, we utilize those of other institutions,” explains the CEO of Arquimea Research Center. Thanks to these resources, Trigueros has been able to understand the functioning of the tumor and its proteins, gaining insights into how to protect the patient.
Arquimea Research Center is an island within a business ecosystem that historically hasn’t prioritized science. Its employees are demonstrating that innovation is profitable and that science has a place in the market.
Written in Spanish by: Verónica Pavés
Source: La Provincia, Diario de Las Palmas
Photo: CARSTEN W. LAURITSEN