Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) Initiative: Enhancing the digital transformation of the European manufacturing sectoradmin
Commissioner Oettinger has proposed a European strategy for digitising European industry with his speech “Europe’s future is digital” held at the Hannover Fair in April 2015. It aims at supporting the digitisation of all our industries and complements the efforts of EU programmes with the objective of strengthening the digital sector (Public Private Partnerships, Joint Undertakings, Focus Areas). He has highlighted four main lines of action of his proposed strategy for Digitising European Industry:
- Digital Innovation Hubs
- Platform Leadership
- Smart Regulations for Industry
- Adapting Workforce
One important part of the strategy to Digitise European industry is to establish ecosystems with digital innovation hubs that complement the EC efforts on a Digital Single Market. The ultimate goal is to accelerate the application of ICT in the European industry in order to strengthen their competitiveness. Whilst big European players are in a strong position to face the global competition, small and medium sized companies (SME) and mid-caps have difficulties to use leading-edge ICT to modernise their production processes and to bring innovative products to the market. They have neither access to highly sophisticated ICT solutions nor can they afford the cost to implement them.
The Brochure published recently summarise the first successes of the I4MS initiative- ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs. The I4MS initiative of the European Commission launched in July 2013 (budget: 77M€ funding) targets to help SMEs and mid-caps in the manufacturing sector along three dimensions:
- Provide access to competences that can help in assessing, planning and mastering the digital transformation.
- Provide access to innovation networks of a broad spectrum of competences and best practice examples.
- Provide financial support to SMEs and mid-caps on the demand and the supply side to master the digital transformation.
The basic idea is to enable and foster the collaboration of manufacturing SMEs and mid-caps across their value chains through the help of European competence centres/innovation hubs (such as HPC centres, top universities, application oriented research organisations) in predominantly cross-border experiments to create a win-win situation for all actors. In those focused experiments of short duration brokerage and transfer of know-how and technology are provided by the innovation hubs to the SMEs and mid-caps. I4MS therewith resolves the competence gap of SMEs at the same time providing them with the financial means to adopt leading edge technology such that they are capable to bring innovative and highly competitive new products and services to the market.
Innovative suppliers profit from I4MS as the experiments enable them to mature their existing technologies and to broaden the field of their application ultimately opening them new markets. The competence centres benefit from the initiative, as they extend their largely research oriented activities with industrial projects thereby gaining a new sustainable business model.
All in all, 7 EU-funded innovation projects have been started mostly already having an initial number of experiments at the outset. These have already been and will be enhanced during the projects’ lifespan by additional experiments that are selected out of proposals submitted upon open calls. The innovation projects are complemented by a Support Action that hosts the initiative’s web presence, organises initiative wide events and assists the innovation actions in disseminating and coordinating their activities as an innovation multiplier.