The Slovenia Times

Smart Factory Hub: a success story for the industry 4.0


A challenge: how to bring production-oriented SMEs and solution providers together

Small- and medium-sized manufacturers experience an increasing pressure as they are confronted with new technologies, principles and approaches. SMEs need to tackle the increased production capacity in low-cost economies and an increased level of sophistication of supply chains in high-cost economies. Skills required at future workplaces will significantly differ from those currently produced by the higher education institutions.

As smart, sustainable and inclusive growths are deeply intertwined, how to deal with the challenges of digital transformation? How can manufacturers, who generate R&D, innovation, growth and employment, digitize their production?

According to a survey of 261 SMEs taken under the aegis of the Interreg Danube programme, up to 50% of SMEs in the Transdanubia region are still not familiar with their national Smart Specialisation Strategy. 37% still do not understanding the benefits of smart manufacturing. However, 80% of them are willing to cooperate in order to "receive" new technologies and systems. This highlights a number of challenges: implementation-linked investment costs, the lack of knowledge, and a difficult access to new solutions.

Speeding up digital transformation in SMEs through the Hub methodology

These challenges oversaw the establishment of a Smart Factory HUB (SFH), which brought together representatives of manufacturing companies, universities, clusters, state administration and research centres from South Eastern and Central Europe. The project has been spearheaded by Pomurje Technology Park, an internationally recognized support non-profit institution aiming at the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Together, ten partners dealt with improving R&D and business policy conditions for transnational cooperation in the manufacturing industry, in order to apply (1) novel technologies; (2) effective production processes and (3) effective human resource management systems.

Initiated in 2017 under the framework of the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme, the project aimed reaching technical solutions into production processes showing improvements in the areas of cost-effectiveness, quality assurance and risk management. More than 105 smart production solutions were endorsed and promoted, from air cushion plates for fast and gentle transport to the Black Sea cloud storage Smart Alliance or Smart high-speed motorized spindles.

Paving the way for the (smart) future of manufacturing

The project brought altogether up to 1529 SMEs and 2225 stakeholders. The list of achievements is impressive: among them, a catalogue of 57 good practices, 53 international learning demonstration workshops and regional workshops, as well as policy instruments developed to help SMEs digitalizing their production facilities.

To vehiculate these achievements, the Hub established an E-learning platform and a Smart Factory Cooperation Platform (SFCP), which provides a geographic overview and detailed information about actors, good practices, projects and facilitators. With 1580 entries, it spans 1292 organisations, 180 projects and 108 funding schemes, thus fostering the match between the demand and supply tendencies.

"The result of the project is improved cooperation between quadruple helix partners - Academia and R&D, Public Sector, Industry and SMEs and NGOs - in order to advance the smart factory field in the digital revolution", Marius-Valentin Niculae, project officer for an Innovative and Socially Responsible Danube Region at the Hungarian ministry of Finance, said in May in Maribor at the concluding conference of the project.

Project summary

Partners: 12
Countries: 10
Team members: 59
Starting date: 1 January 2017
Ending date: 30 June 2019
Budget: 1 838 636,6 euros
ERDF contribution: 1 456 071,99 euros


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