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Fostering Industry 4.0 development in European regions

Posted on 18/06/2019 at 15:18

Fostering Industry 4.0 development in European regions

Digitising industries is one of the key challenges to be tackled for fostering European growth in the years to come. inno TSD, project partner of H2020 IoT4Industry, identified several levers for accelerating this process in European regions.

What does “Industry 4.0” stand for?

Industry 4.0 (I4.0) as a new way to organize industrial production methods with innovations derived from Internet of Things (IoT), advanced manufacturing and digital technologies can be considered the 4th industrial revolution.

The industrial internet of things is centred around gathering and making use of industrial data, allowing notably to:

  • Monitor aspects of production (such as processes, machines, products) by being able to visualize and interpret live data in the cloud. This monitoring can be taken to the next level with the idea of a “digital twin”. A digital twin can be a computer model which mirrors the physical world (by receiving and presenting live IoT data). Monitoring solutions that help all levels of the distribution sector, from the management up to the programming of supply routes. It obtains and analyses information in real-time information from pumping systems, fans, on-valve measurement instruments, actuators and energy meters.

  • Store and analyse vast amount of valuable production data. An example of such analysis is predictive analytics to determine the health of a machine and when it might require maintenance. This is called predictive maintenance. Another example could be analysing process data to find operational efficiencies. This is often called process optimisation. A system that accesses production data in real time and tags it to historical statistics, making information tangible on efficiency, utilisation and availability of plants and machines. This allows for optimisation of the production process either as a stand-alone application or through integration with SAP platforms.

  • Create fully connected production systems. One key idea in Industry 4.0 is cyber physical systems which add value to the current practice of process automation. “Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes. Embedded computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa.”

CLICK HERE to see Berkley's interactive Cyber-Physical Systems' map

Fostering industries’ digitization at regional level

European Members States are facing a challenging global environment and Industry 4.0 solutions induce an important lever with the potential of transforming EU industries and creating enormous growth of the European economy, by supporting the processes in industry rather than creating new industries. Large corporates and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) active in manufacturing are equally affected, with the latter being often not yet sufficiently advanced in the digital transformation process.

A number of nation-wide initiatives exist across the EU to develop I4.0 solutions, but local and regional authorities with their closeness to the territory are required to build strategic co-operation schemes with a private sector that is rapidly evolving towards more ‘hybrid’ models of production in increasingly complex market dynamics. Indeed, the involvement of local industry representatives in designing an industrial strategy is fundamental to meet entrepreneur needs, limit labour mismatches and strengthen the innovative capabilities of enterprises. Moreover, monitoring and evaluation of entrepreneurial industrial activities and the labour market, as well as collecting and elaborating data on key industrial variables, are crucial for a clear overview of local industrial problems!

CLICK HERE to see an Overview of European Initiatives on Digitising Industry

Smart Specialization (S3) strategies are one among the various tools set by the European Union for fostering the I4.0 at regional level, and can be strengthened through complementary initiatives, set at local, regional or global level, notably through the Digitising European Industry initiative, the Digital Agenda and specific instruments aiming at industrials, SMEs, and citizens.

Challenges and opportunities for EU regional authorities

Inno TSD, along its partners within the scope of the IoT4Industry project, identified three key parameters for the uptake of Industry 4.0 solutions upon which regional stakeholders can act.

The need to inform and convince industrial business stakeholders on Industry 4.0 benefits

The hardest challenge is unfortunately the first. Get industrials & SMEs on board of the digitization process, specifically informing them of opportunities conferred by I4.0 solutions is the key first step that need to be done locally.

Raising industrials awareness must be performed by regional business support stakeholders (development agency, clusters, etc.) who should define, exemplify and demonstrate potential leverage effects (revenue growth, costs reduction for industries) and impacts on socio-economic parameters (job creation, investments, time-to-market, etc.), possibly through dedicated trainings.

Dedicate programs for supporting industrials, SMEs and start-ups to access adapted solutions

Regional stakeholders share the necessity to design programs that correspond to business stakeholders’ needs and provide existing companies with the opportunity to get adapted solutions for their structure and activities.

Support tailored feasibility studies, prototypes or demonstrators by and for businesses will play a key role for Industry 4.0 deployment at EU regional level. Nowadays, many regions provide ‘I4.0 diagnoses’ to their business stakeholders, enabling them to get a ‘potential action plan’ for them to implement. Diverse regional authorities and agencies also issue ‘Expression of Interests’ or ‘Call for projects’ for supporting and funding business stakeholders’ efforts towards I4.0. However, these calls tend to face a lack of interest of regional industrials & SMEs, and some do not achieve their objectives. This lack seems to be due to a “gap of support” between both ‘diagnoses’ and ‘Call for Projects’ tools. SMEs can’t access the adequate level of maturity for responding to the challenges put forward within the ‘calls’ issued.

Other levers of actions need therefore to be set for closing this “gap of support” identified. For example, further supporting steps following up a diagnosis by co-financing a prototype solution in one facility should confer SMEs and industrials with a better overview of the opportunities conferred by I4.0, and thus improve their uptake on the field. Also, providing access to basic I4.0 solutions to SMEs willing to further elaborate upon their diagnosis could pave another stepping stone for further enabling concrete and adapted actions.

Combine and leverage upon European and national programs

Industry 4.0 initiatives launched at European and national levels tend to foster ‘disruptive’ sectorial innovations. These large-scale programmes support I4.0 schemes that require heavy investments and enable paradigm changes in the manufacturing sector and beyond.

Transnational and transregional initiatives in the EU take multiple forms depending on their objectives (e.g. German-French-Italian cooperation scheme on Industry 4.0, Danube region program, etc.). Some of these initiatives provide SMEs, research centers, etc. with collaboration (and funding) opportunities.

European tools supporting Industry 4.0 such as the European Structural and Investment Fund, Horizon 2020 funding or Smart Specialization Thematic Platforms do complete (and influence on) national initiatives supporting the uptake of processes and technologies within industries. Multiple EU Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are also key initiatives in this environment, funding opportunities conferred by some (e.g. I4MS) and the scale up programmes (e.g. EIT KIC Digital ) being interesting tools for fostering the uptake of Industry 4.0 solutions.

However, European, national and PPP approaches seem to focus on a prospective (“technology push”) that does not forcibly match with the reality on the field, experienced by regional and local stakeholders. These schemes, while focusing on the bigger picture and / or wider time-scale, seem to overlook the ‘actual state’ at which the companies are.

Therefore, regional authorities, agencies and clusters should constitute key facilitators, enabling the collaboration between ‘technology providers’ and ‘solution receiving’ companies on the field, with a timeframe aligned with business stakeholders’ capacities. They must also be pivotal in supporting I4.0 dissemination as relay of information and best practices on European and national levels, as well as among other regions.

Author, Hubert Santer, inno TSD (référent IIoT)

For more information please see:

IoT4Industry project IoT4Industry is an EC-funded project aiming at fostering Industry 4.0 by connecting ICT clusters having capacities in IoT with Advanced Manufacturing clusters having access to process manufacturers and manufacturing SMEs

Cyber-physical systems Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes. Embedded computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa.

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