#MittelstandTalk 3: Industry 4.0, Research & Innovation: How Can SME Benefit More?

The European Commission has taken important initiative to select and connect the 67 most advanced research centres – so-called Innovation Hubs - all around Europe in the framework of the “ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs”, short I4MS. These Innovation Hubs work in the fields of Simulation, Laser Technology, Sensors, Cyber-physical Systems, Internet of Things and Robotics, i.e. all those fields where the digitisation of manufacturing will make giant steps ahead. The challenge is now to bring ICT innovation to Europe’s Mittelstand (SMEs), in order that this innovation can find new fields of application, processes and products also for the benefit of manufacturing SME.

To discuss this topic, European Entreprenerus CEA-PME has organised its third #MittelstandTalk aptly titled “Industry 4.0, Research & Innovation: how can SME benefit more?” that took place on the 15th September 2016 at the Residence Palace in Brussels.

The meeting started with a warm welcome of Mr. Walter Grupp, the Secretary General of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. He welcomed all participants and underlined how important and significant SMEs are for the EU economy.

Following the welcome, Mr. Patrick Meinhardt, Member of the Executive Board of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME and Member of the Management Board of Bundesverband Mittelständische Wirtschaft e.V. (BVMW) in charge of European and Public Affairs and Network Relations, underlined how digitalization is nowadays a reality. In this regard, it is crucial that the entire EU participates in the digitalisation process. More people need to be educated in the use of digital tools, and SMEs and governments must work together in implementing the national digital strategies.

The meeting continued with a presentation of Dr. Max Lemke, Head of Unit for Complex Systems and Advanced Computing at DG Connect, European Commission. He confirmed that the implementation of digitalization strategies is even more important for SMEs as they represent the most important sector for the EU economy. To promote digitalisation among small and medium-sized companies, the European Commission will focus on three practical priorities: strengthening their competences, giving them a space for networking and providing financial incentives.

The European Commission is supporting a group of innovation initiatives supporting SMEs and mid-caps across the economy in digital value creation. The formula for success is promoting collaboration of industrial actors across the complete value chain in many small experiments facilitated by Europe’s leading competence centres, places where there is an excellent competence in digital technologies but a lack of contact and network with the world outside them.

The major initiatives are “ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs” (I4MS), supporting largely process innovation, and “Smart Anything Everywhere” (SAE), supporting product and service innovation:

1.ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) is addressing process innovation through digital technologies such as simulation, modelling and data-analytics; robotics; advanced lasers and smart sensors; cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT).

2.Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE) is supporting product and service innovation through digital technologies.

The meeting continued with a presentation by Ms. Laura Mariosa, Communication and Event Manager at Knowledge4Innovation. She explained that Knowledge4Innovation is a non-profit platform with a wide variety of stakeholders advocating for favourable framework conditions promoting innovation activities in Europe. The K4I Forum is supported by more than 30 Members of the European Parliament and it is a policy dialogue instrument through which policy makers and stakeholders come together.

Ms. Mariosa provided examples of K4I’s main activities such as the European Innovation Summit, a three days event acting as a moment for discussing the key development in areas such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, EU funding programs for Innovation and other related topics, and the Pact4Innovation (INPACT), signed by MEPs and welcome by the Commission, which asks for a coherent set of EU policies for innovation, re-focusing and aligning EU budgets and investments towards innovation and improving citizens and investor confidence in Europe.

The meeting than concluded with a discussion among all participants moderated by Mr. Stefan Moritz, Managing Director at European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. The main issues were the role of SMEs associations in reaching out SMEs to make the digitalization strategy happen and the role of the European Commission in promoting European best practices as well as single initiatives.


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