blog banner

Public financing? Yes, please! But we need your network, too

During ADMA’s Final Event on April, 22nd 2021 a total of fifteen SME’s have shared their Factory of the Future journey with the audience. One of the last questions the SME leaders have been answering was the following: “Any final message for local, regional, national and/or European policy makers?

Mr. Fernandez, General Manager from the Spanish blow moulding company Urola (50 employees), stated it very clearly:

To be in front of the rest of the companies, that means you have to spend a lot more money in order to do the next step, to move forward. For the 2nd and the third, fourth in the row all those steps are going to be easier and cheaper.

I wish the ADMA advisors and policy makers can even step up their efforts beyond financing, to help small companies like ours in order to make things happen with a bigger chance of success, in order not to die in trying. I wish the ADMA people – and this is a challenge for them – to start using data mining and AI and stuff like that in order to digest all SME-relevant Factory of the Future / Smart Factory / I4.0 / Green / Digital information, to have (only) valuable information in our mailbox. Because out of 100 pieces of information I receive regarding all this, I know that 90 has very little impact on what we are doing, but we have to read them all to find the 10 mails that can make a difference, and that’s hard.

Innovation eco-systems

The above examples already show that it’s quite difficult and challenging to find a good match. Therefore, a major take-away for innovation intermediaries, other EU initiatives, policy makers and so on, is to design local and regional innovation ecosystems where it’s easier for European manufacturing SMEs to identify and involve the right partners.

In our company it is considered essential to have technological and research partners to promote innovation projects. For more than 20 years we have been working with the University of Girona, and they have students to carry out their final degree work in Cafès Cornellà. So far, 25 final projects have been done.
Mr. Pere Cornellà – Owner & CEO Cafès Cornellà

An even higher ambition could be to (start) build(ing) a complete European manufacturing transformation eco-system. This could be done through more actively connecting traditional European manufacturing SMEs with high performing European solution providers.

The Advanced Manufacturing Support Centre, acting as a cross-regional triple helix-connector, could further develop this by connecting manufacturing SMEs even more actively with tech providers, intermediary organisations and government. As we are in a period of full transformation – Green transition, Digital transition, Covid-impact and ever increasing technological innovations – SMEs really need support in this.

This ecosystem ideally gets built upon already successful networks/initiatives, etc. and following two main principles should thereby always prevail:

  1. Avoid the creation of silos, both in terms of ‘sequences’ / steps (from the generation until the absorption of the innovations, making sure feedbacks loops between all steps exist) as well as in terms of technological and non-technological ‘communities (i.e. challenges are often multidimensional and do require solutions that are based on expertise derived from various technological or non-technological communities).
  2. A bottom-up process should be favoured, starting from downstream SME needs.

Smart partnering

In short, such initiatives and ecosystem should make sure to facilitate ‘smart partnering’ for downstream SMEs across the EU.  SMEs need to team up, very soon in the process, with relevant collaborative partners (tech providers/facility centres, and suppliers/clients). Smart partnering is crucial, but it also turns out to be challenging. Therefore, innovation intermediaries, EU initiatives, etc. should help create the setting and SME-focussed tools  to help companies identify, select and involve the right partners from the very beginning onwards.

Efforts in this direction do pay off. When implementing the necessary transformations towards Factories of the Future, for quite some ADMA SMEs the actions even brought results beyond expectation. 

We don’t have so many resources to invest in innovation. When you are participating with partners, universities, DIHs, competence centres, you are creating a network. This is extremely important, this is crucial. Right now we are participating to a project that is for 3D metal printers with a company that is producing this machine. And we try to participate in a project that is about changing our business model.
Of course for these kind of tests, we won’t have the resources alone to do it. But in these projects you have the opportunity to meet interesting people and try to experiment something different.
Mr Marco Travella – Innovation Manager Gualini Lamiere

René Backx, COO of MX3D, a Dutch Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing start-up (18 employees) put it like this :

For instance on the network : we really believe that you have to stay close to your core capabilities and build a network of trusted partners which will make you even more powerful. In my view, policy makers and related supporting organisations really need to enable and be a kind of ‘bridge’ towards new tech by supplying financial support, by providing their network. 2 years ago we started a consortium on Integradde, funded by Horizon 2020 and the goal of that project is really to achieve a fully digital thread for Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing, all the way from design to a certified part.

Maybe you got the chance to watch the online event, maybe not. If not, please visit ADMA Final Event – YouTube and enjoy the aftermovies 😉

Share this post on social media