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23 April 2024

INDUSTR_I4.0 invests in digitalization of SMEs in the Dutch-German border region

The 'small project fund' INDUSTR_I4.0 will accelerate the digital transition within the manufacturing industry in the entire Dutch-German border area. The project does not focus on the frontrunners, but rather on the group of SMEs that follow: the peloton. The focus is on the adoption and implementation of digital technology to accelerate innovations in SMEs. 

New European project offers subsidies for feasibility studies and innovation projects

The 'small project fund' INDUSTR_I4.0 will accelerate the digital transition within the manufacturing industry in the entire Dutch-German border area. Instead of focusing on the frontrunners, the project concentrates rather on the group of SMEs that follow: the peloton. The focus is on the adoption and implementation of digital technology to accelerate innovations in SMEs. INDUSTR_I4.0 is supported by the Interreg VI program Germany-Netherlands. Oost NL is carrying out the project. From mid-April 2024, it will be possible for companies to apply for subsidies for feasibility studies and innovation projects. A total of 10 million euros is available for this. INDUSTR_I4.0 will run from 2024 to 2027.

In recent years, major steps have been taken in the digital transition of the (manufacturing) industry (industry 4.0, also known as Smart Industry). But we are not there yet: Research by Radboud University shows that only 15% of entrepreneurs in the border region use advanced industry 4.0 technology and that much of this technology is developed in isolation and hardly connects with other digital technologies (Ligthart, P.E.M & Vaessen, P.M.M. (2020). Digitalization in the Manufacturing Industry. Radboud University).

While a small part of the business community has benefited from support measures in the field of digital transition in recent years, a larger part appears to be having difficulty capitalizing on the opportunities of the digital transition: The 'peloton' is in danger of falling further and further behind the leading group and losing connection.

Subsidies enable SMEs to innovate

INDUSTR_I4.0 wants to change that -- in concrete terms: by realizing 80 cross-border digital innovation projects and 80 feasibility studies. With the focus on adoption and implementation of digital technology, the instrument is tailored to the target group. For example, the focus is not on the development of a completely new AI protocol, but on the application of AI to further renew business processes. In the coming years, INDUSTR_I4.0 will support approximately 200 entrepreneurs in the border region. Collaboration between Dutch and German partners is a requirement within the projects.

As co-financiers, the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel are closely involved in INDUSTR_I4.0. Helga Witjes is the Provincial Executive of Gelderland and chairman of the Supervisory Committee of the Interreg A program in which this project is being implemented. “This small project fund is a great addition to the EDIH Boost Robotics program in the East of the Netherlands. Because with this small project fund, SME entrepreneurs show fellow SMEs the possibilities of digitalization in cross-border demonstration projects. And that is worth its weight in gold, because that's how you reach SMEs. By applying and demonstrating digitalization and AI in feasibility projects, we can make the desired digital scale leap in the East of the Netherlands. And that is important for entrepreneurs, because they benefit from digitalization.”

In the border region, cooperation is not only sought with the European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) in the East of the Netherlands, but also with those in the North and South of the Netherlands, as well as the EDIH in Lower Saxony. Contact is also being made with the DigiHubs in North Rhine Westphalia. These hubs offer subsidies for individual companies and for connection and anchoring in the region, where INDUSTR_I4.0 financially supports SMEs with subsidies for Dutch-German cooperation.

Gert Harm ten Bolscher, Deputy for innovation and digitalization of the province of Overijssel: “One of the biggest challenges for regional SMEs is 'working smarter': How do we get the work done in times of a tight labor market. Digitization helps with this. For small companies, the challenge is often great to make a digitalization move. INDUSTR_I4.0 ensures that regional SMEs can also participate.”

INDUSTR_I4.0 builds on two previous European projects from the previous Interreg period: Digipro and iPro-N. Wendy de Jong, Managing Director Oost NL: “Two-thirds of the companies that participated in these former projects indicated that they wanted to continue working together. The Netherlands and Germany have traditionally been important trading partners. There are still many opportunities, especially in the border region. With this new project, together with financiers and other partners, we are providing an important boost to international cooperation and innovative power in the border region. By innovating together, we make the industry from the border region even more resilient in the international playing field.”

INDUSTR_I4.0 started officially on the 17th April 2024 during the Digital Summit Euregio in Münster. From that moment on, it is now possible to submit an application for feasibility studies and innovation projects with a size of up to 100,000 euros per project. If you want to know more about the launch of INDUSTR_I4.0 and the precise terms and conditions of the project, keep an eye on the news.

The small project fund INDUSTR_I4.0 is implemented within the framework of the Interreg VI program Deutschland-Nederland and is co-financed by the European Union, the MWIKE NRW, the Lower Saxony Ministry for Federal and European Affairs and Regional Development, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and the provinces of Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, North Brabant and Limburg. INDUSTR_I4.0 is implemented by the following partners: NOM/TCNN, BOM, LIOF, Emsland GmbH, FH Munster/TAFH, HS Niederrhein, WIR4/MCC and Oost NL.

Source: INDUSTR_I4.0 investeert in digitalisering van het mkb in Nederlands-Duitse grensregio | Oost NL
Picture: Pixabay