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22 December 2022

Green light for Interreg VI project – students work across borders on business solutions in German-Dutch Smart Labs

Companies in our border region benefit from the open research and development work of the Smart Solution Labs.

The “Smart Solution Labs” project developed by WFG for the Borken district as lead partner has now been approved. The decision was made by the EUREGIO regional steering committee of the European funding program Interreg VI Germany-Nederland. With total project costs amounting to 2,114,684.30 euros, cross-border work on business solutions will be carried out until 2026.

In addition to the WFG for the Borken district, the Saxion Hogeschool, Verenigde Maakindustrie Oost Nederland, FH Münster and the Westphalian University of Bocholt are partners. In this German-Dutch cooperation, Smart Labs are being set up in which students from various disciplines, such as bionics, energy and environmental technology, work on real, current orders from companies in the region. These could, for example, be solutions for material savings or sustainable recycling processes for used products. In mixed teams of German and Dutch students, they work together to develop ideas, point out problems, present research results and determine the next steps together.

Working together in the Smart Lab offers students an opportunity to come into contact with innovative companies from the region at an early stage and to gain practical experience with research projects on current events. In addition, the project partners see the Smart Labs as an instrument to bind students to the labor market in the border region in order to keep them in the border region in the long term.

“The market is struggling with a shortage of skilled workers on both sides of the border. It is therefore important for the border region to provide an attractive job market for graduates,” said WFG Managing Director Dr. Daniel Schultewolter and adds: “In addition, the SMEs in our region benefit from the students’ research results.” The aim of the Smart Labs is for the students to present very concrete solutions.

The Smart Labs are active for eight weeks. At the beginning of a Smart Lab, students are given tasks such as independent investigations or exchanges with experts. As the project progresses, they work on new approaches for innovative concepts or even prototypes. “The implementation can e.g. B. happens in the creative workshops of the universities. In the project, which will run until 2026, we can expect to be able to connect 120 students and 30 SMEs by setting up smart labs,” says project coordinator Renate Warmers, WFG Innovation Consulting.

A continuation of the collaboration with the company outside of the project is also being considered, for example as part of an internship or a thesis.

The importance of cross-border cooperation becomes clear when processing tasks. Due to the different mentalities and approaches of the two nationalities, the students complement each other and together provide greater added value. All students bring with them the knowledge from their own studies in the Netherlands or Germany. “Unknown makes you unloved” – that’s why the partners in this new European project want to dispel the idea that the job market ends at the border.

The “Smart Solution Labs” project is financed with funds from the European Regional Development Fund. The following Interreg partners are also participating: the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and the Province of Overijssel on the Dutch side and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate and Energy NRW on the German side.

This two-minute film, which was produced to promote the nomination for the 5th Borderland Prize, explains how the international collaboration between students from different disciplines from three universities works: https://youtu.be/wbfz7jkiUMU 

More information:

Picture: Saxion Hogeschool