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Flanders Make and SMITZH signed a letter of intent at the Hannover Messe.

Hannover, 02 April 2019. The manufacturing industry is a powerful motor for the economy in Flanders and the Netherlands. However, the sector faces the major challenge to digitise its production so as to be able to stay ahead of global competition. Flanders Make, the Flemish research centre for the manufacturing industry, and SMITZH, the South-Holland smart manufacturing programme, therefore join forces to jointly build a knowledge and innovation network. Today, they’ve signed a letter of intent at the Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest trade fair for industrial technology.

To be able to compete with production in low-wage countries, companies in our region require smart and flexible production systems that meet the increasing demand for personalised products and small product series.

As such, production environments must be easily adaptable to the demand for customised products. People start working closely together with robots, which mainly perform physically demanding and repetitive work, to be able to produce in Europe at competitive prices. Operators are trained in a Virtual Reality environment. Paper work instructions in the factory make way for tablets with digital work instructions tailored to each individual operator. And this is only the beginning of the imminent transition towards Industry 4.0.

“Flanders Make helps companies - through research, customised services and state-of-the-art test infrastructure - to digitise their production to enable them to remain competitive. To be able to do this successfully, cooperation with other players is necessary. To this purpose, we've set up a partnership with SMITZH to create a network across national borders in which companies cooperate with other companies and knowledge institutions and work on technological solutions for the future", explains Dirk Torfs, CEO of Flanders Make.

First steps in the partnership

SMITZH and Flanders Make both have an extensive network of companies facing similar technological challenges. They will now bring these networks together to exchange best practices in terms of smart products and production and to set up joint research and innovation projects. These projects will have a close link to the 8 field labs working on, among others, robotics and big data.

Furthermore, Flanders Make recently launched the Smart Factory Benelux initiative, in which companies that are active in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg are setting up a joint digital production system. The main goal of this project is to demonstrate new state-of-the-art technologies and have them working together with one another in realistic working conditions. By integrating their own technology, manufacturing companies can also learn to create a flexible manufacturing system for themselves that can be easily adapted to new product variants. The cooperation with SMITZH also offers an ideal opportunity to motivate and inspire more Dutch companies to join the Smart Factory Benelux initiative.

Leo Van de Loock, Transition manager Industry 4.0 with the Flemish government, welcomes the cooperation between Flanders Make and SMITZH:

"The Flemish government stimulates companies and research institutions to make active use of the opportunities that Industry 4.0 and the corresponding digitisation can offer to them. Looking across borders, learning from one another and jointly moving ahead is of crucial importance to remain competitive as a region."

Flanders Make and InnovationQuarter, the lead partner of SMITZH, already work together in the Vanguard initiative, stimulating growth by way of smart specialisation strategies.

About the partners

InnovationQuarter is the lead partner of the SMITZH-programme (Smart Manufacturing: Industrial Applications in South Holland). SMITZH aims to support the South-Holland manufacturing industry and its technological suppliers. By setting up a solid regional innovation infrastructure, they want to develop into a one-stop knowledge and technology shop for companies. 

Flanders Make aims to strengthen the international competitiveness of Flemish manufacturing companies by performing high-tech reseach into product and production innovations in the vehicle and machine building industry and in production environments. To this puprose, they bring together companies and research institutions, among others in open innovation projects.