Plea for unrestricted collaboration and targeted innovation

Manufacturers are increasingly pooling their resources in order to offer customers maximum added value through shared R&D. This is not just about peeping over factory walls, collaboration has now become a keyword extending over national boundaries. This is why Sirris and Agoria brought technology companies and supporting organisations from the Netherlands and Belgium together at the Science Park in Diepenbeek on 23 September. The most important items to be learned.

In collaboration with twenty businesses, Sirris and Agoria implemented the ambitious Made Different action plan allowing manufacturers to become factories of the future by taking seven transformative steps. Moreover, industry must also make choices and implement targeted innovation within specific niche areas. Agoria and Sirris can provide assistance in defining the main innovation issues.

Collaborate to innovate

The Flemish government recently launched SOC Maakindustrie [Strategic Research Centre Manufacturing Industry], a research centre where manufacturers can share experiences with other manufacturers and universities. Wilson De Pril, director-general at Agoria Flanders: "Collaboration within R&D is the best response to the current high business costs and very unsatisfactory levels of productivity."

For John Blankendaal, director of Brainport Industries, this ardent plea sounded rather familiar: “We also use the motto ‘stronger together’ in the Netherlands. For example 90 intersectoral and interdisciplinary suppliers are doing R&D under the banner of Brainport Industries." “There are still many international opportunities”, according to Rob van Gijzel, Brainport chairman and mayor of Eindhoven. "This way governments and organisations such as Sirris and Agoria can make detailed analyses of manufacturers and introduce the right profiles to each other. But we can also bring companies together at an international level via showcases.

Automation makes inroads for flexibility

Is automation the answer to the increasing demand for flexibility? Luc De Ceuster (Robojob): "With automation we can shorten production lead times and once again compete on price." However, Guy De Winne (Newtec) says that digitization and optimum production controls are just as crucial. "Intersectoral and international collaboration also form part of this", he added. "In order to do this confidently, we need the support of government and moderating organisations such as Agoria and Sirris."

Scores of examples in the Netherlands demonstrate that it is not just automation that brings greater flexibility, but also collaboration. “For example Keygene in Wateringen, being an umbrella R&D entity established by a large number of Dutch seed producers”, said Rob van Gijzel. “There's also AddLab in Eindhoven, a shared infrastructure for suppliers of 3D metal printing. Governments also benefit from getting these sorts of collaborations going."  

Is your manufacturing company ready for far-reaching levels of collaboration and targeted innovation? Then contact Jan Geeraert now!