Smart phones, smart watches or smart TVs are just a few of the new products that are entering our daily lives. The functionalities of more and more objects are augmented by digital components hidden inside. For instance, smart offices can turn off the lights when nobody is in the office, or a car can brake automatically when an obstacle is noticed.
As an answer to these new changes, the European Commission proposes the creation of a 'Smart Anything Everywhere' Initiative (SAE). The SAE will build an ecosystems based on collaboration between researchers, large industries and SMEs across the complete value chain in a large number of small experiments facilitated by Europe's leading competence centres.
The network of competence centres, usually research technology organisations (RTOs) or technology transfer-oriented university institutes who cluster a wide spectrum of technical and application knowledge to support innovation are the core of the initiative.
The aim is to transfer knowledge and resources available to a much wider group of companies. SMEs who are very often having great ideas but are lacking the resources, and middle size companies can experiment with new technologies, try them out in their processes and work together with the suppliers of the technology to adapt it to their specific needs. This scheme is an important means for innovating their products and services and become more competitive in the global market.
A first group of four projects (funded through Horizon 2020 Innovation Actions) will make available EUR 25 mln to support around 100 experiments with the aim of involving more than 200 SMEs and midcaps in the field of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Systems Integration (SSI). The information and the open calls will be published on a central/common web portal for all the projects taking part in the initiative: EUROCPS, SMARTER-SI, CPSELABS and GATEONE.
The official launch of the initiative took place on 26 and 27 March 2015 in Grenoble.
The European Union invests in innovation initiatives helping SMEs and mid-caps across the economy in digital value creation. "ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs" (I4MS) has started working with a first network of competence centres since July 2013.
The picture below illustrates the position of SAE and I4MS initiatives in the technology adoption lifecycle.
The structure of the projects in the innovation initiatives is illustrated in the picture below. The core of the project clusters knowledge and access to specific technology and platforms which can be used in experiments. The experiments are usually driven by a neutral research organisation, not focused on one competence or specific technology, in order to avoid that such a competence centre becomes a marketing outlet for one single company, or that user SMEs will be locked into one particular brand. In one project, several of such competence centres are networked together.