amLAB: the birth of a new Digital Innovation Hub

  • Balázs BARTA profile
    Balázs BARTA
    22 January 2019 - updated 4 months ago
    Total votes: 5

“Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can make a change.” This well-known saying is a driving motto for us at amLAB, a Digital Innovation Hub where we focus on value creation for Hungarian manufacturing companies through digitalization.

Pannon Business Network (PBN) is at the heart of our Digital Innovation Hub. For over a decade, we have worked in boosting innovation and international know-how transfer through this regional business development organisation. We served 200 businesses, managed clusters, benchmarked performance on international scale and realized over 60 international projects. Being an umbrella organization for scientific institutions, intermediaries like industrial parks and clusters, PBN gained awareness and competency.

Following our first decade, this knowledge was successfully converted into a national contract for medium-sized company development, called HGC Academy. As a result, we have contracted 150 growth companies from the manufacturing industries nationally, targeting a holistic development program. We have provided these companies mentoring in areas of technology maturity, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), export strategy, succession planning and financial structure of the highest potential businesses of the country. The ultimate goal is to achieve competitiveness growth.

The birth of our hub

With all this experience, 2016 was a turning point for us to bring the knowledge of PBN into the launch of a Digital Innovation Hub.

Through an Interreg project called 3DCentral, the entire PBN team had the opportunity to visit the Moulding Expo in Stuttgart, studying the perspective of additive manufacturing. This was a moment of revelation for us, when our two-year learning process for understanding the potential of digitalization was crowned. The team started to compose a portfolio of digital tools to assist the value creation of manufacturing companies.

As a result, we acquired a wide range of devices – 3Dprinters, digital scanner, robots, augmented reality devices, sensors –, and hired full-time engineering staff. All the team was filled with the new impulses, resulting in inspiration, motivation and ambitions. We started to develop complex applications, assembling the separate tools into several proposals for the manufacturing customers. In this process, we faced challenges like how to integrate the engineering and economic-background people, matchmaking different timeframes, working culture, and even languages. However, these challenges helped us grow, and as a result of continuous improvement and development, a separate business unit was set up: amLAB was born.

Assisting companies to create real value

Since its creation, in amLAB we are focused on realising the full potential of businesses through advanced manufacturing applications. However, digital devices are tools, not an objective on its own. The challenge is to assist the transformation of the manufacturing companies to higher value creation, rather than convincing them to buy new fancy equipment. Equipment is just an enabler, the challenge is to transfer this message and opportunity towards the wider community.

amLAB is just starting, but in 2018, its first year of full operation, over 600 students visited us, listened to presentations and enjoyed our technology show. We have also reached out to more than 50 companies that had the chance to get hands on experience.

EU support for the establishment of our Digital Innovation Hub

In the initial phase of our Digital Innovation Hub, we were honoured to be part of the European Commission’s Smart Factories project. Through this training programme, we were mentored by PwC and Oxentia for a year on how to improve our business model and operations. This training has significantly contributed to the visibility of our activity at national and international level, and it highly improved our strategy and connection with other similar initiatives around Europe.

amLAB is also member of the L4MS consortium and the DIH^2 partnership, both of them key European projects in the field of Digital Innovation Hubs, helping  manufacturing companies to apply digital solutions on the shop floor for .

Our vision for the future

Based on these positive experiences from EU-supported initiatives, we have greatly improved our goals and expectations for amLAB. Our hub’s operations are starting off with very promising results: 40 high-growth medium-sized manufacturing companies are already contracted to be trained at amLAB, each of them coming individually for a 2-day training. The main objective is to help them in turning their products smarter, for which we are already testing prototypes.

In addition, we are involved in an Austrian-Hungarian joint initiative with Austrian DIHs that will enable cross-border synergetic cooperation.

Though this is only the beginning of amLAB’s road, we are excited to be part already of the European network of Digital Innovation Hubs, as only together we will be able to  make a real impact.