The European Union's most important automation and mechatronic industries are located in Central European regions. While their business dimension is intercontinental, their innovation-related services often remain local, thus slowing down the transfer of research and development results into the industrial system.
As a result, tech-transfer is an expensive process that often duplicates efforts and does not respond to the time-to-market requirements. The challenge is to improve the innovation-related services to accelerate the transposition of key enabling technologies (KETs) from EU-funded research and Central European labs into new end-user components and applications for the advanced manufacturing industries.
NUCLEI – acronym for “Network of Technology Transfer Nodes for Enhanced Open Innovation in the Central European Advanced Manufacturing and Processing Industry” – benefits from a 2.4 million euro funding (1.9 million euro ERDF) and unites some of the main European players in the manufacturing industry under the Interreg programme. The project is changing the obsolete innovation management model from a ‘local-based’ technology scouting approach to a transnational pool of knowledge that supports advanced manufacturing innovation beyond regional borders.
This increases economic interdependencies between the seven regions and encourages more effective transnational value chains in the automotive and electrical industries as well as the IT, robotics, and automation sectors. Such a joint knowledge sourcing approach helps the seven NUCLEI industrial clusters and their end-beneficiaries (companies, SMEs, R&D performers) to generate new consortia/business deals to execute bold technological, product, and market projects.
At the start of NUCLEI, the partners developed a web atlas to map each region’s strengths, competitive advantages and potential for excellence in Central Europe. It was part of this exercise to list all R&D institutions according to their specific fields in the industry. At the same time, the project partners assessed the specific needs and interests of their region’s enterprises from the automation and mechatronic industries.
The second stage is focusing on specific pilot actions to organize seminars between R&D institutions and innovation-oriented enterprises from all regions. A visit of a Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry to arrange an information workshop in order to exchange knowledge on technology transfer serves as an example here. These kinds of activities contribute to a collaborative, transnational environment and encourage new economic activities between various parties.
The Results and Benefits
The actions implemented in the NUCLEI project aim to broaden the focus of companies and institutions and widen their range of activities when seeking new opportunities for business and innovation. Common activities between the project partners and the comparison of regional policies stimulate a process of standardization in the application of Central European Smart Specialization Strategies as a whole, gradually facilitating transnational cooperation. These processes strengthen the impact of Central Europe as an innovation hub and increase the competitiveness of the regional industrial networks.