New research centre in Vorarlberg, Austria supports digital transformation of SMEs

The Digital Factory Vorarlberg provides local SMEs with the technological and research support they need to digitalise their production processes.

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The digital factory ¬– a model factory and research centre. ©ÖROK/APA-Fotoservice/Mathis The digital factory ¬– a model factory and research centre. ©ÖROK/APA-Fotoservice/Mathis

" With the support of the EU, we were able to set up a Research Centre for Digitalisation and a Smart Manufacturing Laboratory. We are now able to support small and medium-sized companies with a variety of digitalisation issues and have better infrastructure for educating students and company personnel. "

Prof.(FH) DI Dr. Robert Merz, Head of Digital Factory Vorarlberg

Digitalisation is a complex subject, one that requires a large suite of individual technologies linked via comprehensive knowledge and competencies.

Unfortunately, for many companies, and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), digitalisation poses a significant challenge. To help SMEs overcome this obstacle, the Austrian state of Vorarlberg has set up a digital factory, where SMEs can collaborate to get the knowledge, technology, support, and skills they need to succeed in today’s digital revolution.

Model Factory and Research Centre

The Digital Factory Vorarlberg consists of both a model factory and a research centre. The model factory component has been set up to provide SMEs with manufacturing technologies, including parts fabrication, collaborative assembly, intralogistics, and intelligent storage. Here, companies can work with other companies and/or various academic partners to jointly develop and test such digital methods and solutions as:

  • factory and production control;
  • data analysis for status reporting;
  • predictive maintenance and production and quality optimisation;
  • automation of production processes and networked business processes;
  • IT security;
  • collaboration between humans and machines;
  • digital twinning; 
  • virtual and augmented reality;
  • networking of machines and plants.

The Digital Factory’s research centre is a space where best practices in digital production can be simulated in real-world scenarios. Here, companies conduct in-depth research on such topics as data analytics, cloud manufacturing, IT security, process automation, collaborative robotics, and machine-to-machine communications. 

The research centre offers a range of educational opportunities. For example, students from local universities can come here to get hands-on research experience, along with opportunities to shadow companies. The centre regularly organises tailor-made training programmes for SMEs. 

Continuing to grow

Within the first year of operation, the Digital Factory Vorarlberg’s staff of 17 people have provided support to 13 research and industrial development projects. Currently, the factory is hosting projects working to develop a smart data modeller, a cloud-based information system for distributed and optimised production, and a cloud-based production framework for networked SMEs.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Digital Factory” is EUR 535 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 214 000 through the “Investments in Growth and Employment Austria” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. 


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