Research network supports digital transformation of SMEs in Lake Constance region

By creating a network of universities, businesses, and SMEs in the Lake Constance region of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the EU-funded IBH-Lab KMUdigital project is promoting digital industrialisation and technology transformation.

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The IBH-Lab KMUdigital project is promoting digital industrialisation and technology transformation ©IBH-LAB KMUDIGITAL The IBH-Lab KMUdigital project is promoting digital industrialisation and technology transformation ©IBH-LAB KMUDIGITAL

" The IBH-Lab KMUdigital is a research and innovation network of nine universities and one research institute from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and of practice partners from business, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs of the Lake Constance region can connect to the lab to work interdisciplinarily on the sub-projects and to manage their digital transformation individually. "

Alexandra Boger, Management IBH-Lab KMUdigital

The region is working to position itself as a dynamic centre for digital change. At the heart of this strategy is the EU-funded IBH-Lab KMUdigital, a research network dedicated to increasing the region’s digital competitiveness through knowledge-sharing, innovation, and technology transfer.

Via the project, nine universities and one research centre are developing interdisciplinary application-orientated solutions for six individual projects. Each application aims to address such questions as: How much digitalisation does there have to be in a medium-sized company for it to remain competitive? How much digitalisation is suitable in medium-sized companies, taking into consideration financial and staff resources? 

Supporting fast industrial digitalisation

Comprised of universities, research centres, and businesses, the network is developing interdisciplinary strategies to support regional SMEs in implementing fast industrial digitalisation. To accomplish this, the project is divided into six sub-projects, each of which seeks to answer a specific SME need:   

  • DAB: to improve political, legal and infrastructural conditions for SMEs in the region, with SMEs, interested associations, politicians, administrators, and scientists; 
  • DigiNav: developed a navigator SMEs can use to develop an individual digitalisation strategy; 
  • i4Production: focused on making production in the region more future-assured, efficient, and productive. An internationally networked 4.0 process map based on three model factories in three countries is being developed;
  • Data4KMU: determined which specific models best enable SMEs to generate added value from their customer data;
  • DigiTraG: developed instruments SMEs can use to optimise their core business and implement innovations;
  • DigiLand: demonstrated digitalisation options using specific implementation examples along the nutritional value-added chain to agricultural and processing companies, and local dealers in the Lake Constance region.

Ready to compete

From these projects, researchers accumulated valuable knowledge and solutions related to SME digitialisation – knowledge they transferred to Lake Constance companies. SMEs are now better able to cope with rapidly advancing industrial digitalisation and, as a result, are well-positioned to compete in the digital future. 

Thanks to the specialised knowledge gained by the IBH-Lab KMUdigital network, the project promoted knowledge, innovation, and technology transfer among local SMEs. It contributed to enhancing the attractiveness of the Lake Constance region as a digital centre of excellence, thus ensuring it remains a competitive and dynamic region in times of digital change.

Cross-border association 

The IBH-Labs are a joint project of the Internationale Bodensee Hochschule (IBH), a cross-border association of 30 universities, and the Internationale Bodensee Konferenz, a cooperation of the regional administrations surrounding Lake Constance. The IBH-Labs are a research and innovation network of universities and practice partners from the business and public sector. 

Three different project clusters address different topics, which have been identified as relevant to the cross-border region. The IBH-Lab KMUdigital supports SMEs in the region with applying and implementing fast progressing industrial digitalisation. The two other IBH-Labs address digital innovation in the health sector (IBH Living Lab Active & Assisted Living) and education (IBH Lab Seamless Learning). 

In 2017, the International Lake Constance region was awarded the Sail of Papenburg, an award for outstanding achievements in European cross-border cooperation, for its shared commitment to the IBH-Labs.



Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “IBH-Lab KMUdigital” is EUR 1 750 161, with the EU’s Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 225 113 through the “Interreg V-A - Germany-Austria-Switzerland-Liechtenstein (Alpenrhein-Bodensee-Hochrhein)” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Research and innovation”.


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