Mechatronics for SMEs forms networks of German and Dutch businesses

In an area where 90 % of companies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the mechatronics project provides funding for innovative business ideas, boosting technology transfers through transnational cooperation.

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The strong focus on demand and needs of the partner was one of the determining points for the success of ‘Mechatronics for SMEs’. -Angelika van der Kooi, Project coordinator ©Mechatronics for SMEs The strong focus on demand and needs of the partner was one of the determining points for the success of ‘Mechatronics for SMEs’. -Angelika van der Kooi, Project coordinator ©Mechatronics for SMEs

" Thanks to the support of the European Regional Development Fund, several million euros have been injected in the economy at the Dutch-German border area. This investment has strengthened the competitiveness of the companies and secured employment in the region. The strong focus on demand and needs of the partner was one of the determining points for the success of ‘Mechatronics for SMEs’. The project partners and associated partners deserve special praise. The cooperation with the economic promoters, chambers, universities, technical universities, and technology centres was excellent. This also shows in the results.* "

Angelika van der Kooi, project coordinator

“Mechatronics” stands for an interdisciplinary collaboration of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and informatics – a field with ideal conditions for the development of innovative technologies that make production processes simpler and more efficient. However, these innovations often involve high financial risks that SMEs cannot shoulder, and require extensive research knowledge. The “Mechatronics for SMEs” project provides this with impressive success rates. So far, approximately 180 innovations in SMEs have been supported, and over 1 100 SMEs were reached through the project.

Five stages to a new product

The project accompanies businesses in every stage of their innovation cycle, starting from an information meeting regarding the business idea. This is followed by in-depth discussions with universities or technical colleges to determine the best solution for the business. External experts are included in the close consultation stage. The project’s inherently transnational character is shown at the latest in the fourth stage, a feasibility study, which has to include a partner from the other side of the border. Finally, the product is developed and a prototype built.

The costs for SMEs of following this procedure are partially paid for by the project, a support which can add up to tens of thousands of Euros. This is a powerful financial incentive for enterprises to set up collaborations with research institutes and engineering companies from the neighbouring country and will give rise to durable and sustainable cross-border partnerships. In addition, the synergies help face the challenge of a shortage of engineers in the Dutch-German border area.

Self-cleaning heat exchangers and zero-energy houses

The range of innovative ideas and products that have already been funded is vast. They include a system to improve the communication between different elements of an intelligent home system in zero-energy homes. Another example is a self-cleaning heat exchanger, which can cut the energy consumption of open-air swimming pools in half, and even enables cleaning the pipes while the system is in operation.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Mechatronics for SMEs” is EUR 18 371 790, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributing EUR 7 277 400 through the “Netherlands-Germany” operational programme for the 2007-2013 programming period under the “Economy, Technology, Innovation” priority axis.

* Original version of the quote: "Dank der Unterstützung des Fonds für Regionale Entwicklung sind mehrere Millionen Euro in die Wirtschaft im deutsch-niederländischen Grenzgebiet geflossen. Diese Investition hat die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der Betriebe gestärkt und Beschäftigung in der Region gesichert. Für den Erfolg von ‚Mechatronik für KMU’ war die starke Fokussierung auf die Nachfrage und die Bedürfnisse der Betriebe mit entscheidend. Besonderes Lob verdienen dabei die Projektpartner und assoziierten Partner. Die Zusammenarbeit mit den Wirtschaftsförderern, Kammern, Universitäten, Fachhochschulen und Technologiezentren war hervorragend. Das zeigt sich auch in den Ergebnissen.“

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