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While large companies are already anticipating the changes arising from the digital revolution in the production and value creation process, SMEs are struggling to embrace the Industry 4.0 revolution. The uptake of advanced manufacturing solutions is still a challenge to SMEs: only one in five manufacturing companies has already used advanced manufacturing solutions.

Partners from regions across Europe have decided to join forces and to exchange experience on how policies related to Structural Funds can unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0, fully convinced that the success of digital transformation will greatly depend on SMEs, which feel in need of more practical support.

The SMARTY project has been set up to establish among its members a common basis for the policies that are needed to overcome the current fragmentation of Industry 4.0 solutions and improve their enabling potential by dealing with the main challenges hampering their diffusion into the European Union ecosystem. It is therefore key to bring together and connect the best solutions across the EU so as to foster the development, upscaling, and commercialisation as well as the diffusion of Industry 4.0 solutions – whether these are new technologies, products, services, business models, etc.

Project goals

The overall objective of the project is to trigger a policy change in the implementation of regional policies and programmes related to the Structural Funds so as to increase the awareness and adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions and technologies by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). The project aims to improve the partners’ capacity to design and deliver policies that support the innovation projects of SMEs, particularly in connection with investments in services for technological, strategic, organisational and commercial innovation in line with their S3s that uphold Industry 4.0 as the new paradigm to drive industrial development in the coming years.

The project’s sub-objective is to support the improvement of the partners’ regional policies to boost Industry 4.0 by exchanging experience and good practices relating to:

  • the promotion of technological, organisational and socio-economic contents (services, practices, solutions) of the new Industry 4.0 paradigm among SMEs;
  • the introduction of digital technologies within SMEs, for instance in terms of the relationship between the company and its customers and the management of the supply chain;
  • the development of predictive models through the further integration of virtual processing into the manufacturing process and the supply chain management in view of tracking and monitoring the value chain.

Economic value

The objective of the partner regions is to support industrial modernisation as a driver of economic dynamism in Europe and the sustainable creation of growth and jobs in the EU. As a leader in high-tech manufacturing, Europe is well placed to promote the transition to Industry 4.0. The uptake of advanced manufacturing solutions still remains a challenge for SMEs, the most important barriers being the high cost of investments in advanced manufacturing solutions, the lack of financial resources and difficulties to assess the performance and potential business return of such technologies.

Given the predominance of SMEs in the EU economy, these issues must be addressed by policymakers whose aim should be to optimize the framework conditions and support structures for manufacturing SMEs so as to enable them to meet the challenge of Industry 4.0 and take full advantage of the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.

This issue has been clearly identified by the regions of the Industrial Modernisation Partnership who have recognised the need for cross-regional coordinated action to survey, analyse and exchange complementary capabilities & competences from different regions to demonstrate and validate Industry 4.0 solutions in relevant industrial environments (through innovative projects). The exchange of experiences to support the uptake of advanced 4.0 manufacturing solutions by SMEs should fill this gap by stimulating policy learning and capacity building activities among the partner regions, focusing on how to support SMEs to embrace the new Industry 4.0 paradigm, improve their production processes and develop new, more competitive and sustainable business models.


Visit the project website for more information or contact Ger van den Kerkhof, Senior Account Manager EU Affairs within Flanders Make.