Pieter Dillingh of Kennispark Twente acknowledges that innovating as an entrepreneur in the manufacturing industry is necessary, but not always easy. Open innovation centres and field labs help entrepreneurs with the latest scientific knowledge and e.g. trial productions. “They offer SMEs unique growth opportunities and a chance to stay ahead of the competition.”
“I mention it every time I meet entrepreneurs from the manufacturing industry: the world is changing at a dazzling rate. Think of, for example, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Smart Industry and Smart materials. Overwhelming? Yes. Distant and unimportant? No,” says Pieter Dillingh.
Stay ahead of the competition
“Of course, you could focus mainly on your own product and just keep doing what you are best at. Sooner or later, however, your competitors – who did innovate and can now produce single products for an appealing price – will pass you by,” Pieter illustrates. It should come as no surprise that Pieter is calling for more focus on innovation. As the director of Kennispark Twente, he has been working hard to stimulate innovation in our region for years. He is literally surrounded by it. In his office between the labs and innovation centres and right next to the University of Twente, he sees new inventions on a daily basis and frequently meets with promising start-ups.
Find an inspiring environment
The inspiring environment is important for innovation. “It is difficult for a manufacturing company to develop new products or applications in isolation. They not only lack the necessary knowledge to do so, but also the facilities. After all, how many SMEs have their own R&D department?” A few years ago, the first open innovation centres were created around the region’s unique knowledge positions. The goal is to share more knowledge and put this knowledge into practice. Kennispark supported the foundation of these innovation centres. The field labs followed soon after. These are used to e.g. test a material or a production setup. Pieter explains: “Field labs give entrepreneurs and researchers room to work together using new knowledge and technology.”
Developing and testing new materials
One of the best-known centres is the TPRC, the Thermoplastic Composites Research Center. Businesses, knowledge institutes and the government use this facility to develop technologies for the use of thermoplastic composites. “Thermoplastic composites are plastics that are both light and strong,” Pieter explains. “These are often used in the aviation and aerospace sectors.” The field lab for thermoplastic composites is new. “In this field lab, businesses and knowledge institutes can work together to develop, test and implement solutions, which brings industrial production with these materials one step closer.”
Success for Schuitemaker
Pieter has seen many successes come out of the cooperation that occurs in the innovation centres and field labs. “Take Schuitemaker, a business from Rijssen, for example. They work with welding robots from different brands. The downside of this approach is that each brand has its own programming language and software.” Together with the foundation for welding automation solutions, the LAC, the company developed brand-independent offline robot software. Because this software can programme any robot from any supplier, Schuitemaker has solved its problem in one go. “The offline software also results in maximum productivity for each robot and it minimises lead times,” Pieter explains. “It allows for the production of smaller series or even single products and a higher degree of automation.”
Discover the innovation centres and field labs
These days, Twente is home to multiple open innovation centres and field labs in various fields – from nanotechnology to recycling and from smart maintenance to data security. “These centres and labs make innovation accessible for more manufacturing companies,” Pieter says. “Sharing knowledge, obtaining advice, attending events, starting a project or conducting a trial production run; any SME can make use of these options. Together with the provincial government, Oost NV and many other partners, we stimulate entrepreneurs to join this initiative.”
Cornerstone of the ecosystem
Pieter continues: “Unfortunately, many businesses in Twente are hesitant when it comes to innovation and cooperation.” They are reluctant to spend any money or they find it difficult to cooperate with other organisations for competitive reasons. “However, the world is changing too rapidly to hold on to existing structures. We have to innovate to increase our competitiveness and the region’s economic strength. We will therefore continue to stimulate entrepreneurs to make use of the innovation centres and field labs.” Pieter has a message for all entrepreneurs: “I want to challenge you to find an innovation centre and get started. If you do not know where to go, call us and we will be happy to point you in the right direction.”
If you would like to know more about field labs and open innovation centres, you can contact Kennispark Twente via email at email@example.com or by calling 053 483 6800.
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