RIS I40 H: How can SMEs & Start-Ups Advance in the Digital Transformation?

The digitalization of production and management processes can significantly help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in coping with crisis periods, as well as prepare them for post-crisis transitions. A consortium of institutions involved in the EIT Manufacturing “RIS Industry 4.0 Hubs” project has led an initiative in the form of specialized digitalization seminars and targeted grant support for European SMEs, to support them in digitizing their manufacturing and supply chains. The LINPRA association participated in the project in Lithuania with the aim to help the development of local ecosystems. In six countries, more than a hundred companies took part in individualized seminars and 14 companies received direct support and consultations.

Within the EIT Manufacturing “RIS Industry 4.0 Hubs” (RIS I40H) project, LINPRA together with six more European partners implemented the so-called Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) to boost innovation capacity and transfer of good practices in European countries that are considered “modest and moderate” innovators. SMEs are encouraged to take advantage of digitalised technologies and improve their digital skills and competencies. For this purpose, the project team organised series of digitalization seminars namely in Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, and Greece. The project also provided support to the industrial beneficiaries via an open call, in which companies could apply for mini-grants and get either digital consultations or digitalization plans.

“Within the 12-month RIS I40H project, coordinated by BIBA at Bremen University in Germany, our team conducted a 3-step methodology that helps SMEs on their way to implementing Industry 4.0 solutions based on digital technologies,” said Aurelija Raščiuvienė, Project manager, LINPRA. In the first step, interactive seminars were organised with a proven structure and content that provided introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies to SMEs and served for scanning digital competences of SMEs. Seven seminars in six countries were held and attended by more than 100 participants. In the second step, individual consultations and in-depth evaluations of the digital maturity of companies’ operations were provided to navigate enterprises in priority areas for digitalization. The third step consisted of the creation of a concrete roadmap for individual companies, to guide the implementation of particular digitalization plan.

“In challenging times like nowadays, industrial companies tend to postpone the above-mentioned activities although they feel these are essential to digitalize their operations,” added Aurelija Raščiuvienė. “Therefore, as a result of an open call financed by the EIT Manufacturing, we supported 14 SMEs with mini-grants,” explained Raščiuvienė.

In Lithuania, five companies received digitalization plan servicesFor example, Altechna Coatings, a company based in Vilnius, one of the largest producers of optical coatings in Lithuania which cooperated with SMART manufacturing competence centre “Intechcentras” to conduct digitalization audit and prepare digitalization plan.  “We received positive feedback, as well as valuable criticisms and extensive counsel, on how to further automate and transform our operations management,” confirmed Vytenis Jočys, Quality and Process Engineer, Altechna Coatings. “We also learned more about whats, whys, and hows for potential improvements. All this has resulted in a clearer pathway and much-appreciated external impetus towards digital transformation of our company processes.”

EIT Manufacturing is Europe’s leading manufacturing community, one of the newest (established in 2019) of eight innovation communities belonging to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The communities are public-private partnerships, partly financed by the European Union and partly financed by their partners, who include some of Europe’s leading enterprises and research organisations.