AFIL, Lombardy Intelligent Factory Association

Photo Credits: AFIL

Digital Innovation Hubs are booming at European level, and at DIHNET.EU we want to increase their visibility. Thus, we have decided to launch the “Digital Innovation Hub of the month”, featured in April 2019 by AFIL, the Lombardy cluster focused on Advanced Manufacturing.

Do you want to know more about them? Read the following interview.

What is AFIL? What are you working on at the moment?

AFIL is the Lombardy cluster focused on Advanced Manufacturing. The organization aims at fostering connections between all key relevant stakeholders able to boost Industry 4.0 revolution and facilitating Lombardy SMEs access to new innovative European value chains.

Can you provide some figures on number of SMEs/companies helped?

AFIL deeply rely on his members, which are now more than 145 including companies, research organizations and industrial associations. SMEs are the core focus of the activities of the cluster, that has already supported more than 50 organizations in creating project partnerships and accessing regional and European funding, as well as in facilitating the matching in order to find the right technological partner.

Photo Credits: AFIL

What specific services do you offer?

AFIL, willing to be a one-stop-shop to the latest digital technologies accessible for any business across Europe which consider the specific regional specializations and peculiarities, translate its value proposition into a comprehensive service offer that addresses the specific needs of the companies involved in the hub. In particular, the cluster service portfolio includes:

  • Awareness creation activities: workshops and events focused on specific themes in order to raise awareness on Industry4.0 technologies and related advantages.
  •  Matchmaking/Ecosystem building: contact activities and physical events to facilitate stakeholder’s matchmaking (e.g. digital IT SMEs, user SMEs, supply chains, investors, other regions).
  • Project ideas support generation: stimulation of the creation of new innovative networks through which members can develop project ideas.
  • Accessing/overview on private and public funding: Monitoring of the available opportunities at a regional, national and/or European to help SMEs and start-ups to access funding to implement digital technologies.
  • Feasibility studies/best practices: Success stories of companies having successfully implemented digital technologies to show SMEs and start-ups how they can digitalize their processes, products or business models. According to this, AFIL initiated an Initiative “Cento4.0: the Excellence of Lombardy Intelligent Factory”, to collect innovative industry 4.0 solutions developed or adopted by companies (www.cento4punto0.it).

In addition, leveraging on the extended network of competence centers and thanks to the fruitful collaboration with the Lombardy DIH, AFIL is able to direct companies asking for training, mentoring, digital readiness assessments and consultancies on technology implementation.

Photo Credits: AFIL

What EU funds did your DIH receive (including H2020, ERDF, loan from the EIB, etc.) and how did you employ them? How important were the funds for setting-up/improving your DIH?

AFIL, since 2015 thanks to the participation to the EU H2020 BEinCPPS Project – Business Experiments in Cyber Physical Production Systems, launched its activities as a regional manufacturing DIH. The cluster has been accessing European funds such as H2020, ERDF and EASME, that supported AFIL in extending its prestigious network, strengthening relationships with other clusters and DIH all over Europe, as well as in increasing its service portfolio. The cluster is particularly committed in transferring EU project activities to its members, trying to increase regional SMEs involvement in the European network.

Can you explain us a practical example of an EU-funded experiment (if you participated in any from I4MS, SAE…) or of a case where you helped a company to develop a particular digital innovation/solution?

Within the work done in the H2020 BEinCPPS Project, AFIL was able to facilitate the constitution of a regional partnership composed of companies and research organizations willing to develop Cyber-Physical Production Systems. In particular, the project focuses on the development of 6 Pilots willing to integrate ICT Technology in their processes, at a component-machinery-factory level. The 6 Pilots are briefly reported as follows:

  • “ANALYTICS FOR SMART COMPONENTS”: companies from the automation sector;
  • “NEW CPS ARCHITECTURE FOR SMART MACHINE”: companies from the machinery sector;
  • “INCREASE SMART MACHINE PERFORMANCE FROM BIG DATA ANALYSIS”: companies from the machinery and equipment and component sectors;
  • “BATCH ONE, DEFECT ZERO” companies from the machinery, robotics and energy sector;
  • “HUMAN-ROBOT COLLABORATION” companies from handling sector;
  • “DIGITAL AND SUSTAINABLE FASHION” companies from the textile sector.

All the involved companies, mainly SMEs, are from Lombardy Region and are members of AFIL cluster.

It is expected that the companies involved in the 6 Pilots will increase their business.

AFIL played a key role not only in the partnership constitution and in the access to the funding (constantly monitoring available opportunities), but also providing the CPS architecture to the consortium, that was developed within the BEinCPPS project.

 

Interview by Laura Argiles, DIHNET