Smart Industry joins forces (even more)

Soon the manufacturing industry will be enriched by the Smart Industry Hub North Netherlands. Such a hub should allow companies to benefit even more from digital opportunities. 'We want to make Smart Industry more visible and accessible to industrial SMEs in particular,' says process coordinator Marloes Telgenhof.

The manufacturing industry is important to the Northern Netherlands economy - because it provides many high-quality jobs. But also because it is an important supplier to sectors in which the region is so strong, such as agrifood, energy and water. So we have to cherish the manufacturing industry. And that is exactly what is happening. There is no shortage of dynamism. For example, digitalization is having a huge impact on the sector.

After all, digital technologies enable new products to be developed, manufactured and distributed quickly, flexibly, error-free and efficiently. Anyone who wants to keep up must catch on and seize digital opportunities. That is why the North has for years been investing heavily in the development of Smart Industry, as the far-reaching digitization of equipment, means of production and organizations is called. Smart products in smart factories. That is at its core what it is about.

Wider and faster

In the Netherlands, all regions are active with Smart Industry. In order to strengthen cooperation within the regions, fieldlabs have been set up in recent years. Practical environments in which companies and educational and research institutions can experiment with new technologies. Currently, our country has 32 Smart Industry Fieldlabs. In the Northern Netherlands we have three: The Region of Smart Factories (ROSF), 5G Groningen and Technologies Added. By now they have more than proven their worth. Yet, as elsewhere in the country, it can be done even wider and faster. In particular, the connection between the various field labs could be improved.

The national government has therefore chosen to establish a so-called Smart Industry Hub in five regions, including the Northern Netherlands. The main purpose of such a regional hub is to join forces and create a single point of contact for entrepreneurs. In addition to improved regional cooperation, it should also ensure a stronger connection with the other regions and the national Smart Industry program office.


'We want to make Smart Industry more visible and accessible to industrial SMEs in particular,' says Marloes Telgenhof, process coordinator of the Smart Industry Hub North Netherlands.'' The challenge lies mainly in involving medium and small industry, or SME for short, more in the fieldlabs. Many companies still find it difficult to find their way in digital technologies.

Smart Industry joins forces (even more)

Having one central point of contact can be an incentive for them to work more or more specifically with digitization. It is a kind of one-stop-shop where they can access, for example, technology tests, market information, funding advice and networking opportunities.' Another advantage is that the accumulated knowledge and experience are brought together at a central level. That provides insight and overview. What solutions are available? How and where can we help each other? Where in the region are there still gaps? With the arrival of a Smart Industry Hub, all that knowledge from the field labs can be more actively unlocked.


Landing spots

In addition to the field labs, which form the basis of the hub, industry around Drachten, Emmen and at the Zernike Campus in Groningen also play a prominent role in the digitization of the regional manufacturing industry. As such, they are ideal landing spots for the Smart Industry Hub Noord-Nederland. 'After all, they are places where people come for internships and where their own staff must be trained to work with new technologies,' Marloes clarifies. 'The Smart Industry Hub Noord-Nederland wants to encourage the three landing spots to collaborate more specifically with each other and with educational institutions. Or more concretely, they should develop into Demonstration & Skills Labs. In this way, companies can indicate even more clearly what skills future employees need. At the same time, education can tailor their programs accordingly.'


Another objective: strengthening the already (further) digitized industry in national, interregional and European innovation programs, including in the new EU research program Horizon Europe. Not unimportant, because it allows Northern Netherlands companies to connect to it more easily. After all, many projects and programs are only open to Digital Innovation Hubs, a qualification a hub must have in order to present itself at the European level.

The Smart Industry Hub North Netherlands is therefore committed to acquiring that label, and the first activities of the Smart Industry Hub North Netherlands are expected to start mid-year. And the role of NOM? 'NOM is one of the chain partners that immediately recognized the importance of the initiative,' says Marloes, 'partly prompted by the success of ROSF, of which NOM is the lead agency. That's great, because they have both the constituency and the overview in the region to help get it off the ground. And that is what NOM is also going to do. Together with, among others, FME, Philips Drachten, Koninklijke Metaal Unie and the three northern provinces.'

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