Europe has great potential from a robotics perspective, but wide scale adoption of robotic technology in several application domains is still very limited. To bridge the gap, increase connectivity and reduce fragmentation in the robotics value chain across Europe the European Commission has funded several innovation actions. Considering the Dutch landscape, all Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) networks in robotics are strongly represented in the Horizon 2020 projects DIH^2, RIMA, DIH-HERO, agROBOfood and Trinity.
Particularly, the goal of these DIH networks is to drive economic growth across the European Union by transforming the application domains in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) using robotic technology. These innovation networks also provide sustainable one stop shop approaches on a European level to tunnel the ideas, networking, brokerage, and standardisation but also facilitate the cross-border collaboration. The Innovation Actions’ coordinators are involved in connectivity to other initiatives to strengthen the European vision -which is the case of DIH-HERO- and the link to AI, data, and robotics via the EU public-private partnership Adra.
In this article we present five DIH networks in robotics and their connection with the Dutch innovation landscape.
DIH-HERO – Healthcare
The University of Twente, in the Netherlands is the coordinator of the DIH-HERO project (https://dih-hero.eu), specifically the Robotics and Mechatronics group in cooperation with the Digital Society Institute (DSI) and the technical medical (Techmed) centre. Healthcare technology is directly connected to human behaviour and relevance in order to naturally embed and deploy robotics with societal impact. It also has an entrepreneurial climate represented via novelty. The UT and the rest of Dutch partners have a unique and progressive integrated research, development and testing ecosystem and availability to experimental hybrid Operating Rooms (OR) and to living labs for robotic in healthcare with specific test and experience facilities.
In terms of universities the main players include Delft, Eindhoven, and Twente; and in terms of knowledge centers TNO and other network organisations. Via Holland Robotics universities join forces with major Dutch industrial parties. There is a strong collaboration with larger and regional clinical centres and hospitals where technology is embedded in a clinical setting. In the Netherlands we have a good start-up & support landscape with representatives (e.g., TechLeap), financial instruments (e.g., NWO take off) and local Knowledge Transfer Offices (KTOs) & incubators (e.g., NovelT, YesDelft). During COVID-19 pandemic, successful DIH-HERO FSTP calls were processed in collaboration with pan-European partners to support healthcare professionals in the fight against COVID-19.
Caption: Techmed innovation hub services. Photo credits: DIH-HERO consortium
DIH^2 – Agile production in factories
DIH^2 (http://www.dih-squared.eu) achieves the goals at European level using two major blocks: the DIH^2 Network and the B2B platform RAMP (Robotics and Automation Marketplace). This platform gives manufacturing companies access to the tools and services they need for deploying an agile manufacturing strategy. Furthermore, it is a place where system integrators and technology providers can reach out to customers.
In the Netherlands, DIH^2 network is represented by RoboHouse. Within this Horizon 2020 project, they facilitated applications from more than 10 companies for the open calls on technology transfer experiments. DEMCON Industrial Systems and Doppler Technologies were the two companies selected for participation. DEMCON team successfully built the SmartMachine Base (SMB), a standardised modular automation solution. It was validated based on a use-case within Doppler production of customised audio headsets. DIH^2 continuously communicates with the local network of researchers from TU Delft, start-ups, and big companies.
AgROBOfood (https://agrobofood.eu) network is building a pan-European ecosystem of Digital Innovation Hubs and Competence Centres (CC) for the effective adoption of robotic technologies in the agri-food sector. Digital Innovation Hubs support companies in robotisation by connecting them with various stakeholders, aiming at making them more efficient and competitive
In the Netherlands, this DIH network is well represented by 5 partners that contribute to this Horizon 2020 project. Wageningen Research is coordinating the whole project and also responsible for the coordination of the North-West European network, being one of the seven regional clusters. High Tech NL, LetsGrow and TU Delft are involved as DIHs and CC, and SAIA robotics was involved as SME in the Initial Innovation experiments. The Dutch network of DIH and CC also has been expanded, and currently agROBOfood has 14 associated Dutch members, like Fedecom, FME, chamber of commerce, University of Twente, ZLO, OostNl and Greenport West Holland. The number of business member and request to become an associated member count up to 17, thus there is a very active Dutch community involved in the agROBOfood ecosystem. Many Dutch SMEs and start-ups applied to the 3 open calls. However, there was a strong international competition and only the company PATS -located in Delft- succeeded with their I-Catch Innovation Experiment (https://agrobofood.eu/oc1-experiments/i-catch/).
Caption: PATS drone monitoring a green house. Photo credits: PATS
RIMA – Maintenance and Inspection
The involvement of Dutch consortium partners is also crucial for the success of RIMA (https://rimanetwork.eu) DIH network, for its impact and for the involvement of the ecosystem with key actors, asset owners and operators in the petrochemical industry. There are also several technology and service providers with a broad expertise in robotics for inspection and maintenance (I&M) of infrastructures in different sectors. The three Dutch institutions involved in RIMA are the University of Twente, TNO and SPRINT.
The University of Twente and TNO form a DIH in robotics and are heavily involved in the mentoring of the SMEs selected in the open calls on technical aspects, as well as on business development and ecosystem development. The association SPRINT robotics is key in the sustainability of the DIH network beyond the term of the EU-funded project. SPRINT supports the community tool that represents the essence of the network. Experimentations supported by RIMA are still on-going and SMEs from the Netherlands are actively participating to innovate in robotic applications for the I&M sector with good perspectives on the socio-economic impact in Europe.
Trinity – Agile manufacturing
Trinity DIH network (https://trinityrobotics.eu/) is the only one from the five Innovation actions that do not have a Dutch partner in their project consortium. However, three companies from the Netherlands have been funded through the project open calls, these are TiaT Europe, Team Industrial Services Netherlands and MX3D.
Do you want to join the individual networks? Please visit the webpage of the network suitable for your specific robotic solution.
Authors: Françoise Siepel (University of Twente, DIH-HERO), Kees Lokhorst (Wageningen University, AgRObofood) and Denis Zatyagov (TU Delft,DIH^2)
Header photo: FSTP funded project by DIH-HERO, company BEC GmbH. Photo Credits: DIH-HERO consortium