The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economy is providing subsidies to help set up 15 so-called Learning Factory 4.0 programs at vocational colleges. One of the 15 Learning Factories is planned at vocational colleges in Crailsheim and Schwäbisch Hall. The district of Schwäbisch Hall will receive a state subsidy worth 500,000 Euro. Further funding will come from the district itself and companies participating in the project. To help with funding applications, the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Regional Development and Economic Development joined forces with the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute at the Steinbeis Foundation to provide the district authority with advice and help in coordinating the project group alongside other participants from the vocational colleges, the rest of the district and business partners.
The aim of the Learning Factory is to demonstrate to students at the colleges, as well as the companies and their employees, that there are a number of ways to network production and allow them to experiment with innovative and intelligent production systems. Sharing and practicing the methods of the all-embracing Industry 4.0 philosophy is about getting technology, IT, and business people to work at an interdisciplinary level not just at different companies but also in different locations. This is simulated through the different locations of the colleges and each of the specialist departments.
To implement the project together, the Schwäbisch Hall Learning Factory 4.0 is working with vocational and commercial schools, the Cisco Networking Academy, and a number of external institutions such as Packaging Valley (which has a virtual reality center), Elabo-Lab and Trumpf Cloud Services. Together, they are forming a virtual value creation network to reflect the real situation encountered in the networked economy.
The network is also open to other partners and sponsors. The plan is for the Learning Factory 4.0 in Schwäbisch Hall to open its doors in the fall of 2016. By the end of the year, companies interested in the project will be able to book training courses or use the Learning Factory as a kind of vision and testing center, for example to try out new business processes.
After detailed preparation and a number of rounds of joint planning, on November 27, 2015 it was finally time for project partners to press the start button as the first non-profit limited liability company (gGmbH) was founded under the name Innovations- und Technologietransferzentrum Heidenheim (ITZ). The aim of the collaborative innovation and technology transfer center is to bolster innovation in the region by helping universities and businesses to forge networks and work together on development projects.
The majority shareholder of ITZ is Forschungs- und Innovationszentren gGmbH – a research and innovation enterprise that is a subsidiary of Transfer GmbH, which itself was founded jointly by Steinbeis and the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in 2013. Other partners with equal shares in the business are the Friends and Supporters of DHBW Heidenheim, the City of Heidenheim (represented by Heidenheim Technology Center), and the District of Heidenheim.
The idea of setting up ITZ was first thought of in 2010 when a group of lecturers at DHBW Heidenheim were looking for a platform for students to move forward with innovative developments. Steinbeis came on board in spring of 2015 and the initiative was given a statutory framework. The aim is for ITZ to make a significant difference in allowing graduates at the DHBW Heidenheim to move forward with their innovative ideas, partly by becoming involved in startups with the support of partnering companies of the DHBW, or with professors. This should ensure that innovative individuals in the region stay in the area and that companies draw benefit from the university in the region.
Companies based in the region, primarily small and medium-sized enterprises, will be able to attend scientific events and access publications, making it easier for them to tap into emerging economic, social, and technology developments and trends. To this end, there will be more courses in the future offering plenty of variety.