Europe needs to accelerate the digital transformation of its industry to remain competitive. While digitalisation presents all industries with immense opportunities with regards innovation, growth, and prosperity, at the same time it poses multiple challenges. Identifying processes worth digitising, enabling data acquisition, performing analyses, and deriving measures requires time, resources and expertise that is oftentimes not available within the companies and limit the embracement of the digital transformation. That is especially true for the European food industry, as it is mainly composed of SMEs with scarce investment capacities and the particularities of each subsector limit the adoption of broader solutions – e.g. processing lettuce poses different challenges and features different equipment than canning tomatoes or filling
To drive the digitalisation of the European food industry, the cross-KIC project “end-to-end digitalised production testbeds”, led by EIT Manufacturing and together with EIT Food and EIT Digital will financially support the development and implementation of digitalisation testbeds that address the industry’s most pressing production challenges. In this context, a testbed is an instalment of components (process machines, logistics equipment, databases, sensors, etc.) that depicts (a segment of) a real-life production line. Within the testbed, the effectiveness/efficiency of the depicted manufacturing processes shall be improved by applying digitalisation solutions, like Artificial Intelligence technologies, virtual and/or augmented reality functionality, blockchain integration, 5G connectivity, integration of additive manufacturing processes, etc.
The implementation of these digitalised production testbeds will contribute to maintain Europe’s leading position on the food industry.
Testbeds provide a real-life like environment and therefore reduce abstractness by enriching exchange between digitalisation experts, producers of goods, equipment suppliers, and other parties. Problems and therefore solutions become more tangible since they can be experienced first-hand in a controlled setting, that enables reliable recreation of scenarios and situations. Starting from this exchange, testbeds represent a “playground” for the development of innovative solutions on a smaller scale without affecting real-life production.
This leads to decreased development cost and allows for testing and maturing, before implementing the solutions and possibly disrupting the actual production processes. Testbeds represent an ideal environment for learning, and knowledge exchange.
The minimum number of partners per consortium is three. It is recommended for each consortium to feature partners from all KICs involved in the cross-KIC activity (EIT Manufacturing, Food, and Digital), since this will have a positive influence on the proposal assessment. Given that this call for proposals is an open call, companies/organisations external to the KICs’ existing network of partners and members can join consortia upon invitation by a KIC partner/member that’s part of this consortium. The KICs will review the invitation and decide if the organisation is approved.
In this cross-KIC project, EIT Manufacturing, EIT Food, and EIT Digital plan to provide up to 2.63 EUR (including co-funding according to KICs rules) to fund the implementation of end-to-end digitalised production testbeds for the food sector and enable 3 to 5 selected consortia to realise their proposed testbed at various locations in Europe. The funding period runs throughout the year 2021.