AS-FABRIK is now standing on its own feet, one year after the UIA funding ended. What is the legacy of the project, which lessons were learnt, what can other cities and regions learn from the project? These are the key topics of this final journal of the project.
The UIA-funded AS-FABRIK project was set up from the strong awareness that the local and regional economy is affected by significant changes due to digitalisation. It is evident that the pervasive influence of digital technologies and servitization requires a strategic re-orientation of manufacturing firms, urging them to invest in new skills and competences within their own company; The rapid pace of change in so called technologies 4.0 and related application fields may leave obsolete the present-day skills of professionals and jobs. At the same time, it opens new avenues for connections between manufacturing firms on the one hand, and companies that offer knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) on the other. The latter include IT and software firms, consultancies, marketing firms, but also financial service providers. Their knowledge and expertise can be very valuable for manufacturing. Also, new market niches open up for start-up companies that develop digital technologies and solutions.
In the last few years, the project has initialised a lasting infrastructure to promote the digitalisation and modernisation of the regional manufacturing industry and advanced services. The landmark AS-FABRIK building will remain relevant as hub for industry 4.0 education and as meeting point/network venue for industry, services, education and startups, where members of the industry 4.0 and advances services community will find a homebase and a joint R&D hub. The leadership team of AS-FABRIK -now in the hands of Mondragon- has made progress in various respects; It elaborated a membership model, detailing various types of membership of AS-FABRIK (for large players and smaller ones), including conditions under which members can use the facilities.
Key lessons learned during the UIA project:
- To boost industry 4.0, it makes sense to connect complementary regional actors that otherwise might not find each other.
- Innovative & interactive workshop templates help to facilitate the matching process between industrial firms and service providers.
- New forms of digital / industry 4.0 education are needed (also in the foirm of life-long learning) to make the regional industry ready for the digital age.
- Startup boosting is not only (and not even mainly) about young people starting business from scratch: it also includes the development of ventures from within existing companies.
- Startups have a much better change when they are linked to the wider industry 4.0 ecosystem.
- Digital hubs succeed when the organisation of the integrated activities is in the hands of a strong main (lead) partner that has a network and a reputation among businesses. In Bilbao, Mondragon University played this role; but other cities will have to find their own anchor organisation.
Partnership/membership models are needed to engage a wider stakeholder community and provide access to start-up boosting, partnership brokering.