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Dutch-German Research Network Launched

ESB Business School provides test environment for digital twin technology

“Digital twins” make processes in companies more transparent, planning more effective and forecasting easier. Katrin Schütz, state secretary in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labour and Housing, and Martijn van Gruijthuijsen, Regional Minister for Economics, Education and Skills Development of the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, jointly pressed the “start” button for a Dutch-German research network which will focus on this technology, among other things. Networking two strong European regions is intended to promote the exchange and application of artificial intelligence (AI) among companies. Important locations for testing the digital solutions are the “field labs” at the ESB Business School at Reutlingen University and the Brainport Industry Campus Eindhoven.

The focus of the "Artificial Intelligence for Digital Twins" (AI4DT) initiative is the cross-border networking of companies and research institutions, the support of the economy in market development, and the transfer of knowledge into practical applications. The AI4DT network is made up of companies, experts and technology providers who regularly meet to share information and experiences. To this end, there is a permanent cooperative platform at for networking and virtual meetings.

At Werk150, the factory on the Reutlingen University campus, and at the Brainport Industry Campus Eindhoven, the “field labs” - test environments for intelligent industrial solutions - are being built for this purpose.  Demonstrators are set up here to show technology potential, and experts and companies meet here to work together.

Those responsible for the project expect the digital twin technology to be particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “Digital twins are the crucial technology of the future for unlocking the potential of digitization in the enterprise,” explains Peter van Harten, special representative of the Dutch Smart Industry program and one of the initiators of the first German-Dutch field lab. Professor Daniel Palm, who is responsible for the project on the Baden-Württemberg side, adds that “A digital twin represents the connection between the real and digital worlds. It is a digital image of real machines, products or systems such as factories or organizations with their properties, state and behaviour. A digital twin can be used to more quickly capture system states, predict future behaviour, and plan more efficiently. Especially in planning, machine learning and artificial intelligence play a big role in making the right decisions.”

The potential of this technology is enormous. However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular face considerable challenges in the design, application and use of digital twins and artificial intelligence.

The establishment of the joint Dutch-German field lab AI4DT is to be a first step towards meeting these challenges.

The establishment and operation of the AI4DT network is supported not only by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor and Housing and the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, but also by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, IPA, the Steinbeis Innovation Center, as well as regional networks such as the Dutch Smart Industries and the Industry 4.0 Alliance from Baden-Württemberg, and advisory bodies such as the Steinbeis Europa Zentrum.

“Combining two of Europe's most innovative regions allows us to join forces to better leverage the potential of digital twins and artificial intelligence. The networking of companies and innovation partners from Baden-Württemberg and Brabant opens up a wide range of opportunities for our economy,” explains Katrin Schütz of Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing. Martijn van Gruijthuijsen, Regional Minister for Economic Affairs, Education and Skills Development of the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant adds: "There are a large number of highly successful value-added partnerships between the two regions. The successful partnership in manufacturing equipment in the extreme ultraviolet range between ASML - the Dutch supplier of lithography systems, Trumpf and Zeiss is just the best known. Trumpf supplies the lasers, Zeiss the optics for ASML's EUV systems. We need more success stories like this - especially in the SME sector.”