At ICT 2018 in Vienna, the ESMERA workshop „EU Robotics Applications: From scattered to networked“ discussed advantages of being part of a EU Robotics network. Also, difficulties were considered and it was argued what an SME might need and lack most. How can European projects help develop SMEs and help SMEs develop robotics?
At first, SMEs often look for support and conncetions to research institutions. If they don´t know where to start or how to connect, Digital Innovation Hubs might be a valuable first strating point. Also, European projects themselves offer skills and competencies to help SMEs in specific challenges. By having quite a broad consortium, most European projects can offer expert support on different levels.
In the discussion about the basic requirements of an SME in its robotic development, it was aligned that you need to start with people. People demand skills and knowledge about how to write proposals, whom to contact, how to evaluate etc. Therefore, coaching and training them can be crucial. In European projects, participants can benefit from extensive and individual coaching opportunities provided by members of the consortium or by being connected to a competence center.
The process is complex and the demands are high. Mostly complex and specific topics need to be solved that have never been solved before. Therefore, the SMEs and their employees need to develop capabilities to meet the challenge. The demand for support, thus, is given not only in specific tasks and in the final evaluation process, but in the every-day business.
To act to these needs the ESMERA consortium discussed some helpful actions and solutions that might support SMEs in their path from developing a robotics products and bringing it from idea to market.
The contact to big companies was identified as crucial, demonstrating and testing the usability of the product and receiving real-life feedback from potential users. Also, involving the challenge givers or the competence centers and their experts in the prototyping process, might save time, foster fast and sensible decision making and avoids running into a wrong direction from the beginning. What an SME most probably demands in the first stage of having an idea and wanting to get it to the market, is being given a „chance“. They need to be heard, listened to and supported. And this is where European projects come in.