The aim of the Smart SMEs project is to understand to what extent SMEs that produce, process and apply natural fibres use digitalization tools and approaches. The project will also evaluate obstacles that prevent SMEs from exploiting the full potential of digital solutions. An international consortium for the project has been formed, comprising BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH and partners from Italy, Lower Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland.
Every SME (small and medium-sized enterprise)routinelyuses email addresses, but digitalization now offers enterprises a whole raft of solutions to make life easier and business more profitable - from electronic document management systems, promoting goods and services on social media to eCommerce and Big Data. Digitalization measures are only successful when company managers want and support them. SMEs, however, tend to have small management teams that are overwhelmed by other tasks, leaving them little time to identify and use the potential offered by digitalization. Businesses in rural areas have the additional problem of often unreliable internet connections.
The Smart SMEs project will contribute to finding solutions to overcome existing barriers. The project will be specifically focusing on enterprises in biobased value chains that produce, process and apply natural fibre-based materials, both cultivated and recycled from biological waste. The project is therefore tackling the idea of sustainable transformation in the Alpine region through the bioeconomy concept. This will involve gathering existing digitalization knowledge fromresearch institutions, clusters, digital innovation hubs and other service providers, evaluating the digitalization level of SMEs, pinpointing issues that hamper the implementation of digitalization as well as demonstratingprecise measures (technical and non-technical) to overcome existing barriers.Pilot cases will be developed for application in specific biobased value chains.
BIOPRO’s task is to map the status quo of the digitalization “ecosystem” in participating regions (Baden-Württemberg, Italy, Lower Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland). BIOPRO willdevelop a methodology to analyze the needs of SMEs with a special focus on natural fibre-based value chains. It will also identify bottlenecks as well as key factors that would enable SMEs to exploit the digitalization potential. In addition to this, BIOPRO will host a Policy Action Forum to bring policy makers from different sectors (digitalization, rural development and bioeconomy) together to begin sharing experiences and to validate the roadmap.
Smart SMEs was launched at a kick-off meeting in Bern on 24 July 2019. The meeting took place at the Swiss Center for Mountain Regions (SAB), the lead project partner. The other partners are the Department for Economic Development, Research and Labour of the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy), Hub Innovazione Trentino - Fondazione (Italy), ecoplus, the Business Agency of Lower Austria, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Maribor (Slovenia), Poly4EmI - Anteja ECG (Slovenia), and BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH (Germany).
Funding of over 230,000 euros is being provided by the Alpine Region Preparatory Action Fund (ARPAF) IIand the project will run for 18 months until late January 2021. Along with AlpLinkBioEco and CirculAlps, this is the third Alpine project involving BIOPRO.