Interview to Automotive Industry Cluster of Catalonia

Submitted by Borja Dapena G… on 26 October 2020

1.   What is your role in the EACN project?

The Cluster of the Automotive Industry of Catalonia (CIAC) is leading the fifth work package of the EACN project, which consists in managing the expert applications that will be giving support to the joint projects that emerge from the EACN initiative. CIAC is also in charge of coordinating the projects related to artificial intelligence and robotics.

Furthermore, our participation in the project is based on giving support to all of the work packages with knowledge, expertise and best practices.

2.   What are, in your opinion, the main advantages of participating in the EACN initiative?

The EACN initiative is a great opportunity for companies, especially SMEs, to go international and to learn about the advantages that the 4.0 Industry has to offer. Thanks to the resources that the EACN partnership shares with the companies, they have direct access to the knowledge that will facilitate the implementation of new technologies that are beneficial for the automotive sector in terms of efficiency, quality of the product and process, etcetera.

On the other hand, CIAC finds that participating in this consortium is a great advantage to get to know how other clusters around Europe work. Also, the constant sharing of best practices is extremely beneficial for all actors involved, since it goes with the nature of clusters to work around a collaborative environment.

We believe that initiatives such as this are crucial to further enhance the development and implementation of the latest technologies in the automotive sector, and the international cooperation in the projects is the highlight in what makes them more valuable.

3.   How has the global health crisis of Covid-19 affected the project objectives? How does the initiative help SMEs in this new context?

The pandemic has had an unexpected impact in the automotive sector, and what we believe has been more challenging was the urgent need of industries to adapt to the new scenario. The crisis has raised new needs to companies, and they have had to be flexible in order to adapt to the uncertain future.

Nevertheless, the initiative has helped SMEs through the organization of a series of working groups under the EACN partnership that tackled three different aspects of the pandemic that needed analysis and its proper extrapolation of conclusions that would turn into solutions for the sector. Those working groups, directed by Thomas Röhr (PVF), aimed at transforming the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity for the European Automotive Industry.

4.   Some months ago, the initiative launched a call for experts through the EACN website. What is the role of these experts?

The main goal of the call for experts was to attract as many experts as possible to the EACN initiative so that they could successfully give support to the companies whose objective is to develop a joint project. The EACN partners made available the call among clusters’ associates, and those who have experience in European calls preparation and submission were those who signed up as candidates.

These experts will be chosen by the companies that are participating in a joint project proposal, up to one expert per each project, and their main role will be granting assistance and directing the design and writing of the project proposal that will be submitted for open European calls. In previous work packages, the information about available calls all over Europe ­–both at regional and international levels– was collected and projects were initially allocated according to their characteristics.

5.   Apart from the matchmaking event on robotics you organized in October last year, it is also planned a Demo lab. What is the objective of these kind of events and why is so important for companies to get involved in them?

According to our role as coordinators of the robotics and artificial intelligence theme, last October we organized the first matchmaking event where around thirty companies gathered in Barcelona to discuss about the latest advances in the field, as well as to find common answers to the latent challenges that the sector is facing nowadays.

The concept of the Demo-Lab days was first thought as a further opportunity for SMEs to visit similar companies around Europe, and as a good way of putting together the best practices that companies have regarding the topics under the EACN initiative. Now we have adapted the format to the current situation and the Demo-Labs are hold online.

6.   Finally, what are the next steps in the EACN initiative?

The next steps with the EACN partnership are to successfully develop the joint projects and to further incentivize SMEs within our clusters to engage in the initiative: participating in workshops, Demo-Labs, networking events, etc. What will be valuable once the project has finished is the maintenance of the relationship with our fellow partners in the project, since international cooperation will be key in the days to come.

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