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Interview with Dr. Dominic Gorecky, Head of Swiss Smart Factory

Since 2017, the Swiss Smart Factory at the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne has been developing and working on areas of research and innovation relevant to Industry 4.0. To this end, it offers its infrastructure for hire and, in conjunction with its partners, has already brought ten innovation projects to fruition. Dr. Dominic Gorecky outlines the benefits the Swiss Smart Factory brings for companies and the Canton of Bern as a business location.

Interview with Dr.-Ing. Dominic Gorecky, Head of Swiss Smart Factory

The Swiss Smart Factory is a network and a demonstration platform as well as a center for research and expertise. What exactly does that mean?

Digitalization is an all-embracing phenomenon – and one that is not restricted to individual companies but has an overarching impact across different sectors and value chains. This calls for the integration of a wide variety of approaches and technologies: auto-ID processes, cloud connectivity, machine learning and advanced visualization approaches, to name but a few. SMEs in particular are scarcely in a position to tackle this issue on their own. We and our network ­– which includes universities, SMEs, and major technology companies such as SAP, Festo, Fanuc and Siemens working actively on the various digitalization projects – are able to help by offering complementary expertise.

Can you explain what goes on in the 1000 m2 of infrastructure you offer?

To facilitate long-term research into digitalization and Industry 4.0, Switzerland needs a demonstration, test and research infrastructure that can stand comparison with similar centers abroad. To this end, we will shortly begin setting up a highly flexible, integrated Industry 4.0 demonstration factory combining state-of-the-art automation and human-machine systems, which we hope will become a role model for Switzerland as an industrial center.

How does your collaboration with a company come about?

Companies approach us with what are often very specific questions. First of all we listen and try to understand what the company is aiming to achieve. The next step is to see what the Swiss Smart Factory and its network can offer to achieve the goal. That may involve in-house developments, but also a combination of existing technologies and new solutions. We focus on practical, end-to-end solutions.

The Swiss Smart Factory has been up and running since May 2017. What response have you had from industry and research to date?

The Swiss Smart Factory has attracted enormous interest from industry and political bodies both in Switzerland and abroad. We are particularly pleased with the large numbers of project and membership enquiries from Swiss SMEs. Our network is growing fast and is very diverse. The presence of SMEs demonstrates that digitalization offers opportunities for every company, irrespective of size and sector. I would even go so far as to say that some of our partner companies are virtually reinventing themselves digitally.

The SSF has already brought more than 10 innovation projects to a successful conclusion. Have they already yielded any concrete products or prototypes?

In the innovation projects, we develop new products and services in conjunction with the companies concerned. One particularly impressive example was the project we carried out with Hauert HBG Dünger AG, which entailed developing a new, automated process for fertilizing plants in pots. The starting point was an existing robot from the US, for which we developed a complementary robot. The two robots communicate and work with one another: one transports the plants, the other supplies them with fertilizer. This led to Hauert winning the Technical Innovations award for exhibitors at the ÖGA trade fair for the plant-growing sector.

What stimuli will the Swiss Smart Factory bring to the Canton of Bern as a business location?

The Canton of Bern is one of the major industrial cantons, making it predestined for digitalization. Our vision and mission is to become No. 1 in Switzerland for digitalization and Industry 4.0 with our network. We want the Swiss Smart Factory to become an integral part of the Bernese and Swiss innovation ecosystem, with a reputation extending beyond our borders.

Testing and demonstration facility specializing in digitalization

The Swiss Smart Factory SSF is the first testing and demonstration facility specializing in digitalization in Switzerland. The SSF operates a membership system and maintains an active, broad-based network with industry, universities and research institutes. The range of topics it covers encompasses areas such as connectivity in the Internet of Things, sensor technology, data analysis, artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-technology interaction, as well as new digital business models. 

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