June 19, 2024 3 minuten reading time

NXTGEN Smart Industry Event – North NL

On June 18, 2024, the Northern Smart Industry - Autonomous Factory project organized a major event to showcase the first project results after one year. The program, held at TNO Groningen in the "Plus Ultra Groningen" building of Kadans Science Partner, focused on the importance of developing autonomous production systems to maintain and expand productivity in the Netherlands and the northern region. The morning was dedicated to in-depth sessions with all consortium partners. About 100 guests from businesses, governments, knowledge institutions, and other organizations were invited for the afternoon program. They were briefed on the challenges that the Netherlands faces in remaining competitive.

Steps toward autonomous, scalable, and flexible production

To achieve this, it is essential to take steps toward more autonomous, scalable, and flexible production. This is precisely what the NXTGEN - Smart Industry project focuses on. Thanks to financial support from the national growth fund, 24 partners in Northern Netherlands are joining forces over a 7-year period to work together on autonomous solutions for the future. And after that? Continued efforts will be necessary to advance innovations in this area and ensure continuity. The competition is not standing still, so plans are already underway to establish a Center for Autonomous Systems in Northern Netherlands: INFINITECH. INFINITECH aims to become an entity known across Europe for its knowledge and expertise in autonomous systems. This will attract new talent, and the knowledge and business activity that results from this will open doors to private and public financing. A physical location where companies collaborate long-term on autonomous production systems, with development direction and needs primarily driven by the companies themselves, is also part of the plan.

During the event, the aforementioned plans were explained and the importance of collaboration in the NXTGEN project was emphasized during a panel discussion. Following this, there was an interesting keynote on cybersecurity in the IT and OT domains. Peter Zinn engaged the audience with vivid examples, taking them into the world of hackers. Who are these people? How do they operate? How can we protect ourselves against them? With striking and sometimes humorous examples, it became clear that cybercrime is on the verge of surpassing traditional crime. This poses a significant risk to industry and society and conflicts with the desire to connect our OT factory networks to the outside world, enabling things like digital product passports, connected supplier networks, or remote service.

The final part of the program took place at the NXTGEN demonstrators. Here, the first outlines of the future autonomous factory became visible. The partners enthusiastically showcased the initial results of their efforts. Topics that are often difficult to explain, increasingly occurring in the IT and OT fields, were made tangible and explainable through "small" versions of the real demonstrators on site. This highlights the strength of collaboration: having a location where you can physically work together on real solutions. Not just a paper study, but the real deal!