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Issue: 02/2019

This is how AI gets into companies

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on everyone’s lips. However, their potential is not yet fully exploited in industry. AI is considered a key technology for remaining competitive in the future. Small and medium-sized companies in particular lack entry points into technology, professional competence and suitable business models. There are also concerns about data sovereignty and confidentiality. At the beginning of 2019, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology launched the innovation competition “ArtificialIntelligence as a Driver for Economically Relevant Ecosystems” to fuel innovation in the field of AI. The L3S and the Institute of Manufacturing Engineering and Machine Tools (IFW) of Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) have successfully participated in the project with a consortium of science and industry. The contribution IIP-Ecosphere: Next Level Ecosphere for Intelligent Industrial Production was selected as one of the most promising concepts in the competition for implementation. The nineteen consortium partners will jointly develop an ecosystem for intelligent production. In addition to LUH as consortium leader, the universities of Hildesheim, Nuremberg and Koblenz are involved, as well as well-known manufacturing companies such as VolkswagenSiemens and Sennheiser, machine manufacturers such as DMG Mori, AI providers such as Salt and Pepper, Bitmotec and RapidMiner, and multipliers such as Deutsche Messe. A further 57 partners are associated.

The vision of IIP-Ecosphere: an innovative leap in the field of self-optimization of production. The establishment of an ecosystem that brings together research, suppliers, users, service providers and multipliers in the field of intelligent production should remove existing obstacles and enable companies to successfully apply and further develop AI methods. The goal: higher productivity, flexibility, robustness and efficiency – and thus maintaining the competitiveness of German industry.

IIP-Ecosphere aims to facilitate and accelerate the entry into effective AI solutions, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). At the same time, the effort and risk involved in implementation should be reduced – among other things, through the development towards AI standard components. As examples, four demonstrators will implement innovative AI solutions in productive environments. Additional demonstrators defined in the course of the project offer further companies opportunities to participate. The demonstrators should not only show resilient procedures for implementation for other companies, but also the economic potential of the solutions used.

What is IIP-Ecosphere supposed to bring to companies in concrete terms? Producing companies for whom the added value of AI is still unclear will be given access to a catalogue of AI solutions, best practices and exemplary solutions for intelligent production as well as to innovative research results, independent of manufacturers. IIP-Ecosphere offers machine and plant manufacturers new solutions for data exchange to improve their product by means of fed-back data and to develop innovative services. A particularly low-threshold offer is the experimental field: Smaller companies can conduct their own experiments with data and AI technologies there.

IIP-Ecosphere lives from cooperation and dialogue. The exchange of knowledge, requirements, barriers, experiences and best practices is a key success criterion for the functioning of the ecosystem. Stakeholders therefore have the opportunity to participate in IIP-Ecosphere – for example in working groups on topics such as interfaces, platforms or business models. At the regional level, innovation support actors on the topic of “AI for intelligent production” will network to form Regional Innovation Hubs (RIH) in order to promote technology transfer, innovation and business start-ups through joint activities. The first RIH are being set up in the Hanover region and in Nuremberg with a large number of partners.

The fast and consistent implementation of IIP-Ecosphere not only provides the opportunity to implement innovative AI solutions in production more quickly, but also to create internationally binding standards. This strengthens the position of German companies as service providers, machine or system suppliers. In addition, local companies are the first to benefit from productivity gains through the use of AI.

In January 2020, the partners will start implementation. The result should be a living and growing ecosystem of intelligent production that offers lasting added value to those involved and is supported and shaped by an active community.

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Portrait Claudia Niederée
Dr. Claudia Niederée

Claudia Niederée heads the IIP-Ecosphere project. She is research group leader and managing director of L3S.