Welcome to our interview series with the partners running Better Factory. Today we are lucky to be joined by two of our all-star team, Magnus Simons, to learn more about VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and their role in the project!

Magnus Simons is Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finalnd. His expertise is in business development, commercialization of new technologies, strategic planning, and business re-engineering in companies and business networks.

Thank you for joining us today! Please could you give us a short introduction to VTT Research, and your role there, in your own words?

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is a state-owned company. With over 80 years of experience in ground breaking research and science-based results, VTT goes beyond the obvious to help society and companies grow through technological innovation.

As Principle Scientist in the Agile intelligent production systems group at VTT, I am interested in finding new solutions for improving performance of production systems and enhancing business activities in industry.

To someone reading this who has never heard of Better Factory before, how would you describe it in simple terms, and why do you feel it is significant?

The Better Factory project aims to develop digital solutions and artistic product designs for small and medium-sized companies. The challenges these companies meet are different from those of “big business”. They typically need more agile and more flexible solutions than large companies, and these solutions need to be easily implemented in small or medium-sized organisations.

The Better Factory project develops and tests a range of new solutions together with industrial companies, and through the Ramp platform these solutions are made available to European industry. The project involves a network of artists, technology providers and system integrators to support small and medium-sized companies in finding solutions and artistic designs suitable for their specific needs.

The cascaded funding enables Better Factory to make more industrial tests. This is key for gaining relevant experience of the needs and the possible solutions for concrete industrial challenges.

The Better Factory project also builds upon the experience and solutions of a range of projects and cooperation between research community, artists and companies. The results of the project are concrete solutions tested in industrial settings aiming at solving real challenges of the companies involved .

The Better Factory project develops and tests a range of new solutions together with industrial companies, and through the Ramp platform these solutions are made available to European industry.

As Coordinator, could you tell us what your role involves in Better Factory, and what you foresee as the main challenges for the remainder of the project?

As Project Coordinator, the role is to make sure that the project achieves its objectives and that the partners learn and get useful experiences from their involvement in the project. I want to support open communication between participants and make sure that the project is progressing according to joint objectives and schedule. The project should also be a joint learning experience for all and, thus, we need to be able to exchange experiences and possibly adjust to what we learn. A central role of the Project Coordinator is also to make sure that the EC and the Project Officer are up to date with the progress of the project and that the project meets the objectives set for the project by the European Commission.

What are you personally most excited about achieving with Better Factory?

I am looking forward to the project achieving successful use cases of agile and flexible digital solutions for small and medium sized companies.

VTT Research is also leading the completion of the PEDRs (Plan for Exploitation and Dissemination of the Results) for the project. As the first report has been delivered already, and the next will be in a few months, could give us a brief overview of how you sense this is developing?

The project consortium and the KTEs are well-structured to make use of concrete new solutions. For the partners to be able to commercialize the results of the project, we need to make sure that the results are tested and evaluated at a high TRL level in order to give the commercializing party as good a reference as possible. Testing one solution in one industrial environment is a start, but considering the heterogeneity of user markets, we probably need to do more.

Thinking now about the business development and sustainability of the project, one of the main aims in this sense is to provide a full set of ‘digital technologies for all manufacturing SMEs in every region of Europe’, which is quite a big objective. How do you see this coming to fruition in Better Factory, specifically thinking about the RAMP platform?

This is a very big objective and Better Factory cannot do this alone. There is a wide range of activities – both publicly funded and commercially based – striving to enhance the use of digital solutions in European industry. Better Factory can be a forerunner showing how to organize resources, efforts and funds in order to bridge the gap between research activities, innovation and the digitalization of industrial activities.

RAMP can make a difference is it solves concrete needs. As a platform connecting providers of digital solutions with users of these solutions, it needs to solve concrete challenges for all sides. It should be simple and highly reliable, and it needs to create true value added to technology or service providers, to users and to the owners and operator of the platform itself. Finding out what values it can provide to whom is a key challenge to be addressed as soon as possible in the project. Gaining experience and proof will be a challenge for the rest of the project.

As a matchmaking platform, RAMP could support small and medium-sized industry SMEs in finding artists and other service providers to help in developing new product and process designs.

No doubt there will be some readers that are keen to meet you to talk more about the project and your role in it. Which events can people find you at in 2022, and beyond?

This week in particular we will be at ERF2022 (European Robotics Forum) from, 28-30 June 2022, Rotterdam!

If you’d like to learn more about our partners or KTEs, just head back to the Insights section to read more interviews!