Horizon 2020 Funding for virtual factory research at BU

Uber, Amazon, AirBnB, Netflix… The Internet has had many impacts on the economy. Not only on the consumer market, but widely across the service sector. There is a large amount of integration and automation to enable things like instant order confirmations. Work in these aspects of business processes is quite well established in the service sector.

Manufacturing is a key part of the economy. To remain competitive or become even more so, automation that supports innovation is also essential for the manufacturing sector. BU will be leading, under direction of Dr Lai Xu and Dr Paul de Vrieze, an international consortium on a project receiving €1.2 mln in funding to address these challenges.

Advanced ICT supported manufacturing is currently gaining a lot of traction with initiatives such as Industrie 4.0 in Germany, Factory of the Future in Italy and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult the UK. Part of this development is advanced coordination of manufacturing allowing for increased flexibility and reduced costs. A virtual factory ensures exchange of data between smart machines, systems, software and design within the manufacturing chain. Manufacturing processes become more simple through plug-and-play techniques.

To enable this, the “vF Interoperation suppoRting buSiness innovaTion” (FIRST) project provides new technology to describe manufacturing assets and to compose and integrate existing services into collaborative virtual manufacturing processes. The project will see collaboration between internationally recognised academics and industry in Europe and China. As such the consortium will take advantage of it various backgrounds to address the issue from a variety of perspectives.

The FIRST consortium is a competitive consortium with large know-how and expertise in complex software systems and manufacturing automation. The research base of the academic partners will be used as foundation for innovations to contribute to virtual interoperation of smart manufacturing in the area of Factory of the Future/Manufacturing 2.0 to improve the competiveness of our industrial partners and sustainability of the European manufacturing sector. Within this research programme, 6 industrial researcher will get the opportunity to gather knowledge in academia while 22 academic researchers will absorb knowledge in industry. The consortium will provide new knowledge for GK, an enterprise software vendor and KM, a manufacturing software vendor, inform newer training in the area of big data, cloud computing to both GK and KM, and promote innovation, while the academic partners will translate their research to facilitate better understanding virtual factories.