DIGITAL REGIONS study aims to improve regional policies in Manufacturing

Study shows the chances for policy change to grasp the potential of Industry 4.0 for SMEs in Espace Mitteland, Switzerland Local SMEs will benefit directly by extending the regional network and the knowledge transfer of Industry 4.0.

DIGITAL REGIONS, or ‘Regional policies adopting Industry 4.0 for their Digital Transformation’, is an international project part-funded by Interreg Europe programme, in which 8 European regions, Espace Mittelland in Switzerland included, are working together to address a common challenge: how to support the manufacturing sector by adapting innovation policies for Industry 4.0 (I4.0), the 4th industrial revolution. I4.0 is already well underway and offers manufacturing dramatically increased agility and ability to produce new products, flexibility and productivity. Typically it involves advanced & disruptive technologies, deep & wide-spread process changes and needs for upskilling and re-training in the work-force.


One of the first project outputs is a Regional Context Analysis based on a common methodology to identify current gaps and opportunities in regional and national innovation policies. This study allows an objective comparison across partner regions and provides the project’s input for policy change. Though Switzerland is an innovation leader in Europe, our survey results for Espace Mittelland reveal that knowledge of I4.0 is still low, awareness of I4.0 related supports and funding is low and many businesses face resource challenges to take advantage of I4.0. A similar pattern has emerged across all the participating European regions.


What have we achieved in Espace Mitteland and Switzerland?

The results of the macro-analysis have shown that Switzerland is an Innovation Leader, including seven regions. Six Swiss regions are Innovation Leaders+, performing more than 40% above the EU average (RIS 2019)1. The most innovative region is Zurich (CH04), performing 60% above the EU average. The region Espace Mittelland (CH02) is the lowest-ranked region in Switzerland but is positioned rank 17 across all European regions. However, Espace Mittelland (CH02) exhibits strengths in “Lifelong Learning“ and weaknesses in “Innovative SMEs collaborating“ compared to Switzerland and the EU (RIS 2019).


Micro-Analysis Results

An online-survey has been conducted with a total of 32 participants from small (63,33%) and medium-size (30%) enterprises. The key findings are the following:

  • Knowledge on I4.0 concept: Almost 60% are not very familiar, 29% are ready for a pilot and 16% are already applying I4.0.
  • Relation to I4.0 Technology: Technology end-user (46%), integrator (30%) and/or vendor (23%).
  • Motivation to face the challenge of I4.0: Market demand and competitors’ advantage (63%), differentiation and testing new concepts (50%). For 30%, I4.0 helps to keep the market leadership; increasing productivity, further qualification of their employees and introduce new products/services is for 2/3 of the responses very important.
  • Challenges in relation to I4.0/digital transformation: Over 80% are facing challenges: The companies have not enough time and resources to invest in the digitalization or they do not have a digital strategy.
  • Digital Strategy: Over 40% do not have a digital strategy; 17% are planning to introduce one; 38% are updating their strategy regularly.
  • Awareness of support: 2/3 do not know any initiatives supporting I4.0 / digital transformation, only 27% have used some of external support; 42% responded that the services are too expensive.
  • Awareness of funding: Only 10% have participated in a funding program; half of the responses does not know about any funding for SMEs (48%) or they see their impact as too marginal (24%) or have no need for external financial support.



The main objective of the DIGITAL REGIONS partnership is to, by 2022, achieve a 15% increase of the number of SMEs from manufacturing sector (cooperating with other innovation actors in the participant regions) to implement I4.0 solutions as a result of improved innovation policies. Project partners from Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland and are currently working together to identify measures to facilitate improved I4.0 policy cooperation between regions, increased SMEs participation and availability of I4.0 skills.


More about Swiss Smart Factory

The Swiss Smart Factory (SSF) is joining the DIGITAL REGIONS project as Switzerland‘s leading and internationally recognized competence centre in application-oriented research on „Industry 4.0“ and „Internet of Things“. The SSF acts as a regional and national multiplier and facilitator for digital innovations. It supports technology development and transfer from the first idea to the market introduction. Special focus is set on supporting SMEs and start-ups with the uptake and introduction of ICT innovation – both from technology and business perspective.


For further details, contact:

Dominic Gorecky | Head of Swiss Smart Factory,

Swiss Smart Factory | Innovation Park Biel/Bienne

+41 79 579 48 84 |

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