Industry 4.0 Beyond National Borders

Moroccan students work on automation projects for companies

Students from universities in Morocco are gaining valuable qualifications and using cutting-edge German technology for industrial automation projects on behalf of German and Moroccan companies. It’s all part of an industrial practice program in the field of Industry 4.0, or connected manufacturing. Developed by the CCoA, a center of excellence specialized in automation, a number of leading German electronics companies have been involved in the program since early 2021. The CCoA project is managed by a team at Steinbeis University, which has already supported more than 500 participants through the program.

The CCoA is funded through a special training and employment initiative at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Going by the name Invest for Jobs, the initiative is partly being run by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Morocco is establishing itself as an important industrial location and a logistical hub for the African continent. The aim of the CCoA was therefore to support knowledge sharing in the field of automation and digitalization technology in key industrial sectors in the country, especially in the automotive and food industries.

To kick off the project, numerous interviews were conducted with Moroccan companies as part of a CCoA study looking at the automation and digitization levels in selected industries in the country. The results of the survey are providing important impetus for the development of a digitalization roadmap, which will aim to improve the competitiveness of Moroccan industry and make the employment market fit for the future.

Connected manufacturing and Industry 4.0

A central aspect of the program was to offer training to key influencers, including professors at the most important universities in Morocco, on the development and application of the methods of connected manufacturing, looking specifically at the context of Industry 4.0 using PLCnext, a platform provided by Phoenix Contact. In addition to the deployment of industrial software, the course also included the presentation of architectures, protocols, and development tools for industrial applications in the field of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), as well as human-machine interfaces (HMIs).

The CCoA pilot project was conducted by Götz Jäckel, who has lectured on Industry 4.0 in higher education for many years. Jäckel highlights that the technology and topics covered by courses were not geared to the industrial processes typically encountered in developing countries. Instead, training has been based on equipment that is state of the art for training within the context of Industry 4.0. “I was surprised – in a positive sense – by the preparatory training and high standards of university education in Morocco. There’s not much difference between the courses here and those organized for graduates of universities of applied sciences in Germany,” says Jäckel. He also found it remarkable how highly motivated the course participants were, investing their weekends in learning about new technologies. “The training offers an excellent basis for cooperation between the participating universities and educational institutions in Morocco, and industry in Germany and Morocco – in all fields of industrial automation,” stresses Dr. Ardin Djalali, CCoA project manager at Steinbeis University.

A practical approach to knowledge sharing

For the next stage of the project, the CCoA team ensured there was strong emphasis on practical application. Industrial enterprises from Germany and Morocco were invited to provide universities and students with assignments. These should be as concrete and practical as possible – without incurring extra costs by offering assignments, and without entailing further obligations on behalf of the companies. The CCoA succeeded in attracting 27 leading industrial companies and technology networks to provide assignments and discover the talent pool in Morocco.

Industry 4.0 experts reviewed 59 project proposals in total and these were forwarded to the Moroccan educational institutions participating in the program. Roughly 500 students applied to participate in the projects. Presenting alongside non-profit organization EduNet, in September 2022 the CCoA unveiled the results of a student competition organized at one of the most important technology conferences in Morocco, SADASC in Marrakech. Phoenix Contact, which played an instrumental role as a partner of the CCoA training courses and is a leading company in the German electronics industry, will honor outstanding projects with the Young Talents in Automation Award. This will include financial support for the teams to continue developing their ideas. John Ulrich Fimpel, who has supported the CCoA from the beginning as a business scout for the industry association ZVEI, describes the next tasks of the project: “We want to attract companies and networks in Germany and provide them with a totally straightforward and practical way to get to know the economic potential of one of Africa’s most important emerging industrial markets.”

The CCoA website presents some of the profiles of students, whose skills are representative of a unique talent pool for building industrial know-how in Morocco. The CCoA experts in Morocco and Germany also offer industry stakeholders different ways to directly approach students and universities with queries. The plan is to extend the current phase of the project and focus more clearly on startups and SMEs in Morocco. Events will also be organized, not only to foster further development of young Industry 4.0 talent, but also to promote business matchmaking between Germany and Morocco.

Invest for Jobs

Under its Invest for Jobs brand, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has pulled together a range of offers aimed at supporting European and African companies in their efforts to boost employment in Africa. The objective of the development policy is to work with companies in creating and maintaining good jobs and training opportunities in (currently) eight partner countries – and to improve local working conditions.

More information:

Competence Center on Automation (CCoA)

The knowledge-sharing project of the CCoA brings together companies such as Siemens, Phoenix Contact, Rittal, and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI). Also a partner of the project, the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy has joined forces with industry and universities in Morocco to organize around 20 information and networking events, all addressing topics with a bearing on production technology.

The CCoA publishes the details of current events through LinkedIn and its website. People interested in receiving information on events are invited to register with the CCoA community.

Further information:


Hans Gäng (author)
local global GmbH (Stuttgart)

Dr. Sarah Kunkel
Project Manager Competence Center on Automation
Graduate School of Leadership & Management der Steinbeis-Hochschule (Berlin) |