© fotolia.de/AA+W

Committed to Future Forms of Production

Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum runs a support center for the Vanguard Initiative in Baden-Wuerttemberg

The Vanguard initiative involves around 30 European regions, which have formed an alliance to “lead by example” and boost innovation and industrial growth in the EU. The core topics being looked at by the network, which was set up in 2013 and has since expanded rapidly, include efficient and sustainable manufacturing, 3D printing, nanotechnology, and the bio-economy. Since early 2016, the Commissioner for Europe of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour, and Housing has been working alongside the Steinbeis- Europa-Zentrum, which acts as his operating unit, to provide a first port of call for the Vanguard Initiative, primarily for business enterprises and research institutions in the state.

Multinational consortia consisting of companies and research institutions from the regions involved are working on innovative technology solutions and business models in their areas. The aim is to subsequently implement these models as pilot projects and to implement demonstration projects on a broader scale across several countries.

In specific terms, this will entail linking existing know-how and capacities relating to technology development and technology demonstration, focusing on areas holding plenty of promise across multiple regions. The main emphasis of the initiative until now has been:

  • High-performance production using 3D printing, spearheaded by the Southern Netherlands, Flanders, and Norte
  • Efficient and sustainable production, under the leadership of Lombardy and Catalonia
  • Bio-economics: innovative use of non-food biomass, under the leadership of Randstad and Lombardy
  • Nanotechnology, spearheaded by Skane and Tampere
  • Energy solutions in extreme environments (maritime applications), under the leadership of Scotland and the Basque region.

A number of individual projects have been simulated and set up to implement multi-region projects and introduce pilot plants and services relating to technology demonstration. Ultimately, the companies that should benefit most from the initiative are SMEs. The pilot networks and plants, and collaboration between the research and development partners in the member regions, allow companies to try out the new technologies and processes in their own production and if necessary implement these.

The aim is to develop business cases with the support of industry. As such, the Vanguard projects receive no direct or specific financing, so there is nothing like a funding program or a central fund. Despite this, at certain stages of implementation the projects will receive support and backup through the network. Companies and research institutions that would like to know more about the Vanguard Initiative or even become involved themselves are welcome to contact the Steinbeis-Europa- Zentrum, which has been acting as the Baden-Wuerttemberg Vanguard Center since 2016.

The information center is being funded by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour, and Housing. Working alongside the ministry to provide support to those involved in the initiative, its objective is to create awareness of the initiative and the possibilities it offers to industry and research. Another aim is to make use of the opportunities presented by the network by lining up specific partnership arrangements with key players in Baden-Wuerttemberg.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Norbert Höptner, Alexandra Fezer
Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (Stuttgart), Commissioner for Europe of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour, and Housing