SMERF – SME ready for the future project logo © CE Interreg 2023

Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in Central Europe are facing multiple challenges be it the negative socioeconomic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, demographic change or migration. In order to stay competitive and become more resilient, countless companies will have to change their business models by integrating new market- and society-oriented concepts and models to be prepared for a greener and more digital future. However, many companies do not yet have sufficient capacity, knowledge and time to explore and adopt these new concepts.

The SMERF project (SMERF – SME Ready for the Future) is tackling these challenges by creating an innovative ecosystem for SMEs in Central Europe especially from the low-tech and medium-tech sectors. To strengthen regional innovation ecosystems from research, industry and politics, SMERF is focusing on the following areas:

  • changes in their innovation culture using digitization, digital manufacturing and Open Innovation 2.0
  • encouraging sustainability using sharing economy, green and circular economy

Furthermore, cross-border cooperation, knowledge transfer and the exchange of best practice and success stories from the SME environment are important components of the SMERF concept.

The SMERF project will realize the following activities:

  • inspirational knowledge base on the main transformation topics
  • innovative assessment & diagnostics tool for SMEs
  • individual consultations for >160 SMEs
  • case studies & best practices from SMEs using the SMERF Diagnosis
  • 20 webinars and training sessions to inform and upskill SMEs
  • national & transnational study tours

Within this project, the Institute for Automation and Applied informatics (IAI) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is coordinating the thematic area “digital manufacturing” due to its expertise in the areas of Industry 4.0 / Advanced Manufacturing. In addition, the results and knowledge from previous research projects (SYNERGY, CEUP2030, MIMAN-T, SMARTLAM) in developing novel training formats, innovation platforms or knowledge platform development will support the realization of the planned SMERF activities and outputs.

The SMERF project is co-financed by the Interreg Central Europe programme and is set to run from April 2023 to March 2026. The project is being implemented by 8 partners from 7 countries (Poland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia).