Q&A: Benchmark test: new business models for digital production in German and Japanese SMEs
Professor Madeja, many SMEs in the technology sector are looking for ideas and best practice examples for promising business models in these times of digital transformation. What support can the international DIGIMARI initiative provide?
Our research initiative DIGIMARI (Digital Manufacturing Research Initiative) supports the digital transformation of companies in Germany and Japan. We want to use practical examples to show how companies can conduct business on the basis of data and information goods and services, even if they mainly have subsisted on the sale of their products, hardware, equipment and facilities up to now.
Who are the brains behind the DIGIMARI networking initiative?
Within the DIGMARI initiative, the Research Campus Mittelhessen with its three universities - the University of Applied Sciences Mittelhessen and the universities of Gießen and Marburg - has established a network with the regional association 'Smart Electronic Factory' and its 30 companies, as well as with the Regional Management Central Hessen, a collaboration of districts, several cities, chambers of commerce and universities in the region. Over the coming 18 months, our network will invite Japanese partners to take part in collaborations in order to make joint progress in the digital transformation of SMEs.
Who are DIGIMARI’s networking partners in Japan?
We primarily network with interesting partners in the so-called Kansai region, which includes the cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe and is the industrial heartland of Japan. Some major corporations are headquartered there, but also many SMEs in the manufacturing industry. Numerous research and education institutions are also located there. Besides some cultural differences, there is a surprisingly large number of similarities: Kansai and Central Hessen are both strongly characterised by SME manufacturing - the production of parts, equipment, machines and facilities.
How did the German-Japanese cooperation in this project come about?
Germany and Japan are far apart in geographic terms, but have very similar economic situations. The competition from low-wage countries means pressure for both highly developed industrial and service nations. The only way out is to find more differentiated and, above all, data-based economic and business models. At the same time, our different approaches to digitisation complement each other nicely. Both nations can learn from exchanges. Besides, we have a very close and friendly relationship with Japan due to a number of mobility periods abroad and research collaborations.
What possibilities are there to participate in DIGIMARI?
Interested partners should get in touch with our DIGIMARI project management office at TH Mittelhessen in order to discuss the details - either in Japanese, German or English. We are planning different international research projects, for example on new digital business models. The joint establishment of an international testing platform for Industrie 4.0 applications would also be possible. The transfer of know-how is certainly an important factor in the design and introduction of new digital processes in the production chain. Interested parties can also get in touch with DIGIMARI through social media or directly in Japan, since we are planning two trips to Japan in March and September 2020.
University of Applied Sciences Mittelhessen
THM Business School
Prof. Dr. Nils Madeja