On 15 February 2019, the DIG-IN Digitalisation and Innovation Forum was held, where the Ministry of Economics obtained assurance that the work that was started to promote digitisation in Latvian manufacturing companies has yielded first fruit – businesses are starring to understand the potential of the Industry 4.0 concept and appreciate its benefits, which leads to increased productivity and competitiveness. Industry 4.0 marks future smart industrial technologies; it is based on cooperation between people, equipment and products in a global network.
The Digitalisation Session of the Forum was devoted to the discussion and opinions of experts on the importance of cooperation among sectors, the promotion of digitalisation potential within the framework of Industry 4.0, the opportunities it provides and the benefits of bringing new technological solutions to businesses.
Different foreign experts shared their experiences and recommendations at the Forum. One of the main guests of the forum was the author and the mastermind of the Industry 4.0 concept Henrik von Scheel. Having evaluated Latvia’s initial efforts in implementing the Industry 4.0 concept, the expert has recommended that those are focused not only on increasing productivity, but also on people, who are an important resource in today’s economy. In the development of Latvia’s digitalization strategy, the expert has also recommended to carefully weight regional cooperation opportunities without focusing solely on the West, but to find unique niche products to be offered to other neighbouring countries – Russia and Scandinavian countries. One of Latvia’s most powerful advantages is artificial intelligence, so many countries could be interested in cooperation in this area.
The session also included a discussion on the impact of blockchains on financial services and the economy as a whole. German smart technology manufacturers SAP and Bosch shared their experiences in the field of smart technologies, which could contribute to the technological breakthrough of small and medium-sized enterprises. A separate panel discussion was devoted to the evaluation of major challenges in the continuously expanding deployment of digital technologies. We should be aware that today competitiveness of businesses will not increase without introducing digital solutions in day-to-day work, interoperability of technology and things, and analysing internal processes in the company.
On the other hand, the Innovation Session of the Forum aimed to show how cooperation between business and science in small, medium-sized and large enterprises affects the development of new innovative products. Research projects and their results at eight Latvian competence centres were presented to the audience. As part of this support programme, a total of 191 studies have been approved, 238 publications have been developed, economic operators have invested a total of 25 million euro in innovation production, resulting in an increase in turnover of more than 150 million euro, which is a six-fold increase. As it is known, in the past, the support programme of Latvian Competence Centres was recognised as the most successful programme promoting innovation administered by the European Union Structural Funds.
In individual working groups, Latvian entrepreneurs and German smart technology manufacturers developed recommendations for introducing digital solutions into companies more rapidly. Work on the development of these solutions is being summarised and a plan of specific measures is being developed.
During the Forum, eight Latvian Competence Centres, the Ministry of Economics, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development and the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce (representatives of the German Industry 4.0) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. The Memorandum aims to develop a common digitalisation platform providing for exchange of up-to-date information among stakeholders, promoting intersectoral cooperation in the implementation of different development projects using digital solutions, as well as promoting international cooperation with a view to representing interests of Latvian businesses.
The DIG-IN Forum was attended by over 180 representatives of the business environment and policy makers from Latvia and abroad.