Digitisation for Vehicle Manufacturing – New Major BMWK Initative Now Accepting Proposals

Up to €25 million are available for industry-led collaborative research and development projects in Germany that support the digital transformation of the vehicle manufacturing industry and its upstream supply chain.

Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (BMWK – Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection) has launched the new funding initiative ‘Digitisation for Vehicle Manufacturers, Supply Industry and Industrial Supply Chains’ (Digitalisierung der Fahrzeughersteller und Zulieferindustrie und industrieller Lieferketten) as part of its framework programme for ‘Future Investments into Vehicle Manufacturing and its Supply Industry’. The initiative also supports the German government’s initiative ‘Manufacturing-X’ which aims to establish a cross-industry, open and sovereign data room for the German manufacturing and supply industry, thereby creating a data ecosystem for Industry 4.0. The call is also designed to contribute to overarching aims such as the digital sovereignty of Germany and the EU, as well as improve the competitive position of German and European manufacturing in the international context.

Funding is provided for industry-led research and development projects that contribute to the following aims:

  • Improve the competitiveness of participating businesses and help secure jobs in Germany.
  • Improve the efficiency and flexibility of manufacturing (innovative manufacturing technologies).
  • Improve the resilience of participating businesses (digitisation and flexibility of supply chains and manufacturing networks).
  • Improve digital interoperability and sovereignty of participating businesses.
  • Develop competencies and technological skills in the area of industry-related data rooms.
  • Develop advanced technologies, applications and solutions for multilateral data exchange and their usage in industry.
  • Test usage scenarios for cross-industry collaboration that is data-based, interoperable and independent.
  • Improve resource and energy efficiency for ecologically sustainable manufacturing in participating businesses (emission reduction and sustainable raw material use).
  • Support transfer measures to disseminate competencies, technologies and usage scenarios beyond the companies that are directly involved in the project, as well as make project results accessible for the industry at large and further areas of the economy.

The thematic focus is on the following aspects of process integration:

  1. Development of concrete application examples and technological basic building blocks for collaborative data ecosystems and their consistent refinement. This should include a strong signal effect for the transformation and digitisation of the German industry. In addition to technological questions, projects should also address holistic and collaborative aspects such as business models and organisational concepts.
  2. Support of cross-business and cross-industry networking and integral linkage between hardware and software, and cyber-physical systems in the value networks of the manufacturing industry on the basis of open and scalable concepts (such as Gaia-X, Catena-X architecture elements, asset administration shell or OPC-UA). The development of these digital solutions must follow Open-Source principles and contribute to joint, Open-Source-based data ecosystems.
  3. High levels of interoperability, eg via suitable interfaces for data exchange. Projects must avoid lock-in effects and design the basic technological architectures according to principles of scalability, performances, transparency and security. Compatibility with the solutions and applications developed by other projects within the Manufacturing-X framework programme is particularly important.

In addition to the above technological aspects, projects must also address related cross-sectional topics and aspects of the digital transformation of the industry such as interoperability and standardisation, cooperation models and organisational concepts as well as legal aspects and ecological sustainability.

Eligible for funding are the following types of organisations in Germany:

  • Commercial businesses and enterprises working in manufacturing.
  • Institutions of higher education.
  • Research institutions.
  • Public organisations and other bodies with an activity focus that relates to the thematic focus of the initiative.

Funding is provided both for projects carried out by individual organisations as well as projects that bring together multiple partners in a consortium. Consortia must consist of at least two partners who are eligible for BMWK funding. It is possible for other types of (national and international) organisations to participate in a consortium as associated partners.

Consortia must be led by an industry partner who is interested in the commercial exploitation of project results. The participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) is particularly encouraged. To facilitate this, BMWK has set the target of 30% of project budgets to be allocated to SME.

Funding is provided in the form of a non-refundable project grant or subsidy on the basis of project-related eligible costs. The maximum funding period is 30 months. The maximum funding amount per project is €25 million.

For commercial businesses and enterprises, subsidies are only provided to cover costs associated with experimental development. Commercial partners are expected to cover part of the overall project costs. Funding levels generally do not exceed 25% of project-related eligible costs. Higher funding levels are available for the projects with involvement from SME, international partners or non-commercial research institutions. Institutions of higher education and research institutions may be eligible for grants of up to 90-100% of project-related eligible costs.

The scheme comprises a two-stage application process, with an initial invitation for outline proposals followed by the submission of a full, formal funding application for successful candidates.

The final deadline for the submission of outline proposals is 31 December 2023.

Interim reviews of submitted proposals will take place on 31 August and 31 October.

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)