HLS-Robo: Robotics and young experts for the needs of rural businesses
In the HSL-Robo project, SMEs, researchers and students worked together to innovate how robotics can be utilised in rural companies. The project brought together students and experts from the local University of Applied Sciences and companies of three provinces.
Through expert visits at their premises, local SMEs received expert support in identifying areas of improvement and were assisted in choosing technological solutions to increase production automation, energy efficiency and cost-effective operations. Concrete solutions were sought out through technology studies and pilots carried out as student projects directed by project workers, teachers and company representatives.
More than 100 SMEs were contacted, and technology or energy walk tours were arranged in 27 companies. Altogether nine seminars and workshops and four info events were organised with more than 200 participants.
As a result of the 18 demonstrations of the HLS-Robo project, two robot investments were made in the participating companies during the project. The companies improved their knowledge, received expert support in identifying areas of improvement, made robotic investments and met skilled professionals. The students learned through concrete robotics development work by collaborating with researchers and project workers, improved their skills and enjoyed employment opportunities.
The project improved the perception of R&D activities and cooperation with the RoboAI laboratory of the regional university.
The project formed a regional network of 21 industrial enterprises which is expected to continue beyond the project period.
Finding and especially convincing potential busy partner companies to commit to the project was not a straightforward process. Groundwork and great partnerships are particularly important for this.
Concrete and future-orientated cases motivate students and the whole team. Getting to know the companies, their representatives and processes beforehand is important.
Students often thrive when given responsibilities and "real-world" problems to solve, with guidance available when needed. This approach and the participation of forward-looking micro- and SME companies are the ingredients for success.