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  • Published on 09 Jan 2015
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Interview with Herbert Zeisel

Dr.-Ing. Herbert Zeisel from Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) about Industrie 4.0, Cyber-Physical Systems and the upcoming Co-summit.

What is BMBF and what is its vision on European cross-border research?

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is a cabinet-level ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany. One of our tasks is to stimulate innovation in Germany by creating a reliable framework for research and innovation activities in science and industry. Innovation is the key to strengthening Germany as a competitive location for industry. The production sector is a main pillar of the German economy, with a quarter share in GDP and about 7.7 million employees. Today we are not just talking about the production of one company and a value-adding chain, but about complex value-adding networks. In our globalised world, these networks are no longer limited to one country, but span the whole of Europe and beyond. Hence, the importance of and necessity for cross-border research is increasing steadily. It is essential to complement the value-adding production networks by means of European – even international – research and innovation networks in order to strengthen the position and the competitiveness of Europe, and Germany as part of Europe.

Yet, cross-border research is not only vital for innovation in value-adding networks, but also for tackling major societal challenges like climate, demographic change, transport, etc. No single Member State can master these challenges on its own. The German Federal Government sees the further development of the European Research Area as an important driver for strengthening Europe's scientific performance as a whole and expanding its innovative capacity in all areas. Cutting-edge research must not stop at national borders. European research teams are the leaders in many areas of science and technology. In view of the limits to public funding and capacities, transnational cooperation and coordination of research efforts are of decisive importance for coping with the challenges our society is facing.

ARTEMIS Industry Association (also as an ETP) is continuously promoting the R&I interests in Embedded and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) of its members to the European Commission and the Public Authorities of the participating states. Germany plays a leading role in the field of (software-intensive) Embedded Systems – particularly in the car industry and engineering – and in this context, German Cyber-Physical Systems are becoming more and more important.

What role do you see for ECSEL Joint Undertaking (of which ARTEMIS Industry Association is partner) in this field and, more specifically, in this field in Germany?

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are of great importance for the sustainability of many German and European industries. The automotive and aviation industries are just two examples. Additionally, Cyber-Physical Systems are the backbone of “Industrie 4.0”. Therefore, research and development in Embedded Systems and CPS is of fundamental interest for Germany.

This interest is underlined by the engagement of many German companies and research institutions, as well as the BMBF, in the new JTI ECSEL. One of the aims of ECSEL is to maintain and extend European strengths in the areas of Embedded Systems, CPS and intelligent systems. We expect ECSEL to support a better coordination and alignment of strategy for research, development and innovation in the fields of CPS on a European level. Moreover, through increased cross-border cooperation the ECSEL programme helps to maximise the impact of investments by European industry, the European Commission and the EU participating Member States for CPS research and innovation. Germany – with its plethora of industrial and research partners –, as well as the BMBF itself, is actively involved and committed to ECSEL.

The European Commission has an amount of funding available for CPS, but this amount depends upon the amount of funding from the participating states in the respective fields.

What actions will BMBF take to get CPS on the agenda of the German government, as participating state, and to consequently increase the investment of the European Commission in CPS?

Embedded and Cyber-Physical Systems have been on the agenda of the German government for many years now. For the BMBF, supporting the field of CPS and tackling open research questions in the context of CPS have always been a priority within the area of software-intensive and software-based systems. CPS is gaining importance for many industry sectors that are of relevance for Germany. Additionally, it is a given fact that there are still lots of interesting and unsolved challenges for Cyber-Physical Systems and their application in different industries. There is no doubt that CPS will remain an important topic on the agenda of the BMBF. We very much welcome the fact that the European Commission has taken up this topic and is addressing CPS research and innovation on a European level in various ways, either via ECSEL or via H2020 calls. The commitment of the European Commission to research and innovation projects in ECSEL has been successfully increased from 16 % to 50 % of the public funding for these projects. That is a remarkable increase, which confirms the priority of ECSEL projects for the Commission and leverages the given funding of Member States for CPS research.

Germany was innovative by being the first to discuss ‘Industrie 4.0’ (the fourth industrial revolution), and after that, Smart Industry became a more discussed theme and is even called a ‘game changer for businesses’ in Europe.

What influence do you think that Smart Industry has on the German industry?

The fourth industrial revolution is undeniable. Driven by the internet, the real and virtual worlds are growing closer together. Industrial production of the future will be characterised by the strong individualisation of products under the conditions of highly flexible production and the extensive integration of customers and business partners in business and value-added processes. Production will be linked to high-quality services, leading to so-called hybrid products. It is a matter of fact that this industrial revolution will affect not only most German but also most European companies. Along with increased automation in industry, the development of intelligent monitoring and autonomous decision-making processes is particularly important in order to be able to steer and optimize both companies and entire value-adding networks in almost real time. These value-adding networks, which span the whole of Europe and beyond, are the key to strengthening production in Europe and to succeeding in the global competition. German industry is well aware of the opportunities and challenges that “Industrie 4.0” is offering and has set up a “Plattform Industrie 4.0”, whose aim it is to actively shape the fourth industrial revolution and strengthen the German economy.

In what timeline do you see the fifth industrial revolution (Industrie 5.0), what focus would it have and will Germany be again the initiator of a so-called revolution? Will autonomous systems based on CPS play a role there?

Regarding a potential fifth revolution, we should not put the cart before the horse. The new steam-engine “Industrie 4.0” has just started to produce steam, there is still a lot to do before our industry is revolutionised. “Industrie 4.0” really has the potential to become a game changer for businesses as it picks up technology that is mature for widespread implementation in industry. We should focus on the next steps of this fourth revolution, so that Europe is the one changing the game, not other regions in the world.

The Co-summit 2015 – themed: “Smart Industry: Impact of Software Innovation” – is organised by ARTEMIS and ITEA and will take place in Berlin, Germany in March 2015.

In view of the strong relations of Germany with ARTEMIS and ITEA and the high participation of the German industry in both programmes, what is the expectation you have of the Co-summit 2015?

From the perspective of the BMBF, the Co-Summit is an important platform for exchange, communication and networking for all European partners in the fields of software-intensive systems, including Embedded Systems and CPS. It is an opportunity for industry, Member States and the two organisations ARTEMIS-IA and ITEA to come together and to present the successful exploitation of research results, to discuss current research activities as well as future needs for research. Thus, we are very happy to have the Co-Summit in Berlin in a few months’ time. I am convinced that German companies and German research institutions in particular – with “Industrie 4.0” being a priority topic in Germany – can offer a broad range of competences in the discussion on “Smart Industry: Impact of Software Innovation”.

It is my pleasure to invite everyone to take the opportunity to come to Berlin to see all the positive and successful examples of what a joint European effort can achieve and to be part of the discussion on the future of European industry – Smart Industry.

I wish the ARTEMIS-ITEA Co-Summit office all the best and plenty of energy in preparing the summit.