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Leading-edge cluster “it's OWL”

“Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe” for Future Markets

High-tech for tomorrow’s markets. A technology network encompassing economy and science that is about to set world standards for intelligent systems is growing in OstWestfalenLippe. The cluster Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe – in short, it’s OWL – is regarded as a pioneer for “Industrie 4.0” and makes important contributions to Germany’s competitiveness as an industry location.

The technical systems of tomorrow will be based on the close interaction of mechanics, electrics/electronics, control engineering, software technology and new materials, as well as possessing inherent intelligence that will make them superior to mechatronics. Information technology as well as non-technical disciplines, such as cognitive science, neurobiology and linguistics, are developing a variety of methods, technologies and procedures. With these, sensory, actuatory and cognitive functions are integrated in technical systems in ways that were previously only known in biological systems. We call such systems Intelligent Technical Systems; they are adaptive, robust, proactive and user friendly.

Intelligent technical systems adapt to their environment and the requirements of their users. They provide practical ease of use in households, in production and on the roads; they conserve resources and can be operated intuitively as well as reliably. To give a few examples: a tumble dryer that adapts in seconds to changing electricity prices yet nevertheless achieves a premium drying result due to self-optimisation; a production machine capable of performing even the most difficult tasks, but still simple to operate and knowing when its next maintenance is due; a large-scale laundry that automatically washes, dries, irons and folds each piece of laundry to the highest quality standards despite using a minimum of water, electricity and detergent.

About 200 companies, industry initiatives, universities and research institutions participate in the leading-edge cluster strategy, which is led by the Heinz Nixdorf Institute. Product and production innovations are being developed as part of a close alliance of business and science, consisting of 47 projects with a total volume of around 100 million euros.

The range covers intelligent sensors, drives and automation components for machines, white goods and vehicles, as well as interconnected systems such as production facilities, smart grids and cash management systems, which are referred to as ‘cyber physical systems’. High-tech products and production processes that are not ends in themselves, but they provide their users with very specific advantages in terms of usability, reliability, security, cost efficiency and resource conservation.

The basis for the companies’ innovation projects have been five cross-sectional projects in which universities provide industry with application-oriented research. The areas self-optimisation, human-machine interaction, intelligent networking, energy efficiency and systems engineering are covered.

Within the leading-edge cluster, the Heinz Nixdorf Institute applies its strengths as an interdisciplinary research institute for the benefit of the region by focusing on the following topics:

Systems Engineering

Intelligent systems are multidisciplinary and, therefore, the development of these systems is to be conducted in a discipline-spanning manner. Systems Engineering meets this claim; it is a continuous discipline-spanning approach for the development of multidisciplinary systems. Several workgroups of the Heinz Nixdorf Institute strive together for continuous system modelling and analysis. In close cooperation with the leading-edge cluster enterprises, an SE method toolkit is developed that connects procedures, methods as well as tools. It is supposed to support the practical application within the enterprises.


The innovation leap from mechatronics to systems with inherent partial intelligence is of utmost importance for the international competitiveness of the engineering industry and related fields. Self-optimising systems are a showcase example for intelligent technical systems that are adaptive, robust and anticipatory. The development of self-optimising system requires, amongst other things, expert knowledge from fields such as mathematical optimisation and control theory. However, this knowledge is mostly not available in the medium-sized enterprises of the leading-edge cluster. The Heinz Nixdorf Institute elaborates methods for this purpose that describe the expert knowledge in an application-oriented way and, therefore, promote the development of self-optimising systems.

Project structure

Human-Machine Interaction

The success of intelligent technical systems is primarily based on simple usability. In cooperation with the leading-edge cluster companies, the Heinz Nixdorf Institute develops methods and procedures for an intuitive human-machine interaction. The common work focuses on the design of innovative interaction techniques for a Virtual Reality-based design review environment. The design review environment enables an intuitive interaction with a virtual prototype and facilitates the early digital validation of intelligent technical systems within the product development process.

Innovation projects

The Heinz Nixdorf Institute also participated in a total of five innovation projects of leading enterprises. In these projects, new technologies and methods are deployed that are being developed in these cross-sectional projects:

  • Resource-efficient, self-optimising industrial laundry “The green laundry” (Herbert Kannegiesser GmbH)
  • Intelligent networked systems for automated currency circuits “Secure and efficient banknote handling” (Wincor Nixdorf International GmbH)
  • Virtual machine tools for production planning “Intelligent planning – optimum utilisation of machinery” (DMG MORI AG)
  • Scientific Automation Platform “Sustainable production through intelligent automation technology” (Beckhoff Automation GmbH & Co. KG)
  • Intelligent kneading process “Kneading machines that feel the dough” (WP Kemper GmbH)

In 2017, the “Wissenschafts- und Industrieforum” once again offered an opportunity for 300 attendees to share experiences.

Sustainability measures

The nine sustainability measures aim at a strengthening of the strategic competence of companies, participation of a multitude of companies at the technology platform, ensuring the market success and social acceptability of intelligent technical systems, the protection against product piracy and the attraction of professionals and business start-ups. Primarily, the measures are used to implement a powerful dynamic development within the region beyond the end of the project. The Heinz Nixdorf Institute is involved in several measures subsequently presented by three examples.

Foresight – thinking ahead and shaping the future

To cope with global competition, companies should identify and exploit tomorrow’s success potentials early on. Therefore, future developments concerning markets, technologies and business environments need to be anticipated, which is also referred to as foresight. Many companies lack the resources to do so, in particular small and medium-sized companies. Subsequently, foresight is practised unsystematically while companies stick to once proven innovation concepts and rely on their response capability. Especially when it comes to innovation in intelligent technical systems, this might not be sufficient to ensure market success. The overall objectives of the project are contents, methodologies and IT tools enabling companies to practise foresight effectively and efficiently. They will be empowered to draw conclusions for the development of fitting business, product and technology strategies. Therefore, the project aims at the expansion of the strategic competence of small and medium-sized companies.

Prevention against product piracy – Protecting innovations

Product piracy destroys jobs, ruins the return on research and development investments of the industry and threatens the competitiveness of many companies. For protection against product imitations, the development of innovative, technical protective measures and holistic protection concepts is required. This project shows how such protection concepts are developed and implemented. Key aspects are the identification of the individual threat potential and the realisation of a wide range of product protection based on protective measures.

Innovative technology transfer

The elaborated technology platform of the cross-sectional projects also serves as a foundation for the transfer of results to small and medium-sized enterprises. From the beginning of July 2014, the transfer projects will be conducted. In total, a number of 170 transfer projects have been realised. The Heinz Nixdorf Institute is responsible for four transfer projects in the fourth tranche.

„Conception and control design for a semi-active seat suspension system” (itsowl-TT-ReSiFe)
The company ISRINGHAUSEN from Lemgo produces innovative seat systems for commercial vehicles. Current available seats usually include a manually adjustable hydraulic shock absorber. In this transfer project, the Heinz Nixdorf Institute has developed a powerful semi-active shock absorber with an intelligent control which is able to adapt itself to varying driving conditions. Further, a prototype has been realised. More information on the project “ReSiFe” can be found on the pages of the “Control Engineering and Mechatronics” workgroup (page 157).

“Development of a business model road map for additive manufacturing” (Road2AM)
The estimated development of the additive manufacturing (AM) technology field promises great benefits and business potentials. Additive manufacturing will enable companies to achieve various competitive advantages in the future, such as the individualisation of end products or the reduction of logistics costs. In order to systematically tap this potential, it is necessary to anticipate future technological developments, possible applications and business models. This was the focus of the transfer project Road2AM. The result is an AM business model road map for Miele & Cie. KG. Hence, potential business models were identified and the requirements for their implementation were derived. Foresight using the scenario technique made it possible to anticipate the relevant developments and to determine the possible implementation dates and necessary measures for the business models. Furthermore, the implementation of AM business models often requires many highly specialised partners who have been identified and selected in the project. The work forms the guideline for the partner company to tap the benefits and business potentials of AM in a timely manner.

“Strategic positioning in the technology field of additive manufacturing” (StraPoT)
Additive manufacturing opens up new possibilities for the design of components, on the one hand, and new value-added networks are emerging around the technology field, on the other hand. The increasing spread of manufacturing technologies not only benefits machine manufacturers, but also service providers, manufacturers of dedicated software, component manufacturers, module suppliers, etc. The focus of the StraPoT transfer project was, therefore, on planning Krause-Biagosch’s entry into the technology field. The basis was the existing expertise in the field of computer-to-plate, an exposure technology for printing plates. After an in-depth analysis of the CTP technology, potential transfer potentials to the field of additive manufacturing were identified. Taking into account the trends, potentials for possible market services were then derived. This offered a wide range of options for positioning the company in the competitive arena. The evaluation of existing companies and, therefore, the role overview of the value network was presented in a multidimensional scale for decision support. Krause-Biagosch’s entry into the Additive Manufacturing technology field was successfully completed with the development of market offerings and a road map.

“Strategic Planning for a Medical Technology Market Launch” (StraMaMed)
Diversification safeguards jobs even in difficult market situations by spreading risk. This is the strategic focus currently being targeted by the traditional East-Westphalian company Stükerjürgen Aerospace Composites GmbH & Co. KG (SAC) following significant investment in its own state-of-the-art machinery pool. Modernisation has ensured a competitive edge in both the aerospace and yacht building sectors, and the similarities between the needs of clients in these traditional sectors and those in the medical technology industry make market launch a very attractive prospect. The aim of the StraMaMed transfer project is, therefore, to create a product and business model road map for a medical technology market launch. Its primary focus is a future-oriented product analysis of the sector, as well as aiming to formalise and anticipate market logic. Taking SAC’s competencies into account, the findings will be used to generate a corresponding road map for market launch. This will represent a key building block of the company’s strategic orientation, and will make a crucial contribution to ensuring a technological edge in the future.

A boost for the region OWL

The leading-edge cluster strengthens the reputation of the university as an excellent research facility in the area of intelligent technical systems, so that new scientists can be drawn to the region. Furthermore, promising new study programmes in engineering and IT offer the opportunity to attract students from all over Germany and beyond to Paderborn. With support from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the activities of it’s OWL will be continued from 2018 to 2022. Activities include making accessible new technologies to small and medium sized companies (SMEs), for example in the field of IT security or open data platforms. New services, business models and qualification programmes will be developed. SMEs will obtain support in implementing new technologies and in optimising the working conditions, working places etc.

1. Component of an intelligent production system
2. Design Review for a virtual prototype