April 05th 2018

Japan draws on MCI expertise

Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs invites MCI Professor Oliver Som to accompany high-ranking delegation to Japan to consult with Industrial Value Chain Initiative (IVI)

MCI-Professor Oliver Som im Gespräch mit MCI-Rektor Andreas Altmann
MCI Professor Oliver Som and Rector Andreas Altmann discuss the most recent events. © MCI

Due to his exceptional competence, MCI Professor Oliver Som has recently been appointed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing to join a high-ranking team of advisers on their journey to Japan. There, the delegation was expected to lay the foundation for bilateral business and research cooperation. Oliver Som thus received the chance to speak about innovation strategies of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and Industry 4.0 to a group of Industrial Value Chain Initiative (IVI) representatives.

For years, Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) has been building a strong expertise in the fields of small and medium-sized businesses, digitalization and Industry 4.0. Oliver Som is a professor at the MCI Department of Business & Management. He heads the in-house SME Innovations Network, supporting SME in the conception and implementation of innovative projects and strategies. Together with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) and Free University of Berlin, Som’s research team has recently been able to complete a comprehensive empirical evaluation of different strategic innovation patterns of manufacturing SME. The results of the study provide interesting insights regarding application, need for action, and potential for development. This knowledge helps us encourage SME to make use of intelligent production technologies and thus improve their innovative performance and competitive advantage.

In Japan – international technology leader in robotics and Industry 4.0 – industrial representatives and research institutions have formed a consortium to promote and further develop smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0. The consortium is known as the Industrial Value Chain Initiative. In Japan, the contribution of small and medium-sized businesses to the overall economic output is just as important as it is in Austria and Germany. In the years to come, the number of Japanese SME using digital production solutions is expected to rise considerably. This is also why Japan’s interest in MCI’s research findings and expertise has increased manifold.

Professor Oliver Som, who has just returned from his visit to Japan, reports the following: “In Japan, we spoke to a lot of different entrepreneurs, many of whom are family business owners. What impressed me most was their passion for manufacturing and perfection. While we Europeans generally tend to focus on optimizing individual steps in a process, the Japanese persistently aim to perfect the general process flow. In fact, they seek to control the overall complexity of a process.” Japan is currently faced with an emancipation of medium-sized businesses. Until today, they have primarily acted as pure suppliers to the industry. Their former dependency on the national industry has now been supplanted by new and independent opportunities for development. Due to an increasingly international orientation, these medium-sized businesses are also becoming more open to cooperating with European companies, specifically start-ups. By entering into a partnership with a Japanese company, European startups might thus be able to manufacture in Japan.

MCI Rector Andreas Altmann is very pleased with Oliver Som’s appointment: “Over the last few years, the Entrepreneurial School® has developed an internationally acknowledged expertise in the fields of small and medium-sized enterprises, digitalization and Industry 4.0. We are proud to have Oliver Som and his research expertise support us not only in expanding our own network in Japan, but also in making it available to local businesses.”

Japan intends to return the invitation of a visit already in June this year. Leading IVI representatives plan to meet European business representatives and entrepreneurs to explore specific opportunities for cooperation. Interested Austrian entrepreneurs and company founders may contact Professor Oliver Som for more information.