The United Nations have set themselves 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, which they aim to achieve by 2030. Flanders Make focuses on 5 of these goals through research and technological innovation.
The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are the blueprint for a better world. They map the global challenges that we face today and outline a plan of action to liberate humanity from poverty and bring the planet back on track. Technological research and innovation contribute to the realisation of this plan of action. As such, Flanders Make helps to make a difference in a very concrete way.
Technology plays an important part in creating decent work. For instance: in businesses manufacturing customised products, the use of augmented reality can support operators in executing complex assembly tasks. This will increase their abilities, improve productivity and ensure customer satisfaction as digital instructions through AR will reduce the risk of errors. We help companies to develop the right set of instructions, select the most suitable information carrier and implement the technology.
However, the acceptance of this technology by operators is crucial in this process. This can be done by involving them early in the implementation phase. Trying out the technology in a realistic environment increases the perceived usefulness and ease of use. For this, we create living labs that can even bring the technology to the workplace.
With our high-tech test and validation infrastructure, we not only perform research into new technologies and applications. Companies can also use this infrastructure to perform (confidential) tests with the support of our Flanders Make engineers. The latter can immediately help to interpret data and may suggest actions for improvement. A major advantage of this is that companies do not need to invest in expensive test equipment.
These contacts with the industry are beneficial to both companies and Flanders Make. In a circular innovation ecosystem, research topics are identified on the basis of market trends and the actual business needs. In turn, this research is – in a subsequent phase – valorised in the industry. High-tech infrastructure makes this innovation possible.
Sustainable agriculture is essential to feed the world. We work on smart agricultural methods and machines. A good example is the use of drones that automatically detect infections in crops. By using hyperspectral cameras, this can be already done in a very early stage of the infection. As a result, crop losses can be minimised and the preventive use of pesticides can be reduced. Another example is the improved control of harvesting machines. When the reel is less subject to vibrations and neatly follows the contours of the soil, more crops can be harvested.
Using technology has a positive effect on the climate. Electric and hybrid drives for trucks are a good example of this. They meet the distinct demand for zero emission and silent trucks. We’ve built a battery pack and have integrated it into a truck.
Machine learning is another example. When using this artificial intelligence technology in heating systems for family dwellings, we can save energy. High-tech ventilation systems recycle heated air for heating and hot water and are geared to the actual energy consumption. Result: a pleasant indoor climate at home without any waste of energy.
We work together with other research institutions, companies and public authorities. Not only in Belgium, but also across borders. Smart FactoryEU is such European partnership aiming to boost new technology for connected, smart companies.
One of the biggest challenges for the industry remains finding digitally talented people to start working with these new technologies. We support them in their search by encouraging talented youngsters to choose for A STEM study. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. By introducing children into technology and science at a young age and in a very inclusive way, we encourage them to choose for any of these educational paths. We do this in cooperation with the Flemish FabLabs.
The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations aim to improve the lives of all people. The creation of wealth requires a competitive industry. In countries with high labour costs, such as Belgium, companies must therefore invest in new technologies. By equipping production environments with, for instance, collaborative robots, high-performance sensors and augmented reality applications, companies are able to create high-quality personalised products at the cost of mass production. These enabling technologies enhance the capabilities of operators so that their work remains feasible and meaningful.
However, technological progress is going at such high pace that companies have trouble keeping up. We therefore need strong partnerships in an open, innovation-driven ecosystem. By bringing all partners together, we accelerate innovation to the benefit of society and the planet. Clean technologies are on the basis of positive climate changes, in every perspective. Flanders Make is glad to be able to contribute to this.
Dirk Torfs - CEO