Strategic Initiatives

AI for product creation, production and the world of work

The success of the past years has given the brand it's OWL a high degree of recognition. it's OWL stands for innovative spirit, technological competence, research expertise and lived technology transfer. Against this background, it is purposeful to use the leverage effect of it's OWL and to bundle the competences of the cluster partners in order to implement groundbreaking strategic initiatives in a targeted manner. These are activities and projects that contribute significantly to the cluster strategy and create increased added value for the transformation to Industry 4.0 - beyond the regional borders of East WestphaliaLippe.

These four strategic initiatives are currently being implemented:


AI Marketplace

Artificial intelligence in product creation is an important key for intelligent products and effective manufacturing. With the AI Marketplace, a unique ecosystem is being created throughout Germany with which companies can tap into the potential in this area. The lynchpin is the AI Marketplace platform of the same name, where providers, users and experts can develop and exchange solutions for AI. The vision is a marketplace that, in addition to an intelligent matchmaking service, also offers a protected space for secure data exchange and data sovereignty. In addition, there is to be an app store for AI solutions as well as a range of comprehensive AI solutions thanks to a modular principle.

The guarantee for success is a project consortium of 20 research institutions, networks and companies, whose nucleus is it's OWL. Other networks ensure a broad impact. Prostep ivip, for example, bundles know-how in product development, and the 'International Data Spaces Association' guarantees secure data spaces. The open source platform 'FIWARE' and the platform operator 'inno-focus' are leaders in their fields.

The AI Marketplace makes an important contribution to making AI solutions available to SMEs, to making production at the OstWestfalenLippe location and throughout Germany competitive and to significantly increasing Germany's global visibility in the field of artificial intelligence.

All facts about the project

Project duration: 01.01.2020 to 31.12.2022
Project volume: € 16.60 million
Project management: Leon Özcan (Heinz Nixdorf Institute University of Paderborn), Tel. +49 5251 606519, Send e-mail

AI Living Lab

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) promises high potential benefits in industrial applications and new business models, but is often subject to many limitations. On the one hand, current AI technologies are often not directly related to the practical problems of industry, and on the other hand, there is no access to usable industrial infrastructures and real production facilities for testing. In addition, sensible regulation and legal framework conditions are very difficult.

So-called reallabs can bridge this discrepancy between research and practice by creating an open and at the same time protected collaboration space for people and technology and allowing innovation processes with as few regulations as possible to explore the potential and impact of AI in close cooperation between science and industry in a real industrial environment.

The AI Real Lab will bring together companies and research institutions in the SmartFactoryOWL to accelerate the development and testing of AI applications in industry. The central question here is how AI technologies can be used profitably and in a human-centred way under the framework conditions of Industry 4.0. As a result, implemented use cases are expected to serve as 'best practice' for use in the operational practice of the partner companies.

All facts about the project

Project duration: 01.01.2020 to 31.12.2022
Project volume: € 2.24 million
Project management: Florian Pethig (Fraunhofer IOSB-INA), Tel. +49 5261 9429045, Send e-mail

Competence Centre Arbeitswelt.Plus

The application of AI-based solutions will fundamentally change the working world of tomorrow: AI systems support work processes, take over work tasks and create new fields of work. The identification of possible applications and the design of AI-based solutions pose challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, such as a lack of qualified specialists or unclear organisational and technological requirements.

The Competence Centre Arbeitswelt.Plus brings together findings from labour research in the context of AI applications and develops customised solutions for SMEs. AI-related research results are tested in applications at larger SMEs (lighthouse projects) and SMEs (transfer projects). This involves, for example, competence management, AI application scenarios, technology acceptance and employee participation. A range of information and qualification measures ensures transfer to the region and beyond.

The project was selected as one of two projects from 47 submissions in a call for proposals by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and started in autumn 2020.

All facts about the project

Project duration: 01.10.2020 to 30.09.2025
Project volume: € 12.7 million
Project management: Jessica Wulf (it's OWL Cluster Management), Tel. +49 5251 2973732, Send e-mail


What will the production of the future supported by artificial intelligence look like? The Datenfabrik.NRW project aims to pioneer and shape the digital transformation in a real production environment.

The Datenfabrik.NRW is a project of the leading-edge cluster it's OWL, in which the companies CLAAS and Schmitz Cargobull are developing a model for a data-driven factory of the future together with NTT Data, Duvenbeck Kraftverkehr and MotionMiners as well as the Fraunhofer Institutes IEM, IML, IOSB-INA and IAIS. Based on the most innovative processes and using artificial intelligence, the factory planning, production, logistics and enterprise architecture of the user companies will be analysed and transformed in pilot areas. In addition, a strategic framework of action for change management and an IT infrastructure are being developed, so that technology and knowledge transfer can be applied on a broad scale beyond the borders of NRW.

The four participating Fraunhofer institutes are contributing their application-oriented research and practical implementation experience to the project and are taking on the AI part of the project. Three points are being addressed: They identify and develop concrete solutions for the use of artificial intelligence in industrial production. They also facilitate the transfer of methods and technologies from science to companies in order to integrate AI-supported solutions into existing processes and company architectures. They also develop holistic change management that supports companies in organising new processes for the use of artificial intelligence. The results will then be directly implemented in the factories of Claas and Schmitz Cargobull and should also be usable by other companies.

The Datenfabrik.NRW project (duration 4 years) has a total volume of 14.5 million euros and is funded with 9.2 million euros by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

All facts about the project

Project duration: 01.10.2021 to 30.09.2025
Project volume: € 14.5 million
Project management: Arthur Wegel (Fraunhofer IEM), Tel. +49 5251 5465151, Send e-mail


Many companies have already recognised the potential of cooperation with start-ups, whereby intensive cooperation only becomes possible with a shareholding. At the same time, successful start-ups have little interest in providing companies with more shares than necessary. There is a lack of a form of cooperation between loose exchange and participation.

The STRATOSFARE initiative aims to close this gap with the so-called venture client model for it's OWL. Established companies become early customers (so-called venture clients) of the start-ups, which apply their technology to products, processes or business models of the established company. The model is only suitable for mature, technology-oriented start-ups that have mastered and can apply a relevant technology.

The initiative acts as a global brand and organises the complete process of the model for it's OWL companies. Start-ups are centrally sought in the most important high-tech hotspots worldwide and presented to the it's OWL companies. A STRATOSFARE software platform is used for start-up scouting and supports the further cooperation process. The initiative is fully financed by the companies - participation of further companies is still possible. A parallel research project is being planned.

All facts about the project

Project duration: expected start July 2021
Project volume: no public funding
Project management: Dr.-Ing. Martin Rabe (it's OWL Clustermanagement), Tel. +49 5251 5465112, Send e-mail; Daniel Kinder (Miele & Cie. KG), Send e-mail

Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Ruhr-OWL

The digital transformation is changing products and business models, production processes, working conditions and the requirement profiles of employees in companies. This change poses great challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular to secure their competitiveness. The Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Ruhr-OWL offers demand-oriented support. The focus is on digital strategy, platform economy, intelligent systems and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

In events, demonstration centres and trend radars, companies can inform themselves about new technologies and their areas of application. Self-learning offers via a learning platform as well as modular trainings provide employees with the opportunity to qualify for new technologies. In addition, SMEs are supported in developing digital strategies and concepts for the use of digitisation solutions. They can introduce applications and new technologies in transfer projects and learn from other companies in industry circles and mentoring formats. The Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Ruhr-OWL takes the successful cooperation with the Ruhr region, which was initiated in 2015 as part of 'Digital in NRW', to a new level.

All facts about the project

Project duration: 01.07.2021 to 30.06.2024
Project volume: € 6 million
Project management:
Overall project management: Dipl.-Ing. Josef Kamphues (Fraunhofer IML), Tel. +49 231 9743146, Send e-mail
Network manager OWL: Robert Kröger (OstWestfalenLippe GmbH), Tel. +49 521 96733296, Send e-mail


How should digital continuing education programmes be structured didactically? How can we assess their quality and help employees find the right offers? And how will the business models of continuing education providers change? Answers to these questions will be developed in the project Weiterbildung 4.OWL, which OstWestfalenLippe GmbH, the University of Paderborn, the Fraunhofer Institute for Design Technology Mechatronics, the platform provider Magh und Boppert GmbH, the industrial company Phoenix Contact and the management consultancy Unity AG will implement over the next three years.

Digitisation offers many opportunities for continuing vocational education and training, but at the same time poses great challenges for regional providers and users of corresponding offers. The focus is on digital continuing education platforms, which on the one hand hold great potential for improving the quality of offers and the interaction between the actors in an economic and educational region like OWL, but on the other hand companies and learners are confronted with an unmanageable variety of digital offers. Further education institutions must digitalise their offers and use platforms in order to remain customer-oriented and competitive. In the project 'Further Education 4.OWL - Regional. Digital. Networked' project, the six partners are developing didactic, technological and economic solutions to meet the challenges of digitalisation and to tap its potential for the economic and educational region of East Westphalia-Lippe.

The project's main thrusts are the user- and quality-oriented design of digital learning and the competence development of employees, as well as the technical networking and economic design of the continuing education ecosystem.

All facts about the project
Project duration: 06.09.2021 to 31.08.2024
Project volume: € 1.9 million
Project management: Bastian Bredenkötter (OstWestfalenLippe GmbH),Tel. +49 521 96733-295, Send e-mail