Annual Meeting 2018


14th INSME Annual Meeting
Industry 4.0 for SMEs’ Business Growth




The fourth industrial revolution – characterized by smart and connected machines and systems, ubiquitous and mobile internet, big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, new materials, etc. – will have a monumental impact on the global economy, affecting GDP, investment, consumption, employment, trade, inflation, etc. (Schwab, 2016). Europe is slowly recovering, but the way-out from the crisis is not completely clear, to ensure that the recovery takes hold and to maintain the EU’s growth potential in the long-run a new stream of innovations is required. Here, SMEs are key players, new and small firms are the driving force behind the sort of radical innovations that are important for economic growth, since they can work outside of dominant paradigms, exploit commercial opportunities and accelerate technological change (COM, 2008; OECD, 2010). SMEs also contribute to value creation by adopting innovation generated elsewhere and by supplying new or niche products which respond to diverse customer needs.
ICT and digitalization will be the back-bone of economic growth. Digitalisation facilitates the emergence of “born global” companies (Eurofound, 2012) and provides new opportunities for SMEs to enhance their competitiveness in local and global markets, through product or service innovation and improved production processes (OECD, 2017).


The INSME Annual Conference aims:

  • To understand SMEs’ key challenges in taking the most from Industry 4.0
  • To characterize the business ecosystem needed to support the technological change
  • To identify opportunities coming from emerging technologies and markets

Session I – Boosting the Innovation Ecosystem for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is radically changing our economies, jobs and the societies we live in. It is going to be disruptive and will bring challenges as well as opportunities that have to find a fertile ground for incubation and further development.
The engagement and contribution of all the stakeholders is the key to adopt measures and promote solutions for the creation of an innovation ecosystem where Industry 4.0 could inject new nourishment to competitiveness and stimulate growth on a global scale.
This session will analyse the elements that could contribute to the creation of a renewed Innovation Ecosystem enabling the full exploitation of the opportunities brought by Industry 4.0.

Panelists will discuss the following issues:

  • Which policies could be proposed by policy makers to face the challenges posed by Industry 4.0?
  • How to encourage collaboration mechanisms and synergies among multiple actors in the era of Industry 4.0?
  • How can a successful university-industry-government collaboration maximize the impact of Industry 4.0?

Session II – The international outlook of Industry 4.0: born global companies, reshoring, sustainable manufacturing, etc.

Technological breakthroughs are changing the characteristics of globalization. Industry 4.0 is making the connections among people, machines, components and logistic systems as easy as never before. On the one hand, these networked production processes are contributing to a more efficient and flexible manufacturing system, on the other they are influencing the way in which companies compete.
While a significant physical presence around the globe is not necessary anymore, the possibility to leverage resources easily worldwide is leading the born global phenomenon beyond technology companies, normally more prone to this effect.
Businesses acting in diverse fields are now equally exposed to international competition as soon as they enter the market. Furthermore, the adoption of new technologies into the manufacturing and production processes remains fundamental to stay one step ahead of the competition, enhance performance and achieve sustainability.

Panelists will discuss the following issues:

  • How is Industry 4.0 influencing companies’ behavior worldwide?
  • What are the best practices to be highlighted with regard to the introduction of new technologies into the production processes of companies?
  • Which policies and/or supporting measures could be adopted to address sustainability?

Session III – How emerging technologies and new business models are reshaping organizations, industries and markets

The digital wave is transforming the competitive scene and to keep competitors at bay, companies will have to be increasingly concentrated on the evolving market’s needs and oriented towards value creation for end-users. As a consequence, disruptive business models are emerging and are devoted to generate value by increasing customers’ involvement, interaction and access to data.
Digital platform solutions or data-driven services are enabling companies to refine products and adapt them to consumers’ specifications. In this environment, the implications in terms of digital transformation, its management and design of strategic alliances for SMEs are important.

Panelists will discuss the following issues:

  • What are the key aspects of the emerging business models and the essential elements for their success?
  • Which are the talents needed inside a company to start the digital re-structuring of the organization?
  • How to handle the establishment of strategic alliances for the creation of effective business models?

Session IV – The role of open innovation as a driver for Industry 4.0

According to the most recognized definition Open Innovation is the “use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.” (Henry Chesbrough, Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm, 2006). Innovation is implemented through a new idea of connectivity among providers and customers produced by Industry 4.0 as well as productive processes reshaped by the adoption of new digital solutions.
While Open Innovation has a positive impact on business performances, it also entails a series of challenges, mostly related to intellectual property. It is indeed crucial to deal with the protection of data and intellectual property that are threatened by this flow of information by taking into account the need to draw regulations that could bring benefits to all parties involved.
The session will analyse challenges and opportunities of the Open Innovation approach.

Panelists will discuss the following issues:

  • Dos and don’ts in the adoption of the Open Innovation approach from SMEs perspective
  • How could the threatens to IP protection be successfully overcome without impeding to fully access open innovation?
  • In which fields are companies called to intervene to embrace Industry 4.0 transformation and remain competitive on a global scale?