In the technologie network „it’s OWL”, companies and research institutions jointly develop solutions for tomorrow’s production.


In the industry cluster „it’s OWL – Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe.Germany”, more than 200 companies, research institutes and organisations develop solutions for intelligent products and production processes. With support of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, projects worth EUR 100 million are being implemented between 2018 and 2023. Named as one of the Leading-Edge Clusters by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it’s OWL is considered to be one of the largest Industrie 4.0 initiatives for SMEs. Over the last seven years, it’s OWL has established itself as a driver for competitiveness of the manufacturing industry in OstWestfalenLippe.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

IT’S OWL: Our strategic focus is the development of solutions for intelligent products and production processes: Intelligent Technical Systems. This involves the following topics and issues in particular:

Innovation platform for new technologies

Machine intelligence, the design of socio-technical systems, digital infrastructure, safety & security, value networks and advanced systems engineering. These technology fields play a central role for the future competitiveness of industrial SMEs. In innovation projects, companies and research institutions jointly develop new basic technologies, solution patterns and software libraries in these technology fields. In addition, there are strategic initiatives in the field of AI, which develop important topic areas in large consortia and have a great leverage effect for the cluster companies. One example is the AI Marketplace, a platform for AI in product creation. The results and solutions will be made available on an innovation platform starting in 2021.

Technology transfer, entrepreneurship and work 4.0

A key focus is technology transfer to small and medium-sized enterprises. In transfer projects, small and medium-sized enterprises can work together with a research institution to solve specific challenges of the digital transformation.

In addition, the aim is to identify new business ideas in the field of smart manufacturing and develop them into promising business concepts. Start-ups are promoted and their cooperation with companies intensified. The OWL Technology Fund provides access to growth capital.

Furthermore, practical solutions for the working world of the future are developed with the involvement of employees in order to optimize working conditions and qualify employees. Topics include learning platforms, cognitive assistance systems, participative technology design, and agile leadership and personnel development. The lighthouse of these activities is the Competence Center AI for the Working World of Industrial SMEs.

E.E: What’s the news for 2021 about new products?

IT’S OWL: A new project format is available in the Leading-Edge Cluster – the “it’s OWL Transfer Pilots”. These are R&D cooperation projects between medium-sized companies and universities or research institutes in the OWL region. These support companies in digitally transforming their products, processes, services or business models in order to maintain competitiveness and exploit existing growth potential. The foundation for the projects is the innovation platform of the Leading-Edge Cluster, in which application-oriented research results of regional, interdisciplinary cutting-edge research are bundled.

Furthermore, before the backdrop of climate change and environmental crises, it’s OWL is expanding its strategic focus and project portfolio towards the topic of sustainability. “Artificial intelligence and sustainability are important future topics for SMEs. We need to significantly expand the offerings in OWL to support small and medium-sized enterprises in developing these fields. To this end, we will join forces in OWL and develop new approaches,” summarizes Dr. Arno Kühn, member of the management board of it’s OWL Clustermanagement GmbH.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

IT’S OWL: The it’s OWL cluster offers its members a wide range of services to support them on their way to digitization:

Consulting and support

The cluster management project office offers project coordinators support with applying for and carrying out projects. It is the central point of contact for projects, is in constant communication with all coordinators and provides a project handbook containing templates, tips and experiences.

Technology transfer

Successful technology transfer to SMEs is it’s OWL’s unique selling point. In transfer projects with a university or research institute, SMEs can utilise expertise, methods and technologies from it’s OWL to tackle the specific challenges of digital transformation.

Qualification and training

Big data, networking of machines, IT security, human-machine interaction, holistic product development and new business models: A practical training programme qualifies employees for new technologies in the context of Industrie 4.0.


We offer our members tailored support for their internationalisation activities – be it through delegation visits or project consultancy. It’s OWL itself has long been engaged in several European and international project, e.g. with the University of British Columbia, Canada or the Malaysian universities Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) and University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM).

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

IT’S OWL: Recognizing technology trends at an early stage and exploiting added value for the competitiveness of your own company: This is particularly difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises and involves a great deal of effort. “With the it’s OWL Technology.Trend.Radar, we provide SMEs with an insight into the potential, possible applications and effects of the most important technology trends for industry.  In this way, companies can prepare for changes now and start concrete activities. In doing so, they can use basic technologies and applications that we have developed in the projects of the Leading-Edge Cluster it’s OWL,” says Prof. Dr. Roman Dumitrescu, Managing Director of it’s OWL Clustermanagement GmbH, about the added value of the Technology.Trend.Radar for companies.

The brochure summarizes 27 short-, medium- and long-term trends in the most important technology fields and is the result of a technology study that the cluster management has conducted in recent months in cooperation with experts from the universities, research institutions and companies of the leading-edge cluster.

The Technology.Trend.Radar is divided into the six technology fields that are being developed for SMEs in the it’s OWL technology network: Machine Intelligence, Sociotechnical Systems, Digital Infrastructure, Safety & Security, Value Networks and Advanced Systems Engineering. In total, it’s OWL has included 27 technology trends in its radar and evaluated them with a view to their significance for the Leading-Edge Cluster:

Short-term technology trends are already being piloted in companies today and are the subject of ongoing innovation and transfer projects. These trends are already highly significant for industrial application. Medium-term technology trends are still distant from industrial application, but should be taken up successively in innovation projects. The importance for industrial application is increasing. Long-term technology trends are currently more the subject of basic research. The significance for industrial application is still unclear in some cases.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?

IT’S OWL: The past few months have shown us that economic stability is not a foregone conclusion. Innovativeness and a strong network are at the core of success. Both can be found in the Leading-Edge Cluster it’s OWL, which is why we are also looking to the future with confidence for 2021.