Smart Industry

Make the best possible use of digitisation. Use a smart approach to link up products, machines, and people. Use the very latest production technologies. That is Smart Industry. This approach is the only way in which Dutch manufacturing industry will be able to maintain its global pioneering role. Based on this firm conviction, TNO is more than happy to be of assistance.

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If Dutch manufacturing industry is to remain a key global player, then Smart Industry is essential. The only way to safeguard that position is to transition into the most flexible – and digitally best interconnected – production network in Europe. This will bring the added benefit of greater competitiveness, scope for employment, and increased production sovereignty.

Smart manufacturing industry for substantial savings

The objective of TNO’s Smart Industry programme is seamlessly aligned with the national Smart Industry agenda. For instance, by 2025 the Netherlands will have the most flexible – and digitally best interconnected – production network in Europe. A production network like that will be able to handle the design, production, and delivery of smart products and the associated services. This will enable the design and manufacturing companies involved to achieve substantial savings in terms of energy and materials. Both during production and throughout the service life of the product. In addition, employees will constantly be able to keep their digital knowledge and skills up to date.

Use Smart Industry to accelerate the digitisation of manufacturing industry

Digitising and robotising factories is the first essential step towards automation. It is also an essential step towards making manufacturing companies’ own production lines more flexible. It will also ensure that value chains will be able to digitise, while enabling the companies within these chains to connect with each other. If they are to facilitate the digitisation of Dutch manufacturing industry, the parties involved must jointly expedite technological developments in the area of Smart Industry. Only then will these technologies really gain traction within the Dutch business community. This will enable the Netherlands to profit economically, in the area of employment and in terms of its competitive position in the world.

Five propositions for The Netherlands Ltd

The national action agenda defines eight transformations that manufacturing companies in the Netherlands must implement if they are to acquire and retain sufficient earning capacity (see ‘Smart Industry’ figure). TNO is focusing on four of these eight transformations: Flexible Manufacturing, Smart Work, Digital Factory, Connected Factories.


To achieve these four transformations, TNO is submitting five specific propositions to manufacturing companies, their IT suppliers, and government bodies:

The value of these propositions can be verified both independently and in conjunction. For example, Flexible Manufacturing is all about enabling companies to make one-off production possible at the same cost as mass production. Smart Work involves the availability of scarce manpower, and Data Sharing represents solutions that facilitate smart data sharing between companies. Are you wondering how these five propositions could help you to boost your earning capacity.

Support the largest export sector by providing practical advice on improvement

Manufacturing industry is a key sector of the Dutch economy. This industry produces machines and parts worth € 15.8 billion, which is the single largest contribution to the earning capacity of the Netherlands. In addition, exports from this sector are growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, more than those of any other sector. “If you want to protect that massive earning capacity, while continuing to produce and assemble goods in the Netherlands, you will have to find a way to outsmart the competition,” says TNO Business Development manager Sam Helmer. “The Netherlands is a high-wage country, so you’ll have to lead the way in productivity, flexibility, and precision. That will require work processes to be extensively digitised. This, in turn, will require changes in business operations and employee training programmes. We’ve noticed that when companies invest in such changes, they actually generate much greater turnover, profits, and jobs. Which is, of course, great news. However, entrepreneurs who are keen to push ahead with this digitisation process don’t need to transform their entire business operation all at once. TNO provides step-by-step guidance with these change processes, with each successive step making a substantial contribution to productivity, flexibility, and precision. The motto here is ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’ but, equally, don’t be put off by new ideas.”

Top 10 export earnings Dutch production

Source Statistics Netherlands 2020

Orchestrating Innovation: cooperating and innovating in field labs

In addition to finding practical applications for knowledge and expertise, plus transferring them, TNO plays a key part in joint ventures. We safeguard everyone’s interests and build mutual trust, thus ensuring that the costs and benefits are equitably distributed. Operating as an independent party, we manage the process and help to ensure that all those involved make the best possible use of their knowledge and skills: orchestrating innovation.

When it comes to innovation, field labs are the place where everything happens: practical environments in which major corporations, SMEs, and start-ups cooperate with vocational education and training colleges, universities of applied sciences, universities of technology, knowledge institutions, and local authorities. There are now more than forty field labs in the Netherlands, and TNO is involved in many of them. Solutions are jointly conceived, developed, and tested. Plus, the partners involved also learn how to apply those solutions.

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Are you involved in an area of manufacturing industry? As a company, trade association, IT supplier, financial institution, or policymaker, perhaps? And are you keen to boost the earning capacity of Dutch manufacturing industry? Sign up for our proven method of assisting manufacturing companies


Mark Courage MSc MBA

  • Director Smart Industry