Bern University of Applied Sciences is developing a plug & produce solution for SMEs

15.03.2021 Rapidly changing market trends and the demand for personalised goods present the manufacturing industry with huge challenges. Cognitive robot platforms, which can be easily adapted to the requirements of agile manufacturing in future thanks to artificial intelligence, are being developed as part of the EU project ACROBA. The project, involving a total of 17 European partners, is being coordinated by Bern University of Applied Sciences and was successfully launched recently.

Market trends change rapidly, as do the demands made on the manufacturing industry. To remain competitive, production companies must bring their products to market in the shortest space of time possible. This means they continually have to reprogram their production tools and robots, which is extremely time-consuming and cost-intensive, particularly for SMEs.

Automation despite individual requirements

The recently launched EU Horizon 2020 project ACROBA is working on a solution to these challenges. The research project aims to develop and demonstrate cognitive and modularly structured robot platforms controlled by artificial intelligence. Its goal is to ensure they can be easily adapted in future to practically any industrial scenario in agile manufacturing. This will allow the degree of automation in the agile mass production of customer-specific products to be increased, costs reduced, performance enhanced and competitiveness improved.

As easy as plug & play

Dr Norman Baier, Head of the Institute for Intelligent Industrial Systems I3S at Bern University of Applied Sciences, is leading the project consortium made up of 17 partners from nine countries. SMEs in particular will ultimately benefit from the project results. ‘The aim is to enable SMEs to manufacture their goods based on the plug & produce concept in future,’ says Dr Baier. Plug & produce ensures the start-up of a production plant runs as smoothly as plug & play does in USB devices, without the need for highly detailed configurations beforehand. The ACROBA platform will be tested over the course of the project by 12 hackathons and at two ACROBA on-site labs for SMEs in the manufacturing industry. Five production plants of various SMEs will also be upgraded with artificial intelligence and collaborative robotics.

EU project coordination presents opportunities

As well as leading the ACROBA project, Bern University of Applied Sciences is also actively involved in the research activities. ‘Our results will enable companies to easily integrate robot systems into conventional development processes in future and ensure these systems immediately understand instructions from product and assembly development,’ explained Dr Baier. He is looking forward to the next three and a half years of coordination and research activities. ACROBA will provide Bern University of Applied Sciences with new insights into international research and open up new cooperation opportunities. ‘This will allow us to support the Swiss economy more effectively in future with assembly processes in agile manufacturing,’ indicated Dr Baier.

This project is financed under grant agreement no. 101017284 with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation.


Euresearch Office BFH

The researchers from the Institute for Intelligent Industrial Systems (I3S) received support from the Euresearch Office at Bern University of Applied Sciences with their application to the EU Horizon 2020 research programme. The advisory office provides information and practical guidance on international programmes and support with transnational partnerships.

The Euresearch Office BFH



ACROBA stands for AI-driven Cognitive Robotic Platform for Agile Production Environments. The project aims to develop and demonstrate a new, modular concept for cognitive robot platforms. ACROBA’s innovative industrial platform will take advantage of the benefits of artificial intelligence and cognitive modules. This will enable customisation requirements to be met and the mass production of customer-specific products by advanced robot systems – which can themselves be adapted to various production requirements – to be improved. The ACROBA platform will provide a cost-efficient solution for broad application in industry.

The ACROBA consortium is being led by Bern University of Applied Sciences and consists of 17 European partners from nine EU countries:

  • Bern University of Applied Sciences (CH)
  • BIBA – Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik GmbH (DE)
  • Mr. NeC B.V. (NL)
  • Fundación AITIIP (ES)
  • Universidad De La Iglesia De Deusto Entidad Religiosa (ES)
  • Pôle EMC2 (FR)
  • CABKA Group GmbH (DE)
  • IKOR Sistemas Electrónicos S.L. (ES)
  • SIGMA Clermont (FR)
  • Irish Manufacturing Research Company Limited By Guarantee (IE)
  • Nuevas Técnicas De Automatización Industrial S.L. (ES)
  • SteriPack Ireland Ltd (IE)
  • STAM Srl (IT)
  • Icpe SA (RO)
  • Fundación Centro De Tecnologías De Interacción Visual Y Comunicaciones Vicomtech (ES)
  • Moses Productos S.L. (ES)
  • Prizztech Ltd (FI)
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