For more than ten years already, the Swedish automotive industry has been collaborating with research and development in production clusters that are now being coordinated by RISE. Hundreds of innovative projects have been the result and over time, the focus has increasingly been on sustainability.
The clusters are focused on helping Swedish industry contribute to the UN climate goals through fossil-free production, skill development, good work environments and sustainable material supply. They came about through an initiative of companies in the automotive industry that wanted to coordinated their R&D efforts. The purpose was twofold, namely, for the companies to obtain a better overview of their own R&D efforts and to collaborate with other companies and academia in order to ensure that production would be innovative, efficient and competitive.
– “Initially, the focus was on productivity and the work environment. In recent years however, climate has been the most important focus issue. Many of the companies involved are working with SBTi to achieve the climate targets and have set sustainability as one of their most important goals, which has influenced the direction of the projects,” says Boel Wadman, Research and Business Developer at RISE and overall coordinator for the production clusters.
There are many advantages associated with the clusters. To begin with, the clusters offer an effective way of selecting the best project initiatives in a particular area so that companies use their resources in the right way. They also help with business intelligence, identifying funding sources and serving as a forum for participants to openly talk about the challenges and opportunities that their company is facing.
– “For us, the greatest benefit has been finding joint projects that we can participate in. Because Swedish research institutes and universities participate in the clusters and know the companies so well and how we operate, we receive excellent help from them to find good projects,” says Lena Moestam, Senior Research and Technology Developer at Volvo Group Trucks Operations. She is also a member of the executive management team for the production clusters and a member of the Production Management cluster.
Essentially all of the projects deal with sustainability and have something to add there. All of them are helping to make production more sustainable
Each of the eight production clusters has a specific focus area and around 10-20 members representing industry, academia and RISE. In 2020, RISE took over responsibility for coordinating the clusters and this is also when companies from other sectors besides the automotive industry started participating in the clusters.
– “Several of the clusters are welcoming new members, so I encourage you to contact me if your organization is interested joining and would like to learn more,” says Boel Wadman.
Cluster participants meet on a regular basis and arrange workshops in order to share research results.
– “In addition to the annual conference for all cluster members, which is held in Katrineholm, the workshops provide a great forum for exchanging overall ideas,” says Lena Moestam.
Each cluster currently has a dozen or so projects underway, bringing the total to around a hundred. Examples of projects with a sustainability focus are LAPLAS and APPLY, which are looking into ways of reducing the amount of chemicals when painting. SCARCE is another. The focus there is on smart value chains for managing material flows, roles and circularity.
– “Essentially all of the projects deal with sustainability and have something to add there. All of them are helping to make production more sustainable,” says Boel Wadman.
The production clusters focus on solving challenges in their specific areas, along with tackling some of the broader challenges like resilience. The eight clusters are: