ABN Cleanroom Technology receives support for Artificial Cleanroom Intelligence

The $585,000 innovation support has been related specifically to the development of a SmartBox to apply ACI in both existing and new cleanroom facilities

ABN Cleanroom Technology has received €500,000 ($585,000) innovation support for Artificial Cleanroom Intelligence.

ABN Cleanroom Technology specialises in designing, constructing, validating and maintaining cleanrooms for the pharmaceutical and food processing sectors, as well as for manufacturers active in microelectronics, automotive, biotechnology and operation theatres. By integrating these core activities into one company, they hold a unique position in the cleanroom market with projects that are entirely modular and pre-engineered.

The innovation support that has been granted by VLAIO now allows them to boost their international expansion by integrating Artificial Cleanroom Intelligence (ACI).

Collecting and analysing machine data is at the basis of any application within artificial intelligence

Since 2014, the ABN Group has focused on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) by founding Smartlog. "We quickly found that we could add tremendous value to our customers if we transformed our data-blowing cleanroom installations into intelligent future thinking machines," said CEO and founder Jo Nelissen. "In critical environments such as cleanrooms, the reliability of production processes is crucial. It is in this field of expertise that artificial cleanroom intelligence will play a dominant role in the near future. AI driven analyses -higher uptime, reduced operating and maintenance costs- will become a game changer in the field of cleanroom technology."

The innovation support granted to ABN Cleanroom Technology relates specifically to the development of a SmartBox to apply ACI in both existing and new cleanroom facilities. Machine Learning is a complex science that requires a lot of disciplinary knowledge from a team of data scientists. Collecting and analysing machine data is at the basis of any application within artificial intelligence.

"Without these data, it is not even possible to obtain valuable insights. They are of vital importance for companies to make informed business decisions faster than ever before. The growth we are currently experiencing is strongly related to the fact that our cleanrooms are already 4.0 ready," explained Nelissen.

Marc Sevenants, business consultant at VLAIO, has provided great guidance on the content of this case, where he has constantly acted as a reflection board. "Thanks to his input, the preparation and handling of this project went very smoothly," Nelissen confirmed. "Marc succeeds successfully in quickly grasping our deep technological knowledge of cleanrooms and translating it into the right business case. I just can't understand why there are no more SMEs that benefit from this support."

The growth we are currently experiencing is strongly related to the fact that our cleanrooms are already 4.0 ready

"But digital innovation within the ABN Group always follows an holistic approach, one where the determining factor is constantly our company culture," CEO Rosaline Wijnen picks in. "Our ABN quote Innovation is everybody's job is displayed on our company wall for a reason. The world is rapidly transforming into digitalisation, but people are always at the heart of our vision."

Up to 87% approval

The chances of success of companies submitting a project for innovation support are higher than most SMEs expect: "Companies submitting a case for innovation support at Vlaams Agentschap Ondernemen (Flemish Enterprise Agency) have a fairly good chance of their case being approved," said Johan Schildermans, manager of advocacy and knowledge at VKW Limburg.

"In VLAIO's annual report, we read that 159 research projects and 498 development projects were submitted in 2019. Of the applications processed, 86% and 87% respectively were approved," Schildermans explained. "These are great success rates. A research subsidy file helps you to create a good and well thought-out project plan. Only promising projects receive a subsidy, but preparing the subsidy case helps you to get a promising project. It should of course be considered that prior to submission, an informal 'selection' takes place by VLAIO consultants and/or subsidy/innovation consultants who supervise projects. But for those who have a well and thoroughly worked out project, it is definitely worth applying for innovation subsidies. This certainly also applies for SMEs, because today they account for more than half of the 200 million innovation support that has been granted. At VKW Limburg, we are happy to look at the possibilities with you."

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