The Transilvania University of Brasov is considered one of the most prestigious universities in Romania. In order to support its competitiveness, the EU-funded project 'Virtual reality in product design and robotics' (VEGA) aimed to upgrade its Product Design and Robotics (PDR) Department. This was achieved by improving the research infrastructure on campus, as well as building powerful partnerships with industry partners and other centres of excellence in Europe. VEGA helped the Department migrate from research based mainly on mechanical engineering and early stages of virtual reality (VR) to a more comprehensive approach in VR applications. In addition to enhancing infrastructure and training personnel, VEGA strengthened the PDR Department's ability to participate in programmes under the European Research Area (ERA). With respect to enhancing research, VEGA combined cutting-edge VR technology with product lifecycle software to enhance manufacturing, covering design, simulation, testing, maintenance and recycling. Four project research groups articulated the science and technology objectives of the project. The first worked on validating functional characteristics of the product, including eco-design and lifecycle impact assessment. The second represented a virtual testing group for integrating hardware and humans using real-time VR. The third group worked on manufacturing and recycling with a focus on virtual assembly, disassembly and validation, while the fourth investigated e-maintenance applications. VEGA successfully established advanced research infrastructure in VR and robotics, upgrading personnel capabilities as well. This will enable the university to embark on joint EU projects and place it on par with other centres of excellence on a global scale.