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Boosting generation and diffusion of advanced technologies in SMEs based on a supply chain model (CSA)

All the EU industrial ecosystems should adapt to the post-crisis economic environment, with new consumer and industrial demand, changed competition and new resilience and sustainability objectives. This adaptation will be particularly challenging for SMEs. The economic recovery in Europe, after the COVID-19 pandemic, will only materialise if SMEs are properly supported by adequate actions and policy measures to adapt to changed value-chains and demand.

It is essential for companies to map their supply chain in order to identify critical dependencies and weaknesses in specific industrial ecosystem. There is a need for developing methodology or model that can assist companies in detecting and anticipating disruptions in their supply chains. Such a model would contribute to reduce strategic dependencies on critical products, services or technologies.

Through the adoption of advanced technologies, the manufacturing industry will achieve operational independence. This operational improvement will be of paramount importance in ensuring performance during the next normal. In fact, COVID-19's impact on trade caught many firms unprepared, with negative consequences on supply chains. This event drastically changed the focus from a low-cost country sourcing mantra to a more resilient and simpler network. Implementing new technologies is turning supply chain processes and activities towards less uncertainty and complexity. Technologies like robotics, AI, IoT, blockchain, and edge computing are the key drivers to achieve these goals, together with efficiency benefits and zero-touch production (ZTP) processes, the latter being pushed significantly during the pandemic and becoming a strategic asset for the future of enterprises.

Efficiency is also fostered by AR/VR solutions, which enable experts to provide remote support to on-field operators and provide step-by-step instructions. B2B digital platforms are also a key trend in the manufacturing industry, pushing for a more collaborative relation between colleagues, peers, and employees. This opportunity is deeply connected to Big Data/analytics technology, which allows the user to track and analyse processes, improve operational visibility, and understand improvements and trends. 3D printing has shown its huge potential in creating and modifying manufacturing and healthcare products during the pandemic and is likely to be a key trend in the coming years. Product innovation is also driving the adoption of advanced materials, micro- and nanoelectronics, nanotechnologies, and photonics with the aims of improving products and reducing costs.