COTEMACO - Increased NWE COmpetitiveness Through Efficient MAn & Machine COllaboration

Project Summary

Manufacturing SMEs in NWE are struggling to maintain their cost competitiveness against large-scale production facilities in low-wage economies. This sector specifically suffers workforce scarcity because employees in manufacturing SMEs are often subjected to physically repetitive tasks. The tasks are often under-stimulating, as well as contributing to adverse health effects. The next step to increase competitiveness will only be achieved by offering the high levels of production flexibility, made possible by collaborative robotics.

With the potential to have as much, if not more, impact on the manufacturing sector as 3D printing or IoT, cobots focus on enhancing the cooperation between human workers and industrial robots, unlike previous automation waves. Using cobots in manufacturing processes not only allows for a more efficient use of employees, it reduces health issues and raises motivation.

Via an SME support programme, COTEMACO engages with 60 SMEs from the automotive and food sectors through field labs. These regional field labs in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Germany are showcasing key production steps in the automotive and food industries, in order to tackle current low sectorial awareness and knowledge gaps. The field labs will exchange knowledge on different manufacturing tasks, such as handling and (un)loading.

Cobots are brought closer to end-user SMEs through testing and interacting in the relevant industry conditions by SME management and other stakeholders in regional manufacturing economies. Working with 50 of the SMEs, COTEMACO is also working towards implementing collaborative robotics through international cooperation. This will maintain greater than €500M of regional turnover and over 1250 NWE manufacturing jobs and generate over €50M and more than 125 new jobs. Replication across other sectors and regions will ensure long-term financing sustainability of field labs (private contracts), exploring the potential of additional funding to be paired with regional sources.

Project Partners

  • The University of Lincoln

    1 Brayford Way
    LN6 7TS
    United Kingdom

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  • Voka - Limburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    51 Governor Roppesingel

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  • Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership

    36 Orchard Street
    LN1 1YZ
    United Kingdom

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  • HighTechNL

    68 HighTechCampus

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  • Food Tech Brainport

    3 Scheepsboulevard
    5705 KZ

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  • ZeMA - Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology GmbH

    Geb. 9 Gewerbepark

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  • BEST - Advice Center for socially acceptable Technology-Designing

    6 Fritz-Dobisch-Straße

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  • Flanders Make

    133 Oude Diestersebaan

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Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
Flanders Make 133 Oude Diestersebaan
Name Contact Name Email Country
The University of Lincoln Janet Bellamy United Kingdom
Voka - Limburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sebastien Conings Belgium
Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership Simon Murphy United Kingdom
HighTechNL Ben van der Zon Netherlands
Food Tech Brainport Dirk van Ledden Netherlands
ZeMA - Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology GmbH Fabien Adler Germany
BEST - Advice Center for socially acceptable Technology-Designing Oliver Müller Germany


COTEMACO SME support success: Over 112 jobs maintained and 35 new jobs created

Posted on

Last month, Flanders Make welcomed companies, researchers, and robotics and digitalisation enthusiasts to their Leuven facilities for COTEMACO’s last-ever project conference. ‘Future-proofing European SMEs through Digitalization & Robotization’ marked the culmination of the 4-year long Interreg North-West Europe project which has supported 65 companies from the automotive, agro-food, and flexible assembly sectors in future-proofing their business through the exploration of cobots (collaborative robots) and other digital solutions. Read More

Two Belgian companies to integrate cobots after completing COTEMACO SME Support Programme

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Food Processing SME Mariën Bakkerij Producten N.V. and manufacturer of innovative health, sport and fitness products Aminolabs, are well on their way to cobot adoption, having made it through the COTEMACO SME Support programme. The SME support programme guides manufacturing SMEs through the process of adopting collaborative robotic and shop floor digitalisation technologies, from the exploration of technological opportunities to the detailed definition of a business plan. Read More


WEBINAR: The Future of Food and Drink Manufacturing

, Online

The UK Food & Drink Manufacturing sector is entering a new phase, where sustainability, automation, robotics, and innovation is uppermost in processors and consumers plans. Developing new and innovative ways of production will be key. This webinar from the National Centre for Food Manufacturing (University of Lincoln) will provide insight to the technologies that are accessible to industry, through working with leading expertise, developing talent and the ability to access to funding to assist in the growth and development, for Smarter Food Factories in the Future.
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, Online

Our working environment will look completely different in the future. Smart machines and people will work together, with robots and cobots automating parts of the production process. Digitization of work instructions that better support operators in complex tasks or training via virtual or augmented reality will also find their way to the workplace. Flanders Make is hosting a webinar on Industry 4.0, to dig deeper into these technological revolutions.
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WEBINAR: The Future of Manufacturing in Europe

, Online - Zoom Webinar

This free webinar from innovation consultancy Bax & Company and EU innovation project COTEMACO will take a look at the current state of automation, digitalisation of manufacturing across Europe, and future consequences on jobs. We will explore both local and EU-wide support programmes which allow manufacturing SMEs to get hands-on experience with collaborative robots (cobots) and other digitalisation technologies, so they can fully embrace automation.
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Webinar - Dutch Soft Robotics; Gripping of natural objects

, Online

The four technical universities in the Netherlands - Delft University of Technology (TUD), University of Twente (UT), Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Wageningen University (WUR) - will present the trends and challenges of using flexible grippers. Soft gripping and bioinspired manipulation are ideal robotic solutions for pick-and-place applications in the food industry, but also in manufacturing and packaging...
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Webinar - How to automate the creation of digital work instructions


There is a trend from mass production to mass customisation. Where in the past operators often had repetitive tasks, we now produce more often in small series with products adapted to the needs of the customer. The work for the operator has become more complex, so the operators need more support. Digital work instructions that can be quickly created, adapted and easily consulted are necessary. On May 19th Flanders Make will host a free webinar to delve into the creation of digital work instructions for manufacturing employees, and how the process can be automated.
Read More


Get in touch with a partner in your region and discover available opportunities for your SME.




Contact person  

Contact data 


Food Tech Brainport 

Dirk van Ledden

Tel.: +31 6 5358 5395 


High Tech NL 


van der Zon 

Tel.: +31 88 555 43 33 



Flanders Make 

Sonia Vanderlinden

Tel.: +32 11 790 545


Voka – Kamer van Koophandel Limburg 

Sebastien Coning

Tel.: +32 496 86 46 94 



DE: Saarland, Rheinland-Pfalz 

FR: Grand Est, 



ZeMA – Zentrum für Mechatronik und Automatisierungstechnik gGmbH 


Fabian Adler

Tel.: +49 6 81 85 787 531 


BEST - Advice Center for socially acceptable Technology-Designing



Oliver Müller

Tel.:  + 49 (0) 681/ 40 05 255



Greater Lincolnshire (UK) 

University of Lincoln 

Janet Bellamy

Tel.: +44 1406 493003 


Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Business Lincolnshire) 

Simon Murphy 

+44 1522 550 603 



Since 2018, COTEMACO’s SME support programme has guided manufacturing SMEs through the process of adopting collaborative robotic and shop floor digitalisation technologies, from the exploration of technological opportunities to the detailed definition of a business plan.

We are no longer accepting applications to the programme, but you can check out our SME success stories by clicking here!


Food processing SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and automotive manufacturing SMEs dealing with flexible assembly and/or agile manufacturing in one of the COTEMACO regions can apply for the COTEMACO support programme. 

The programme guides SMEs through the process of adopting collaborative robotic (cobot) and shop floor digitalisation technologies, from the exploration of technological opportunities to the detailed definition of a business plan.  

The programme consists of 2 phases, offering participants the following: 

  1. Incubation phase: Initial training and coaching
    - Introduction to technologies: Participants will learn about the technologies in general, about the State of the Art in Europe and what they potentially offer to their business.
    - With the support of a local COTEMACO partner, participants identify a potential business case for the adoption of these technologies in their business.
  1. Adoption phase: From potential adoption case to a solid business plan
    Participants will receive guided support from a potential adoption case to a well-defined business plan.


Background and structure of the support programme 

The implementation of new digital and robot technologies requires assessing the feasibility and carefully planning the adoption process, which proves very hard for SMEs. Combining structured education and tailored business advice, the COTEMACO programme enables SMEs to explore the latest technology solutions for their business and thus to be up-to-date with the latest production possibilities while minimising risks. 

COTEMACO is a European project that connects 8 partners in 4 countries across Europe. In every COTEMACO region, technology and business organisations join forces to help SMEs to accelerate the adoption of novel technologies in the fields of Collaborative Robotics and Shop Floor Digitalisation. The partners will guide and coach SMEs through awareness, incubation and adoption processes which should lead to the implementation of new technologies on the shop floor. 

COTEMACO is cofunded by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG VB North West Europe programme. 


Technologies supported by the COTEMACO programme 

COTEMACO welcomes applications from SMEs that are interested in implementing technologies that relate to either Collaborative Robotics or Shop Floor Digitalisation. Below you will find a definition of these technologies. Please contact your regional COTEMACO partner in case you have any questions.

Collaborative Robotics (Cobots): Human workers and cobots work together rather than performing their tasks separated from each other. This means that the worker… 

  • … and the robot work in the same space, or;
  • … is not endangered by the robot, tool or process, or;
  • … does not need additional training to operate the robot and retains control, or;
  • … accepts the technology (feeling of collaboration rather than replacing each other).

Shop Floor Digitalisation: Digital devices make sure that workers are supported in their work and/or receive the right (personalised) information in the right format on time. Examples for devices supported: 

  • Non-wearable, e.g. tablets, smartphones, projected systems;
  • wearable, e.g. AR/VR glasses;
  • control units, e.g. sensors, robots with integrated services. 


COTEMACO’s regional partners in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Germany have been supporting local companies in future-proofing their business through automation.

And the final results are here!    

  • 4 transnational Field Labs created (BE, DE, NL, UK)

  • 64 SMEs from the automotive, agro-food, and flexible assembly sectors supported via the COTEMACO Programme

  • 26 Cobots already implemented (and 31 more to be implemented after project end!)

  • 112 jobs maintained thanks to the COTEMACO project

Discover our success stories and found out more about the experience of the free COTEMACO SME Support programme!

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