About us

What is Futures by Design?

Futures by Design strives to help SMEs in different regions innovate, grow and / or increase productivity. SMEs are critical to the economies of several countries, but their success may be limited by insufficient access to data and limited internal knowledge or capacity to analyze the data. This knowledge and data contribute to innovation within the company and ensure better results. Futures by Design aims to strengthen these SMEs and to stimulate innovation in the partner regions.

During this project, there will be a collaboration with SMEs in the partner regions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These partners will share knowledge, ideas and local experiences to support SMEs. In this way they help SMEs to become more data driven and provide more information about the economic, technological, policy and supply changes that might possibly affect their future. Futures by Design has created a virtual environment in which the 6 partner regions are connected to support sustainable growth, innovation and productivity of SMEs.

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Our partners

MKB Datalab

The Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) is a collaboration between two Dutch universities (Tilburg and Eindhoven). It brings together top researchers to expand the field of Data Science. JADS achieves this by combining the technical knowledge of TU/e with the legal and socio-economic knowledge of Tilburg University. JADS hosts start-ups, scale-ups, accelerators and corporate entrepreneurs. Spreading the various in-house knowledge and expertise from the researchers, the companies and the municipality creates synergy. The MKB Datalab is part of JADS.

Role in FbD

The MKB Datalab is developing a module in which SMEs are trained to work with data-driven methods. Together with the various hubs, this is one of the two main parts of the FbD project. The level of data analysis and additional expertise within the MKB Datalab is of a higher level than the other countries that are affiliated with the FbD project. As a result, the partners are very enthusiastic about working with the MKB Datalab to achieve a data-driven model by developing standards, manifests and accessible tools. The MKB Datalab also participates in the local hub in Antwerp-Noord-Brabant.


Sirris is the private non-profit research center of the Belgian technical industry. It is known in 5 different domains: ICT, advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, materials and sustainability. Their Data and AI Competence Center helps the industry in product and service innovations by making smart use of data science and facilitating real-world data.

Role in FbD

Sirris contributes to the FbD project by 1) consulting their local SME network, 2) collecting and prioritizing their needs and requirements, and 3) tailoring the concept to these needs and requirements. Sirris also contributes to creating reports, tools, methods (e.g. workshop material and reference solutions) that local SMEs need to become more data-driven.

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen North West Germany (UGNWG) was established for knowledge transfer and a public-private partnership between the University of Groningen and NWG Hinterland. The UGNWG started in the focus area North Emsland and expanded further to Niedersaken. All relevant and necessary competences of the University of Groningen are available, staff with diverse experiences, but also general experience with SME support is available.

Role in FbD

The UGNWG involves SMEs in Emsland and Niedersaken, initiates programs and provides services based on the tools developed together in the project. The UGNWG connects the relevant organizational departments of its three knowledge institutions and, together with regional partners, tries to obtain as much as possible from Emsland and Nedersaken.

Open Manufacturing Campus

Open Manufacturing Campus (OMC) is a non-profit, Triple Helix organization. OMC is an open innovation campus and community that focuses on engineering and manufacturing companies (SMEs) who want to grow quickly and in a controlled manner as Industry 4.0 factories within a scalable infrastructure. They want to achieve this by making use of the knowledge and expertise in the field of production performances of highly trained personnel available at Philips Lighting situated at the same location as OMC. OMC has the ambition to become the most productive square kilometer in high-tech / life sciences in the area.

Role in FbD

OMC works closely with BLENDERS to establish an entity that brings SMEs together in the region of the large industrial clusters (eg port of Antwerp). Together with them, OMC looks for a way to further grow SMEs through a data-driven approach and the tools developed in the project. OMC is used by many SMEs in its community as a knowledge spreading platform across and within the three economic sectors.

NHL Stenden

The NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences has experience with research into the regional economy, entrepreneurship and ecosystems. Also, it has experience in Design Thinking activities with SMEs (Fryslân Design Academy, Design Studio, SiGa and YnBusiness). The NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences collaborates with local companies and local authorities. The FbD project will be conducted by students in minors such as ‘Change Process’, ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Governance’, combining research and young professionals in local projects.

Role in FbD

Local SMEs are faced with rapid (technological) changes that disrupt existing business models. NHL Stenden University engages local SMEs and facilitates workshops and internships for students to develop change in business models and business practices, using data to ensure business growth. NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences spreads the results to students, young professionals, companies and researchers. In doing so, they generate a basis for evidence that can be used for public investment in local innovative initiatives to prepare SMEs for a changing future.

atene KOM

atene KOM, Agency for Communication, Organization and Management, is active throughout Europe and contributes with their experience to working in EU funded projects on topics of the service. The focus is on supporting local influence on their competitive position to improve and strengthen the hinterland. atene KOM has been active as a German federal broadband agency and the developer of various fairs with the aim of simplifying (international) cooperation between business, science and government.

Role in FBD

atene KOM heads the communication department together with the Alexanderson Institute and is also active in other work packages. atene KOM works with SMEs to determine what the requirements are and what works for them, based on Aurich, Leer, Emsland to Oldenburg and Osterholz of the provincial region. atene KOM brings tools to innovation support agencies and networks. The agency influenced the project experiences with various seminars and workshops, e.g. conferences to get in touch with regional networks.

Anglia Ruskin University Higher Education Corporation

The Anglia Ruskin University Higher Education Corporation (ARU) works with entrepreneurs, SMEs and supply chains from key players in the Eastern UK regional economy. ARU works closely with smaller SMEs and larger ones in existing supply chains, and has credibility, access and research and action tools to engage, capture, disseminate and stimulate SMEs. ARU is a regional university with a presence in much of the Eastern UK and as such easily connects with the SME target groups for the project.

Role in FBD

ARU leads the work package for operations and is the UK beneficiary involving SMEs in connecting to the HSKT hubs. ARU uses the workshops to share knowledge and stimulate open innovation, in order to create a shared platform. ARU plays an active role in all work packages and brings its own experiences, networks of SMEs, research and innovation tools to the project.

Provinsje Fryslân

Provinsje Fryslân is a provincial government organization with approximately 900 employees. The tasks and responsibilities are to promote the prosperity and well-being of the inhabitants. The province’s policy is to stimulate the regional economy by initiating, facilitating and supporting innovation processes for regional companies. e.g. in the area of circular economy, looking across borders. International cooperation is one of its priorities.

Role in FBD

Provinsje Fryslân is the Main Beneficiary and the process coordinator and facilitator for project implementation. The province acts as a link between the various local, regional and international stakeholders and, through its national and international network, is also a connecting link in the dissemination and transfer of the FBD results.