New business models at the interface between digital and material production - synergy effects in conjunction with trade and creative companies / DigiMat

Tasks and aims

New foci like 3D printing, “Internet of Things” or industry 4.0. point out that digital-based business models now also reach the world of material production. Therefore, the challenge is to develop new business models that enable small and medium-sized enterprises to use these new technologies for innovation and the entrance of new markets. The three-year project DigiMat (Sep. 2016 – Aug. 2019) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2020 "Investing in Growth and Employment".

The project aims at the development of innovative business models at the interface between digital and material production, in order to later test them and to make them accessible for interested companies and further economic sectors. It strongly focuses on the question of how the potential of digital-based business models, which are already present in the creative industry, can be further developed and mobilized in conjunction with the user market of the craft sector. For this purpose, creative companies and crafts companies work together in various stages of the idea-finding, the design process and the concrete testing of production in order to experiment new products tailored to individual customer requirements. Both partners involved in the project, the Institute for Work and Technology of the Westphalian University in Gelsenkirchen and the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, will prepare data from national and international experiences/expertise as well as experiences from related fields of action in a way, that companies of the creative industry at the interface to craft can later make use of the new business fields. Methodically, the project is an iterative process in which findings and concepts are recoupled in early stages with companies from the creative industry and the craft sector before they lead into a real trial phase. In this, a continuous process of exchange and mutual learning takes place. At the end of the project, 1-2 marketable, practice-oriented business models will be available, which enable interested companies to position themselves professionally and sustainably at this interface.


The planned project is to be implemented as follows:

Desk Research (WP1) includes an analysis of business models. The business models to be analysed are planned to be identified both nationally and internationally, regarding inter alia Fablabs, Maker Spaces, Repair Cafés, Co-working Spaces etc.

Learning from Others (WP2) includes the implementation and evaluation of 12 to 15 expert interviews in 5 countries as well as the assessment of these in the context of the North Rhine-Westphalian framework conditions.

The Needs and Potential Analysis (AP3) aim at the evaluation of (case) studies on the potential of creative companies as well as the evaluation of analyses and studies on the assessments and requirements of different trade/craft companies or trade associations with regard to digitisation processes.

In addition, it is planned it is planned to prepare three business models for the Focus Group Discussions (AP4), in order to present and to discuss them with trade and creative companies.

In (AP5), up to 20 Small and Medium-sized Companies will be activated, which are interested in testing the before Selected Business Models (AP6), in order to incorporate their experience in the subsequent concept of the "New" Business Models (AP7).

The project's Results and Experiences (WP8) will be made available in eight workshops focusing on interested craft businesses and creative companies in 8 regions of North Rhine-Westphalia including the attendance of chambers of trade/craft as well as other multipliers (intermediaries, associations etc.).


Contact: Judith Terstriep,, Maria Rabadjieva,