Centres of Vocational Excellence and innovation
The Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) are developing into an important component of EU VET policy. Many different types of CoVEs exist in the European Union. Each CoVE and each CoVE network is unique, reflecting factors such as the structure of the industry and the underlying VET system. Furthermore, each CoVE offers a unique mix of activities. CoVEs have the freedom to adapt to local/regional and sectorial needs in terms of structures, stakeholders and activities.
We would like to highlight here some CoVE activities focused on SMEs.
In Austria, the Austrian Economic Chambers (Wirtschaftskammer Ősterreich, WKŐ) provide counselling services for SMEs to support their engagement in R&D activities. Moreover, financial support is also available based on specific project needs (‘KMU-Paket FGG’).
In the Basque Country in Spain, Tknika operates the TKgune network, through which businesses, in particular SMEs, have access both to services (expertise) and to infrastructure. The TKgune network is divided into five strategic environments: manufacturing, automation, automotive, energy and creative industries. The TKgune network is a part of the Euskadi Vocational Training Technological Innovation System, developed by Tknika and implemented together with Basque vocational centres.
Applied innovation in the field of Vocational Education and Training (Technology) is one of the six areas of Tknika’s activity through which it seeks to contribute to regional strategies for innovation and smart specialisation. The objective is to reduce the time between technological innovation and the realisation of social benefits, and to research technologies to develop new market niches. With this end in mind, the Department of Applied Innovation is involved in a range of projects, for example the development of ways to use drones in VET, as well as the integration of 3D printing, scanning and reverse engineering technologies in the Basque VET system (Ikaslab). To focus on two projects in more detail, the Additive Manufacturing projects seek to develop additive manufacturing technologies and implement them through VET centres as one of the key aspects of advanced manufacturing in the Basque Country.
To achieve this, Tknika seeks to understand state of the art technologies and processes in additive manufacturing, achieve mastery of plasma manufacturing processes, become a reference point for vocational training centres and develop and expand the use of additive manufacturing amongst both VET centres and companies. Through the ‘Internet of Machines’ project, Tknika is seeking to identify the needs of vocational training teachers and to train them to meet the industry’s new needs. Specific objectives include:
- Analysing the protocols and architectures adopted by industry for smart factories, and proposing solutions for communication with cloud platforms;
- Collaborating with networking and automation equipment manufacturers to stay abreast of innovations related to Industry 4.0;
- Carrying out training so that FPeuskadi (Basque Country Vocational Education and Training) teachers can drive professional profiles adapted to the new manufacturing paradigm.
Finally, one example to illustrate the range of innovation and business incubation activities of CoVES In Spain. CIFP Politécnico de Santiago, which offers both initial and continual VET, carries out innovation projects in fields such as robotics and electricity, and has installed a smart (domotic) house with a company (Schneider) on their premises. It also has an audiovisual media lab which has merited an innovation prize and use of which is shared with the local companies. It is considered a reference for innovation in its area, and is well networked with the enterprises nearby. Not only does it collaborate with the surrounding enterprises, but also with other schools, and it also takes part in competitions. Regular visits to the local business incubator are organised with the aim of fostering entrepreneurship.