The first hurdle seemed to have been cleared when Berlin-based company KleRo, together with its partners, prevailed against strong competition and received confirmation that it would receive some highly competitive EU funding. However, coordinating the administrative side of the funded project soon became a challenge that was too difficult for the company to handle on its own. The Enterprise Europe Network provided the necessary expertise and helped the team to successfully implement the project.
Robot-based technologies fascinated Holger Klempnow from an early age. This led him to learn about mechanics, study design and machine tool engineering and, in 2005, started his own company: KleRo GmbH Roboterautomation. The original four employees have now expanded to a team of 35 employees who work at two locations in Berlin and Brandenburg. The company specialises in automating industrial processes using robotic technology. "We also provide event robotics, which are used in theatres, at exhibitions, fairs and congresses", stated Klempnow. His company is growing steadily, with new employees and new areas of activity being incorporated. A new office building with around 1,300 square metres of floor space will be opened later this year.
EU funding brings success and challenges
As a specialist in his field, Holger Klempnow's goal is to reshape the interaction between man and machine in industry. Driven by this aim, KleRo and seven other partners from a total of five countries applied for an EU funding programme that helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop technical innovations. The focus of their project AROSU (Artistic Robotic Surface Processing for Stone) was to develop and implement an innovative robotic cell capable of processing stone surfaces to increase productivity in the stonemasonry industry.
To the great delight of all involved, AROSU was awarded the contract. KleRo was responsible for project coordination, which meant he took charge of monitoring progress and reporting, and communicating with the EU Commission. Added to this were the general process analysis, ongoing development of the project results and other activities. The inexperienced team was not prepared for the level of administrative effort that the project demanded. Holger Klempnow and his employees quickly realised that they needed help managing the situation.
"EU projects are a great way to collaborate with international partners, benefit from their innovative strength, develop their own innovations and then market them internationally. However, they can also be very time-consuming in terms of admin and quickly overburden a company", explained the entrepreneur. KleRo learned about the company Berlin Partner, with whom they have been working since 2010, through the Enterprise Europe Network, the world’s largest support network for small and medium-sized enterprises. The organisation's extensive contacts and many years of experience facilitated the project's successful implementation.
Optimum results thanks to Enterprise Europe Network's advice
"We primarily supported KleRo in handling their administrative challenges", reported Wolfgang Treinen, Enterprise Europe Network consultant and project manager at Berlin Partner. Treinen assisted the team throughout the project and advised them on the international use and commercialisation of the project's results. He provided strategic advice on communication with the EU Commission and helped with accounting and tax issues. "In addition, we received very helpful information about what to look for in a final project evaluation", added Holger Klempnow.
AROSU was concluded in 2016 with promising results. The project participants still maintain a close partnership. Together, they are continuing to work on the production and distribution of the AROSU robot cell. Klempnow and his team are more than satisfied: "We would definitely recommend Enterprise Europe Network to others. The collaboration and support they provide is pragmatic and helpful – especially in such a complex subject area."
Holger Klempnow already has several new plans for his company. Among other things, he wants to focus more on the field of collaborative robotics. He also plans to continue to rely on the expertise of the Enterprise Europe Network: "New impetus and new developments always arise as a result of contacts with international research institutions and industrial partners. It is good to know that we can draw on the extensive network of the Enterprise Europe Network", affirmed the Berlin entrepreneur. Wolfgang Treinen is also optimistic about future collaborations: "With its innovative products and a healthy corporate structure, KleRo has the potential for successful participation in other demanding EU programmes. It is a typical medium-sized company that can successfully handle the ever-increasing pressure to innovate. We will certainly continue to support them."