Heidelberg opens €50m innovation centre for digital R&D

Rhys Handley
Monday, December 17, 2018

Heidelberg has opened the doors of its new innovation centre, which has been billed as the centrepiece of a push to forge ahead on the digital transformation of the print sector.

Officially opened on Thursday (13 December), the 40,000sqm centre is located at Heidelberg’s headquarters in Wiesloch-Walldorf, Germany, and saw 1,000 members of staff move over from its former research and development centre in the town of Heidelberg.

Developers and technicians onsite will be working across a number of fields including print tech, pre- and post-press, control and drive systems, software and consumables with a focus on the digitisation of the printing process.

The centre represents an investment of around €50m (£45m) on Heidelberg’s part. It is a conversion of a former production hall which originally housed 500 staff.

A Heidelberg spokesperson said: “By opening the new centre, Heidelberg is looking to accelerate the digital transformation at print shops and its own company. The digitisation of the graphic arts industry is progressing at top speed and Heidelberg is actively driving this process with its digital strategy.

“The new innovation centre plays a key role in safeguarding the future of Heidelberg and the entire industry in a number of ways. Heidelberg’s technology leadership is continuing to grow thanks to the unrivalled expertise of the centre’s highly skilled workforce.

“With the new centre, Heidelberg will increase the speed of the entire industry’s digital transformation. It serves as a model for future work practices at Heidelberg as a whole and is the new hub of the company and the future high-tech campus Heidelberg is gradually creating at our Wiesloch-Walldorf site.

“It is an innovation platform geared to communication and transparency, which makes it the key to a change in culture at Heidelberg and also a symbol of this change.”

Making use of modern working practices, such as flexible office environments, outdoor working and interactive monitors, Heidelberg aims to create an environment that combines traditional engineering with innovative technologies.

Among its key projects, staff will be working on the development of the manufacturer’s Push to Stop technology for increasingly automated processes, as well as the Smart Print Shop initiative which looks to fully digitise print shops, and its own subscription model.

Launched earlier this year, the subscription model currently has 20 established contracts, according to Heidelberg’s H1 2018 results, with a view to add 10 before the end of the year and a further 100 across 2019/20.

In its results, the German company reported a loss of €6m though it enjoyed a year-on-year uptick on the half-year’s EBITDA to €62m. The success of its subscription service is expected to pay off in the coming year.

Heidelberg chief executive Rainer Hundsdörfer said: “Germany’s mechanical engineering prowess is highly rated worldwide, and we are still the number one in this field. The purpose of our new think tank is to ensure we continue to build on our technology leadership in the future – and that includes the digitisation of the print media industry.”

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