Virtual Open Innovation System (VOIS)


with the Case Study: Partnering

Research-Innovation Project ROBOTOOL-1



By Dr. Brane Semolič and Luka Semolič, MSc.

LENS Living Lab® & Competence Center ROBOFLEX

Celje, EU-Slovenia


The emerging Industry 4.0’s enabling technologies are bringing opportunities for new manufacturing business models and profound corporate and societal changes.  These changes’ main characteristics are an urgent need to understand and exploit companies’ key competencies, enabled by their value chain’s internal and external innovation ecosystems. The open innovation culture of continuous improvements and search for more competitive solutions are the main characteristics of these new manufacturing landscapes.  With their business, professional, and social networks, knowledge workers, supported by collaborative culture and proper leadership, become the main drivers of Industry 4.0 business success. The capability to collectively recognize and exploit the personal, organizational, and regional potential is one of the critical competencies of modern knowledge-based businesses. Successful partnering of such knowledge innovation communities presents the essence of effective and efficient Industry 4.0 enterprises. This paper discusses characteristics of such open virtual research-innovation communities, the proposed model of virtual open innovation system (VOIS), and its illustration in the case study from the toolmaking-machine industry sector.

Keywords:    digitalization, technology, virtual organizations, innovation communities, research-innovation programs/projects, technology platforms, collaborative design and engineering, virtual collaboration platforms, open innovation ecosystems, manufacturing, toolmaking, partnering-alliances

1 Industry 4.0 Challenges of Manufacturing SMEs

The emerging Industry 4.0 enabling technologies are reshaping the landscapes of our industries, economies and societies.

Addressing the Industry 4.0 related technical challenges is not enough. More than twenty years ago, Celente wrote in his book that futurists often equate advances in technology with civilization advances [1].

To exploit innovative technologies for all stakeholders’ benefit requires a profound understanding of how these novelties will affect business and personal lives, organizations and how they will reshape organizational landscapes, societies, and culture.

Houser wrote [2],» Computer scientists and engineers shouldn’t be the only people shaping the future of artificial intelligence, according to the group led by researchers from MIT’s Media Lab.«

We can say that this is not valid for artificial intelligence only. It’s valid for the majority of Industry 4.0 enabling technologies and their implementations programs and projects.  We need to understand and adequately address their implications to secure value for all involved stakeholders.

Manufacturing companies operate in a highly competitive context as they sometimes subjected to fierce global competition in terms of new products, production technologies, new materials, legislative, or organizational or business model developments and usually rely on innovation only to cope with the competitive advantage through an increase in productivity and increase in other relevant manufacturing figures, such as flexibility or agility.[3]

Many SMEs face a lack of expertise, short-term strategies, the lack of an expert sup-port function, limited resources, resistance to changes, and more. [4]

Based on these facts, we can conclude that the efficient and effective Industry 4.0’s corporate strategic transformation and changes needs:

  • A proper understanding of Industry 4.0 enabling technologies, related opportunities, and potential for the observed industry sector and involved businesses,
  • Understanding of industry global trends and value migration,
  • Competencies for setting up a short and long term business development strategies,
  • Awareness of own key competencies, as well as internal and external corporate innovation ecosystem potential,
  • Competences for exploitation of available internal and external industry innovation potential,
  • Portfolio of research-innovation projects and programs organized internally or co-organized with the inter-organizational value chains partners,
  • Leadership and empowerment for developing and implementing needed interrelated, simultaneous technical, organizational, personal, and business culture strategic changes.
  • Digitalization awareness and literacy of all involved stakeholders, and
  • Fostering and development of innovation collaboration culture.

SMEs need to increase the pace of their innovations to survive in the global high competitive markets. Industry research and innovation are becoming critical success factors of their success. Organizations can overcome limitations of internal research-innovation potential by exploiting their business partners’ and regional innovation ecosystems’ innovation potentials.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper:  Semolič, B., Semolič, L. (2021). Virtual Open Innovation System (VOIS) with the Case Study: Partnering Research-Innovation Project ROBOTOOL-1; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/pmwj108-Aug2021-Semolic-Semolic-virtual-open-innovation-system-with-case-study.pdf

About the Authors

Prof Dr Brane Semolič

Founder and Head of LENS Living Lab
International living laboratory
Celje, Slovenia


Brane Semolič studied mechanical engineering, engineering economics, and informatics; he holds a scientific master’s degree and doctorate in business informatics. His focus of professional interest is industrial and system engineering, innovation and technology management, virtual organizations and systems, project and knowledge management. He has 40 years of working experiences in different industries (industrial engineering, IT, chemicals, household appliances, government, and education), as an expert, researcher, manager, entrepreneur, counselor to the Slovenian government and professor.  He operates as head of the open research and innovation organization LENS Living Lab. LENS Living Lab is an international industry-driven virtual living laboratory. He is acting as initiator and coordinator of various research and innovation collaboration platforms, programs and projects for the needs of different industries (ICT, robotics, laser additive manufacturing, logistics, education). He was co-founder and the first director of the TCS – Toolmakers Cluster of Slovenia (EU automotive industry suppliers). Since 2004 he is serving as the president of the TCS council of experts. Besides this, he is operating as a part-time professor at the Cranefield College.

He was head of project and information systems laboratory at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Head of the Project & Technology Management Institute at the Faculty of Logistics, University of Maribor and professor of project and technology management at the graduate and postgraduate level. He acted as a trainer at the International »European Project Manager« post-graduated program, organized jointly by the University of Bremen.

He was the co-founder and president of the Project Management Association of Slovenia (ZPM), vice president of IPMA (International Project Management Association), chairman of the IPMA Research Management Board (2005-2012), and technical vice-chairman of ICEC (International Cost Engineering Council).  He actively participated in the development of the IPMA 4-level project managers’ certification program. He introduced and was the first director of the IPMA certification program in Slovenia. He has been serving as the assessor in this certification program since 1997. He performed as assessor in the IPMA International PM Excellence Award Program in China, India, and Slovenia.

Brane is a registered assessor for the accreditation of education programs and education organizations by the EU-Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.  He was a Member of Strategic Advisory Board of European Competitiveness and Innovation, as well as the president of the Slovenian Chamber of Business Services. Brane received the award as ICEC Distinguished International Fellow in 2008. He received the »Silver Sign« for his achievements in research, education, and collaboration with the industry from the University of Maribor in 2015.

Professor Semolič is also an academic advisor for the PM World Journal.  He can be contacted at brane.semolic@3-lab.eu.   Additional information about the LENS Living Lab can be found at http://www.3-lab.eu/ .

To view other works by Prof Semolic, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/brane-semolic/



Luka Semolic

Director, Co-founder, Coordinator
INOVA Consulting, INTESO Group
Celje, Slovenia


Luka Semolič holds BSc. and MSc. in computer science. He is specialized in cloud computing services and hybrid communication technologies with applications for clients from different industrial sectors (automotive, logistics, manufacturing, trade, education and R&D). He started as techno-entrepreneur and a software developer during his time at the university (since 2007) and established his first company in 2012.

During his studies he already participated and helped with the technical support of organizing virtual project schools for family’s company INOVA Consulting.  He also helped with other projects and event organization, regarding the LENS Living Lab virtual laboratory, where he contributed with his innovative ICT services and knowledge.

With his involvement in the family business, he also started working on a project for the virtual collaboration environment in 2009. In 2013 the project received an award from Slovenian Logistic Association (SLA) as a R&D project of the year. In 2014 he established a joint venture company, which provided hybrid technology solutions in critical communication organizations such as firefighters, police departments, highway maintenance companies, and other virtual and spatial distributed operations.

Luka is currently the director of INOVA Consulting, co-founder, and coordinator of the INTESO Group partnering organization, enabler, and coordinator of the LENS Living Lab virtual living laboratory digital ecosystem, Competence Center ROBOFLEX and its Digital Innovation Hub.

He has been an expert and a project coordinator in various regional and international industry partnering research-innovation programs and projects. He participated in various online schools and events where he acquired additional knowledge in the field of project, program and technology management.

Luka Semolič can be contacted at luka@inovaconsulting.org. Information about INOVA Consulting and partnering companies can be seen at www.inovaconsulting.org.