Voladigital - Competencies for a volatile, digital business environment

In the research project Voladigital the competencies needed by employees of SMEs in a volatile, digital business environment and how they can be taught are being investigated.

In today's business environment, volatility and uncertainty are increasing steadily, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In order to meet those challenges and to be more agile, digitalization can be implemented. The use of digital technologies offers numerous other advantages such as higher quality, individualization of products and reduced costs. The digital transformation of industrial companies results in new demands regarding the competencies of employees. These must be taken into account for a successful, agile orientation of companies in the age of Industry 4.0. However, SMEs in particular have problems in exploiting the potentials of digitization, especially due to a lack of the corresponding competencies of the staff. Overall, there are only a few practical training courses offered in Austria that focus on these competencies.

Learning factories, such as the LEAD Factory, and Makerspaces, like the Schumpeter Laboratory for Innovation, offer potential hands-on learning environments. For this reason, the IIM has started a research project funded by the Land Steiermark and the Steirischer Zukunftsfond, together with the Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science of TU Graz and the University College of Teacher Education Styria.

The kickoff event of the project took place on the 28th of April in the presence of Prof. Dr. Christian Ramsauer, project leader Maria Hulla, Patrick Herstätter, Ass. Prof. Dr. Johanna Pirker, Michael Holly, HS-Prof. Dr. Daniela Moser and HS-Prof. Dr. Harald Burgsteiner.


The aims of the research project are

1. to show which challenges SMEs face in today's volatile, digital business environment;
2. to determine which competencies will be required of employees in product development and production in the future;
3. to evaluate how these competencies can be taught; and
4. to design and test training courses concerning the use of digital technologies and digitization implementation projects.


In the first step of the project, which runs until April 2022, a literature analysis is conducted, in which the required competencies of the (future) workforce, the current challenges faced by SMEs and the training offered are addressed. Moreover, representatives of Styrian SMEs and experts of SME research will be interviewed on these topics. Based on the results of the literature research and interviews, a survey will be conducted on the basis of a questionnaire. After its analysis, a didactical transformation will be carried out and training concepts will be developed in the Schumpeter Laboratory for Innovation and the LEAD Factory, which will then be tested and evaluated with employees of the product development and production departments of Styrian SMEs.

If you would like to participate in the project with your SME, we would be pleased if you contact us via email (maria.hulla@tugraz.at).


Maria Hulla
Tel: +43 316 873 7095                               Mail: maria.hulla@tugraz.at