RWTH To Coordinate AKzentE4.0 Competence Center


The Center will focus on new technologies to help drive structural change in the Rhenish mining area.


Portrait of University Professor Verena Nitsch © Copyright: Fraunhofer FKIE


Verena Nitsch

Institute Director


+49 241 80 99440



AKzentE4.0 is one of four regional centers of competence in occupational ergonomics involved in developing forward-looking forms of work and work organization in Germany's lignite mining areas. It is coordinated by RWTH’s Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics headed by Professor Verena Nitsch. The Center will receive about 12 million euros in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The phase-out of coal-fired power generation will result in significant structural changes in the Rhenish mining area and is associated with deindustrialization and job losses. To compensate for this, the Rhenish mining area will receive around 14.8 billion euros in structural aid. The new Competence Center is set to explore how digital technologies and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to promote the emergence of future-proof and resilient value networks with the aim of making the structural change process a success in the long term.

Industry 4.0 technologies, especially applications based on artificial intelligence technology, promise enormous market and growth potential, but so far only a few companies have implemented them. This is largely due to the lack of know-how and reservations about the benefits for companies and their employees. This demonstrates the need for knowledge transfer and support in developing and introducing such new applications. At the same time, it is necessary to examine the impact of the use of novel technologies on employees and workers.

"So far, digital transformation has been shaped by what is technically feasible. However, poorly designed workplaces may promote musculoskeletal disorders, dissatisfaction, and burnout. Thius may result in high costs for companies. We want to explore how firms can use innovative technologies and concepts to create attractive workplaces that put people in a position to work productively, healthily, and safely in the long term," explains Nitsch.

The Competence Center will feature a mixed-reality model factory, which is capable of adding virtual elements to real-world labs. The aim is to research the potential and impact of Industry 4.0 technologies on operational work design and to make it more tangible for companies. Companies will be put in a better position to decide where to implement AI-based technologies and to optimally exploit the competitive edge they provide.

The Competence Center also seeks to provide networking opportunies for companies, research institutions, and important players in the region. In addition to RWTH, partners to receive funding include FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences (HSD), the Aachen Chamber of Crafts, VUV e.V., FIR e.V. an der RWTH Aachen, CBM GmbH, MA&T Sell & Partner GmbH, AIXTRON SE, Aurubis Stolberg GmbH und Co. KG, Wagner GmbH, DIRKRA Sondermaschinenbau GmbH & Co.KG, Fecken-Kirfel GmbH & Co. KG, HECKER & KROSCH GmbH & Co. KG, Lauscher Präzisionstechnik GmbH, NEUMAN & ESSER GmbH & Co. KG, Ph-MECHANIK GmbH & Co.KG, Lebenshilfe Aachen Werkstätten & Service GmbH, and the City of Aachen.