AI and Digital Initiative HANDwerk.NRW

Consortium project of the University of Applied Sciences for SMEs, the Fraunhofer Institute IOSB-INA and the Paderborn-Lippe Chamber of Crafts strengthen the competitiveness and innovation potential of North Rhine-Westphalian skilled crafts businesses by integrating AI.

Launch of the project AI and Digital Initiative HANDwerk.NRW. From left: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Jasperneite (Head of Fraunhofer IOSB-INA), Aloys Buschkühl (Managing Director of Kreishandwerkerschaft Paderborn-Lippe; representing Chief Executive Michael H. Lutter), Friedel Heuwinkel (Director of the FHM Institute for SMEs), Mona Neubaur (Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia), Prof. Dr. Anne Dreier (FHM Rector and Managing Director), Prof. Dr. Volker Wittberg (Prorector Research & Development FHM), Dr. Christian Temath (Managing Director KI.NRW) ©MWIKE NRW

Press release

The press release on the flagship project KIDiHa on the occasion of the presentation of the funding letter (21.08.2023)

Initiative for Artificial Intelligence and Digitization in the Skilled Crafts Sector

The use of digital cutting-edge technologies such as AI will be crucial for the innovation and competitiveness of North Rhine-Westphalian companies in the coming years and thus an important growth factor for Germany as a business location.

The skilled crafts sector is one of the most important economic sectors; in Ostwestfalen-Lippe (OWL) alone, there are more than 22,000 businesses with a sales volume of around 18 billion euros (as of the end of 2021). Despite its economic importance, there are only a few AI solutions or use cases that are explicitly tailored to the needs and specifics of the skilled crafts sector. Collaboration between science and craft enterprises has also not yet been established in this area. This is precisely where the KI.NRW flagship project AI and Digital Initiative HANDwerk.NRW (KIDiHa) steps in.

Various partners from business and science are working together in the project consortium: These include the university of applied sciences for medium-sized businesses (FHM), the Fraunhofer Institute IOSB-INA, and the Paderborn-Lippe Chamber of Crafts. In this alliance, theory and application come together, excellent AI research meets expertise in SME economics.

With the help of the project, the FHM, Fraunhofer IOSB-INA and the district Chamber of Crafts are contributing to strengthening the competitiveness and innovative potential of craft enterprises by integrating AI and digital solutions. The primary focus is on developing practical and tailored AI solutions and approaches for craft enterprises of different sizes. Furthermore, educational programs on artificial intelligence are being promoted: Topics that convey fundamental knowledge about responsible and safe handling of AI as well as basic principles and modes of operation are to be incorporated. The aim is for both entrepreneurs and employees to have the skills to assess the opportunities and possibilities, but also the risks, of the new technologies.

The intention of KIDiHa to transfer the results to other areas is also an important goal of the project: This means that not only local craft enterprises, but also actors from other regions, as well as representatives of politics, business and educational institutions, should be able to use and further develop the results for themselves. For this purpose, the consortium partners are putting together a set of publicity measures that will provide target-group-specific and appealing information about the project’s successes. The central point of contact, especially for craft enterprises, will be a showroom in which the use cases will be demonstrated and thus reduce “fear of contact” with the high-tech topic of AI. This will make it possible for different target groups to experience and learn about AI.

The flagship project, which is scheduled to run for four years, is being subsidized with two million euros and funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MWIKE).

Flagship updates

KIDiHa: Survey on AI in the craft sector completed
AI Index: 1,200 NRW craft businesses took part in a survey on artificial intelligence
© Platoo Studio
Study on AI in the craft sector
AI index for the skilled crafts sector: survey on the use of artificial intelligence in the NRW skilled crafts sector launched
KIDiHA visits KI.NRW
The project team of the KI.NRW flagship “KI und Digital Offensive HANDwerk.NRW” comes to Sankt Augustin for a working meeting at Fraunhofer IAIS
© Fachhochschule des Mittelstands
AI.Voice Prof. Dr. Klaus Schafmeister
Scientific Director of the KI.NRW flagship project “KI und Digital Initiative HANDwerk.NRW”
“AI in the craft sector: State funding for research project in OWL”
Read more about the funding decision in the Westfalen-Blatt.
Study: “Artificial intelligence in the craft sector”
Read now the study on the use of AI.Shadowing in the craft sector
Artificial intelligence in the carpentry business
Dr. Christian Temath as guest in episode 22 of the podcast of the Fachverband Tischler NRW
© AKrasov/ & KI.NRW
Flagships powered by KI.NRW
More about our KI.NRW flagship projects

Comments on the cooperation agreement

Mona Neubaur


“Digitalization is inevitably reaching the skilled crafts sector. Innovative digital applications offer enormous potential for our skilled trades businesses in North Rhine-Westphalia to position themselves for the future and strengthen their own competitiveness in the long term. The use of artificial intelligence in particular can play an important role here. The highly innovative ‘KI und Digital Offensive HANDwerk.NRW’ project – which is unique in Germany – links researchers with practitioners and thus gives our skilled crafts businesses access to tailor-made AI solutions.”

© Land NRW/R. Sondermann

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schafmeister


“When I think of the services to be provided by the skilled trades alone, digital approaches and optimization through artificial intelligence come to mind. Our aim for the results of this project is to find and develop the right applications, in the right way, at the right time and by the best qualified tradespeople.”

Michael H. Lutter


“Artificial intelligence provides support in the skilled trades. The use of AI will change the work of tradespeople, particularly in the technology-driven construction and finishing trades, in the automotive industry and in the food sector. AI will enable new and, above all, sustainable production and assembly processes and require traditional business models to be adapted. Circular construction, power-to-X technologies and new logistical challenges are just a few examples of topics that can only be mastered using AI.”

Dr. Christian Temath

Managing Director KI.NRW


“The skilled trades are the backbone of the North Rhine-Westphalian economy and an important driver of growth and prosperity. To preserve that status, we need to set the right course today to make businesses fit for the future and keep professions attractive. Artificial intelligence can help here to master the digital and sustainable transformation – be it in the optimized use of resources and energy, the automation of administrative processes or the fast and individual processing of creative and production orders.”

Friedel Heuwinkel


“I consider this project to be groundbreaking for the state of NRW. The results of the project will benefit not only the craft businesses, but the whole of OWL. We are thus supporting the regional development of East Westphalia, from which our citizens will also ultimately benefit.”

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Jasperneite


“The direct requirement-based references in the project result in considerable transformation, but also innovation and development potential for the skilled trades in NRW.”

Prof. Dr. Volker Wittberg


“As part of the project, the partners will work intensively with organizations and companies from the skilled trades sector in order to generate effective and exemplary ways and instruments for securing and developing the future viability of the skilled trades sector through the use of AI in a demand-driven and future-oriented manner.”

Flagships powered by KI.NRW

Operating under the brand “Flagships powered by KI.NRW“, the Artificial Intelligence Competence Platform North Rhine-Westphalia supports projects funded by the state as AI lighthouse projects in order to support efficient technology transfer and close cooperation between SMEs, startups, universities, colleges and research institutions in NRW. Under the strategic auspices of KI.NRW, the competence platform provides communications support for the projects and positions NRW as an AI location by marketing the results at European level. One focus is on the sustainable transfer and further utilization of the project results.

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