The rapid pace of digital change is a challenge for SMEs and their employees. To ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) remain capable of keeping pace in the future, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) has launched a funding program for regional AI (Artificial Intelligence) Hubs for Tomorrow. Their focus is on the participatory and human-centered design, introduction and use of digital technologies.

The Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University, as consortium leader, will establish the Hub for Human-centered AI in Production from now on, together with six other partners in Hessen within the framework of the funding program. Based on the analysis of region-specific support needs, it will in future offer various consulting services and innovative teaching and learning concepts for qualification in the subject areas of digitization and artificial intelligence. SMEs in the manufacturing and skilled trades in Hessen and their employees are to benefit from this free offering in the long term.

Regional Expertise for SMEs in Hesse

The Hub for Human-centered AI in Production creates a practice-oriented format for consulting, qualification, testing and diffusion of digital technologies. It is intended to promote participatory work and technology design and enable SMEs to tap the potential of digital technologies in work and business processes. In addition, ZuKIPro will act as a neutral contact and transfer point for SMEs, sponsors, technology providers and social partners.

ZuKIPro's offerings are tangible and practice-oriented: As part of the so-called platform module, companies can bring a mobile AI lab directly onto the company premises and experience prototypical AI applications. Digital qualification offerings, such as a learning and knowledge platform or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), bring the topics of digitization and artificial intelligence to life for employees. Through these formats, the Future Center enables companies and their employees to recognize and analyze the challenges in their own companies, to independently initiate, design and implement learning and solution processes, and to evaluate the results.

The aim of the AI introduction module is to create a low-threshold approach to the topic. To this end, SMEs are supported in the participatory, co-creative introduction and human-centered design of AI systems. Across all modules, the Future Center informs and advises small and medium-sized enterprises according to their needs and enables them to implement concrete solutions.

In order to provide a regionally or locally optimized offer, a total of three offices will be set up. These provide the services and expertise of the participating project collaborates in bundled form in the individual parts of the state: Northern Hessen (Kassel), Central Hessen (Frankfurt a. M.) and Southern Hessen (Darmstadt).

Seven project partners with a common goal

The consortium behind the Hub for Human-centered AI in Production, ZuKIPro, comprises scientific research institutes, chambers, associations and companies that, together with a network of associated partners, are pursuing the goal of advancing digital development with a focus on AI in SMEs.

The strategy of the Hub for Human-centered AI in Production, ZuKIPro, is to establish and make accessible a large Hessen-wide network with partners from local, regional and supra-regional organizations, initiatives and associations. In particular, the combination of technological, ergonomic and socio-political expertise and experience in transfer distinguishes this unique network in Hessen. Through the supra-regional project staffing with partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, Hessen, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, a close networking with the other future centers is also aimed at in order to use synergies and to continuously develop the offer.

Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence for Production

In the ZuKIPro project, ITA is taking on part of the labor science support for the project, together with the Institute for Labor Science at the TU Darmstadt. In addition to advising medium-sized companies with a focus on the region of southern Hesse, ITA's main focus is on the development and implementation of digital qualification offerings such as an online learning platform and a digital learning game. ITA has many years of experience in research and consulting on participatory, human-centered selection, introduction and implementation of digital (AI) technologies. This includes the PFL-EX and DiCo projects, which are also funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS), as well as the Mittelstand 4.0 Competence Center Kaiserslautern, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

In the current funding phase, the Hub for Human-centered AI in Production will run until the end of 2022, after which it is planned to continue the project until 2027.

Further information at

Project title

Hub for Human-centered AI in Production "ZuKIPro"

Duration: 01.3.2021-31.12.2022

Project partners

  • Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University - Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management
  • Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University - Chair of Manufacturing Technology.
  • German Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) - Research Group Smart Service Engineering
  • University of Kassel - Departments of Information Systems, Human-Machine-Systems Engineering, Communication Technology (ComTec)
  • Darmstadt University of Technology - Institute for Technology and Work
  • IHK Kassel-Marburg and IHK Hessen-Innovativ
  • Regional Management Nordhessen GmbH


The project “ZuKIPro” is funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and is implemented in the context of the funding program for regional hub for artificial intelligence.

Contact person

Dr. Viola Hellge