Digital innovation hubs are ecosystems that consist of SMEs, large industries, startups, researchers, accelerators, and investors. They aim to create the best conditions for long-term business success for all involved. How do they do that? And how sustainable are these hubs?

By Arian Zwegers, programme officer, and Anne-Marie Sassen, deputy Head of Unit.

The days of the brilliant inventor who experimented in his backyard and brought us products that changed our lives are memories of the past. We now see that new innovative products and services are brought to us by companies that are working closely with other companies, academia, research institutes, and investors. Just think about the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, where a whole range of organisations revolve around ASML and Philips. Other examples are the London startup ecosystem with companies such as Funding Circle and TransferWise, and the Munchen Kreisfreie Stadt, which is placed as Europe’s top ICT Pole of Excellence.

The European Commission has funded several initiatives that form the basis for such Digital Innovation Hubs. These ecosystems consist of various actors, including SMEs, large industries, startups, researchers, accelerators, and investors. They have different goals and ways of achieving them, but share a common goal to create the best conditions for long-term business success for all involved, including supporting SMEs and startups in their innovation activities.

We want to address a range of questions at the Digital Innovation Hubs session at our ICT 2015 conference: what are the main characteristics of the innovation hubs, e.g. in terms of specialist knowledge, stakeholders, funding mechanisms, etc. How do the hubs reach their stakeholders? What are the lessons learned: what works well and what does not work? What would they have done differently? How do the hubs want to achieve future sustainability? How can an SME, 5 years from now, still find the necessary support/facilities?

The session takes place on Wednesday 21st October from 16:40 – 18:10, in Auditorium 6. Expert speakers will address these issues from their own experiences, looking at their successes and failures, and discussing how best to support small businesses in innovation, now and in future.

We're looking forward to an open and constructive discussion, encouraging the full participation of the audience. We expect that this will be part of a wider discussion to help us in formulating policies to best support innovation in small and large businesses.