Around 60% of large industries and more than 90% of SMEs feel lagging behind in digital innovation. Similarly, there are strong digitisation discrepancies between industrial sectors.
Digital innovation hubs (DHI) can help ensure that every company, small or large, high-tech or not, can grasp the digital opportunities. With technical universities or research organisations at the core, DIHs act as one-stop-shops where companies –especially SMEs, startups and mid-caps– can get access to technology-testing, financing advice, market intelligence and networking opportunities.
Networking Digital Innovation Hubs through Horizon 2020
Member States and regions play a key role in establishing DIHs that support the digital transformation of industry in their regions. The role of the European Commission is to link them up in a strong pan-European network of DIHs. For this, the European Commission is investing €100 million per year from 2016 to 2020. Calls related to DIHs are available under the Horizon2020 programme for 2018 and 2019.
There are already several EU initiatives to shape the pan-European network of DIHs which are contributing to boost competitiveness of existing industries –notably for SMEs and mid-caps– and to create additional business opportunities:
- Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS),
- Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE),
- Open Data Incubator Europe (ODINE),
- European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development (ECHORD++),
- Access Center for Photonics Innovation Solutions and Technology Support (ACTPHAST),
- Supercomputing Exercise for SMEs (SESAME NET),
- EIT Digital (from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology), a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) will also contribute to the network of DIHs through its project MIDIH.
To help DIHs to effectively collaborate and network, the European Commission launched the European catalogue of DIHs, a repository that includes more than 450 existing hubs across Europe and that will keep growing with new additions in the future.
A working group within the Digitising European Industry initiative brings together relevant stakeholders and helps to keep making progress towards the implementation of the European Commission's priorities on Digital Innovation Hubs.
Training and development of skills
Helping companies accomplish their digital transformation also means ensuring that the employees have the necessary skills to work with new ICT technologies. Digital Innovation Hubs can play a key role in this respect, as they offer access to training and skills development. This element will be further reinforced by the European network of Digital Innovation Hubs, especially by building on the experience of EIT Digital.
Widening towards regions not well covered by Digital Innovation Hubs
The Digitising European Industry initiative aims to ensure the presence of a DIH in every region by 2020. However, many regions are yet underrepresented in the existing network. To help them, the European Commission has launched training programmes for new DIHs. These efforts will be reinforced in 2019 with €8 million under the EU's research programme Horizon 2020 to support new DIHs in underrepresented regions with strong industrial activity.