Europe can gain decisive competitive advantages internationally if it is capable to generate across Europe a wave of bottom-up digital innovations involving all industrial sectors. With the rapid pace of change in digital technologies, most decision makers in industry have difficulties to decide when to invest, up to what level and in which technologies.

Around 60% of large industries and more than 90% of SME feel lagging behind in digital innovation. Similarly, there are strong digitisation discrepancies between industrial sectors.

Digital innovation hubs can help ensure that every company, small or large, high-tech or not, can grasp the digital opportunities.

There are already several initiatives of the EC to shape the pan-European network of DIHs with the focus on helping SMEs to master their digital transformation:

  • Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS),
  • Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE),
  • iHub,
  • Open Data Incubator Europe (ODINE),
  • European Institute of Innovation & Technologu (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC),
  • European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development (ECHORD++),
  • Access Center for Photonics Innovation Solutions and Technology Support (ACTPHAST),
  • Supercomputing Exercise for SMEs (SESAME NET),
  • and the call for tender EU13 DIHs.

The Commission also set up in June 2016 a thematic smart specialisation platform for industrial modernisation.

EU actions supporting competence centres such as I4MS, SAE, Fi-Ware  have shown not only an increase of competitiveness of existing industries, notably for SME and mid-caps, but also additional business creation in new digitised products and services. It is the ambition of the Commission to focus 500M€ over the next 5 years from Horizon 2020 budget to these actions.

Some successful competence centres are the micro-tech cluster in Southern Germany where institutes such as Fraunhofer and university labs play an essential role, or the Grenoble digital innovation eco-system around French institutes such as CEA and INRIA.

There is space for more competence centres based in technical universities or research organisations to become DIHs providing companies, in particular SMEs, with facilities for digital innovation. Apart from transferring leading-edge technology to companies, they also should give advice on potential sources of funding/finance, provide space for experimentation and help workers to find training.



20 September 2016
Last update: 
28 September 2017