Europe can gain decisive competitive advantages internationally if it is capable to generate a wave of bottom-up digital innovations involving all industrial sectors. The digital revolution brings opportunities for big and small companies, but many of them still find it difficult to know in which technologies to invest and how to secure financing for their digital transformation.

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

Digital innovation hubs (DIH) 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.

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:DIH

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.

How to get involved

  • If you are an organisation willing to be part of a consortia that coordinates EU projects related to Digital Innovation Hubs, several calls are available under the Horizon 2020 programme for 2018 and 2019.
  • If you are an SME, mid-cap or startup interested in testing and implementing digital innovations, you can apply for several open calls from EU projects on Digital Innovation Hubs.