Digital Innovation Hubs are putting digital technology to work on real-world problems. On 25 March they exchanged ideas on how to swiftly help with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.

The outbreak and rapid spread of COVID-19, for many public sector organisations, is an unprecedented challenge. Local governments, administration and, in particular, health services are at the forefront of the crisis that will take time, effort and some good old fashioned luck to solve. Much like public services, the SMEs are struggling to find ways to survive and adopt smoothly. What can help in tipping the scale of success are digital tools and collaboration.

A dedicated community of Digital Innovation Hubs met today, 25 March, to discuss, among other topics, the immediate and long-term needs of public sector organisations and SMEs due to COVID-19 and how digital tools could help them become more resilient.

Ideas they discussed dealt with ensuring business continuity through collaboration tools, video conferencing, delivery and payment solutions, as well as how to protect digital business with increased cybersecurity. On the other hand, there is a lot of space for business innovations, such as new direct marketing and reaching costumers in isolation, as well as new solutions (virtual events, robotic solutions, virtual classrooms, neighbourhood help etc.).

We have seen in this crisis that many European SMEs are not coping well with the situation. Managing remote working, securing materials and cash-flows or just simple invoicing became business challenges. Digital solutions are there to help them mitigate many risks from continuous disruption to their businesses. The European Commission is willing to support urgent actions to combat this crisis, said Matthias Kuom, project officer responsible for the DIHNET project, organising the webinar.

During the webinar interesting examples of innovative solutions that SMEs are applying to directly fight the crisis were shared. For example, a solution from Hungary for eliminating crowds by remote queuing: 

Everyone working in Digital Innovation Hubs is used to putting digital technology at work on real problems in the real world. It is no surprise that, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, several activities were launched to help in the fight. Hubs have agile structures, they are well grounded in the local activities, they have the flexibility to quickly deploy the digital technologies needed – even to respond to a global pandemic like today,” explained Killian Gross, head of unit “Technologies for digital industry. 

One such project is DIH4CPS which aims to support European SMEs in overcoming obstacles posed by innovative technology and through open calls to finance experiments in the area of cyber-physical systems. They were quick to adapt to the current situation, and in agreement with the European Commission, they decided to focus the next open call on helping SMEs recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. They will make 1.6 million euros available for the open call, giving to many SMEs the possibility to test the technologies that will make them more competitive and efficient.


Next steps

DIHs are moving fast. Experts will be completing and summarising ideas in the coming days. If you want to contribute, or simply get more information on the subject, please join the DIHNET community and check the dedicated space “How can DIHs help in times of COVID-19”. Your contribution is welcome!