The Basque Digital Innovation Hub, or Basque DIH, is a connected network of Advanced Manufacturing assets and services, infrastructures for training, research, testing and validation for companies. Its aim is to provide industrial enterprises, especially SMEs, with the technological capabilities needed to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0, and is the response to the Basque Industry 4.0 Strategy. Composed of six technology-oriented nodes of which three are currently operational (Flexible Robotics, Additive Manufacturing and Cybersecurity), and another three which are being further defined (Big Data Analytics, New Materials and Intelligent and Connected Machines), the Basque Digital Innovation Hub will be able to serve various R&D projects.
The Basque DIH is a mechanism designed to support the adoption of digital technologies in Basque SMEs and to spread digital skills with the aim of making businesses future-proof for the fourth industrial revolution, and to increase both the innovative capabilities and competitiveness of these businesses. This challenge, however, goes beyond the borders of the Basque Country and affects the entire European Industrial fabric. It is for that reason that there are plans to open up the access to the Basque DIH to European SMEs through publicly financed vouchers. Opening eligibility of regional public funding programmes to foreign actors, however, remains a challenge which has not yet been structurally overcome by Regional Authorities.
Through this connected network, which is owned by the involved R&D Centres, vocational training centres and universities, the Basque Government has been able to bring together more than 100 different assets to support businesses in the Advanced Manufacturing sector across the different thematic nodes. Tackling Industry 4.0 challenges, however, has many different facets such as financing. The Basque Government is addressing this by defining a pilot funding programme for regional innovation support on an interregional basis as well as giving SMEs additional insight in the various funding opportunities and subsidy programmes which will support them in their transformations.
The Basque Government has financed the process of defining and launching the different nodes which currently make up the Basque Digital Innovation Hub through its Business Development Agency, SPRI. This process has gone through the definition and establishment of an operational model containing the different steps necessary to carry out the inclusion of new nodes to the Basque DIH, as well as the signing of a memorandum of collaboration detailing commitments and collaboration clauses for the involved parties. Governance of the nodes has been organized through three bodies; the Executive Committee of the Basque Industry 4.0 Steering Group in which the Regional Administration is a core member, the Monitoring Committee composed of representatives of each of the scientific and technological agents which are members of each node and the node Coordinator.
The Results and Benefits
The results of the Basque Digital Innovation Hub are best described through some of its Success Stories, such as the use of Additive Manufacturing in the production of complicated canisters for encapsulated Powder Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) components. Hot Isostatic Pressing of powders is a near net shape additive manufacturing technology which is especially attractive when using expensive materials, since it requires minimal amounts of finishing processes. To harness the full potential of HIP, powders need to be encapsulated to insulate them from the pressurization media or gas. The production of the canisters which encapsulate the powders, however, can slow the development of Hot Isostatic Pressing. Therefore, one of the competence centres of the Basque DIH bas been used by a Basque manufacturer of metallic powder solutions for the production of these canisters, the application of which is currently used in the manufacturing of aeronautic components and turbine manufacturers.
Secondly, there is the collaborative robot for surgical assistance case, aimed at the development of a collaborative robotic system for transpedicular fixation of vertebrae and maxillofacial surgery. The final objective of this case is the construction of a fully functional prototype which will be validated as a proof-of-concept and is made possible through the validation and prototyping services under the Flexible Robotics node of the Basque Digital Innovation Hub.