This updated brochure provides a quick overview on Digital Innovation Hubs, one of the key pillars of the European Commission’s Initiative for Digitising European Industry (Source: European Commision 01.2021)
The slow uptake of digital technologies poses a risk to the European Union’s ability to compete in the global economy, to grow and create new jobs, and is a source of inequalities.
The European Commission launched the Digitising European Industry initiative (DEI) in April 2016. The DEI initiative aims to reinforce the EU’s competitiveness in digital technologies and ensure that every business in Europe — whichever the sector, wherever the location, whatever the size — can draw the full benefits from digital innovation.
Building on and complementing the various national initiatives for digitising industry, the DEI actions are structured around five main pillars:
Digital innovation hubs
Digital innovation hubs are a key pillar in the European Commission’s Digitising European Industry initiative.
Companies can benefit from Digital Innovation Hubs to better understand how to improve their processes, products and services through digital technologies.
Digital Innovation Hubs are not-for-profit, one-stop-shops that support companies – in particular small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) – and public organisations in their digital transformation, offering them services such as:
Test before invest: Experimentation with new digital technologies – software, hardware, business models – to understand new opportunities and return on investments, also including demonstration facilities and piloting.
Skills and training to make the most of digital innovations: train-the-trainer programmes, boot-camps, traineeships, exchange of curricula and training material.
Support to find investments: feasibility studies, develop business plans, incubation & acceleration programmes.
An innovation ecosystem and networking opportunities through marketplaces and brokerage activities.
Joining forces with Member States and regions
The European Union, EU countries and regions work together to make the most of Digital Innovation Hubs:
- The EU: supports the collaboration of Digital Innovation Hubs to create an EU-wide network where companies can access all necessary competences not available in their local hubs.
- Member States: make sure their national strategy supports the creation of Digital Innovation Hubs and secure the necessary financial means.
- Regions: ensure the presence and quality of regional Digital Innovation Hubs by managing financial resources such as regional development funds (European Structural and Investment Funds/European Regional Development Fund), and encourage SMEs to work with them.
Digital Innovation Hubs in the Digital Europe Programme
The Digital Europe Programme aims at building up and strengthening the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs as follows:
- EU support for one Digital Innovation Hub per region
- Co-investment with Member States, regions, and private sector
- Focus on SMEs and public services
- Focus on applications that build on HPC, AI & Cybersecurity; and on digital skills
- A strong European network of Digital Innovation Hub
The selection of hubs will follow a two-step process. Through a national selection process, Member States will designate a list of DIH as a basis for a restricted Call for Proposals by the Commission. The EU will further select EDIHs taking into account quality and balancing regional, technological and application coverage by the network.
Over time, Digital Innovation Hubs develop specialisation in applications and sectors that benefit strongly from the key digital technologies supported by Digital Europe — HPC, AI or cybersecurity:
- specialisation must correspond to the needs of the region and its smart specialisation strategy
- digital innovation hubs normally focus on a portfolio of services related to more than one application, sector, and technology
- networking of DIH will allow specialised hubs to offer their competences and resources to others and, vice versa, to find missing expertise and facilities elsewhere in the network.
DIH will support skills development in collaboration with the actions under the “Digital Skills” pillar of the Digital Europe Programme, e.g. by rolling out short-term advanced digital skills training courses.
Digital Innovation Hubs under the NextGenerationEU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility
The Digitising European Industry initiative emphasised the need for significant national and regional effort to create new, or reinforce, competence centres offering the services of a Digital Innovation Hub across the whole EU and stimulate their use by industry.
The Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL) plans to invest around a €750 million in hubs, to be matched by a similar investment from Member States (50% co-funding), and possibly include private investments. With an average investment of €7 million per hub over the 7 years of the programme, the funding made available under DIGITAL can support up to 211 hubs of critical size.
The policy ambition is however to fund at least one in every NUTS 2 region (240 hubs) so that there is a hub in working distance of every firm and assuring there is at least one hub specialised in AI per Member State.
NextGenerationEU provides a range of investments to significantly scale up the initial funding efforts started by European Programmes and bridge the coverage gap. RRF could be used to:
- set up new European Digital Innovation Hubs. Digital Innovation Hubs not supported from Digital Europe Programme could be 100% funded from the RRF.
- complement European Digital Innovation Hubs. Additional funding from RRF for the hubs selected under DIGITAL is also an opportunity to reinforce the investments of these hubs in distinct cost items, for example to upgrade buildings, catering for an acceleration and scale-up of operations.
- set up hubs in other areas of specialisation, outside the European Digital Innovation Hub network.