DIHs and EDIHs – Cooperation for a digitized future

 

In order for Sweden to remain globally competitive, its companies must be able to benefit from digital opportunities. By establishing Digital Innovation Hubs, companies, the public sector and academia can work together to support the ongoing digital transformation. Learn more about Digital Innovation Hubs and how they’re helping companies across the world make the most of digital opportunities.

The digital revolution brings opportunities for companies as well as the public sector, there’s no question about it. However, many organizations still find it difficult to know in which technologies to invest and how to secure financing for their digital transformation. Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are particularly slow in integrating digital technologies: only one out of five SMEs in the EU are highly digitized, yet they represent over 90% of all businesses in Europe[1].

What is a DIH?

By investing in the creation or support of so-called Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), the government supports Sweden’s national and regional digitalization strategy. A DIH is a regional multi-partner cooperation including organizations like RTOs, universities, industry associations, chambers of commerce, incubator/accelerators, regional development agencies and even governments.

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[1] European Commission Digital Single Market, 2019

 

Digital Innovation Hubs are non-profit, one-stop-shops that support SMEs and public organizations in their digital transformation, often with technical universities or research organizations at its core. They offer services such as testing and experimentation with software and hardware, support to find investment and an innovation ecosystem and networking opportunities through marketplaces and brokerage activities.

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 as well as training material. As proximity is considered crucial, the DIHs act as a first regional point of contact, a doorway, and strengthen the innovation ecosystem. Using the resources offered by a DIH, companies and organizations could achieve higher value products and smarter processes.

Cross border collaboration

In order to help both existing DIHs and candidate DIHs effectively collaborate and network across nation borders, the European Commission set up the European catalogue of DIHs. To date, it includes over 300 fully operational hubs across the EU as well as an additional 200 candidate DIHs. Sweden has 6 fully operational and 7 candidate DIHs, of which FPX is one.

– FPX is proud to announce that we are now a fully operational DIH, news that we got this February, says Henrik Dahl, CEO of FPX. We are really looking forward to work as a DIH together with our cluster. We hope that companies will see the potential that our data lake can bring and we hope to be able to innovate and develop with SMEs in the region.

During autumn, FPX carried out a data strategy project focusing on creating a stronger value of the data managed within the data lake. Different partners can now benefit from internally and externally developed machine learning models that combine and process data stored in the lake.

The European DIH-project

The DIHs are a key pillar in the European Commission’s digitizing European industry initiative. The EU supports the collaboration of DIHs in several EU initiatives and projects for the purpose of creating an EU-wide network that will increase knowledge transfer between regions and form the basis for economies of scale and investment in the hubs. The idea is that these hubs will act as providers of the latest digital technologies, including AI, cyber security and high performance computer systems (HPC). The EDIH initiative’s objective is to stimulate the digital transformation in both the European commercial and public sector.

Accordingly, the European Commission is planning to invest EUR 500 million during 2016 to 2020. During this time the Digital Europe Programme plans to award grants for developing so called European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH).

The selection criteria for the European Digital Innovation Hubs will be developed before the end of 2020, with the aim being to select approximately 80 hubs – with a minimum of one hub per country in the first year – and up to 260 in total by 2023. The idea is that all industry and public sector organizations will have a hub “at a working distance”.

The European Commission proposes investing between EUR 0.5 and EUR 1 million per EDIH per year through the Digital Europe Programme. The goal is that each member country will finance an EDIH with a corresponding sum, including regional funding.

Andreas Allström is programme manager att Vinnova. Together with his colleagues he wrote a pre-study for the establishment of EDIH in Sweden on behalf of the Swedish government.

How do you become an EDIH?

– In August 2020, the member states will submit a list with nationally prioritized existing clusters and hubs to the European Commission. It has not yet been decided how many Swedish candidates that will be included in the list, partly because the selection process on EU level still is a bit unclear, but four to eight EDIH are expected to be funded through the program for a digital Europe.

The regulation for EDIHs says that hubs in one country should have a complementary specialization, and that the coverage should be spread evenly across Europe. What does this mean for Sweden?

– Sweden is a small country and is unlikely to receive funding for two DIHs focusing on similar areas, for example robotics. Therefore, we see a need for co-operation  both within the country and amongst the Nordic countries during the selection process.

 

Who do you see being responsible for the governance of Swedish EDIHs?

– It depends on what will be put into that function. We believe it should be funded by a government agency, but the service itself to support Swedish EDHIs is likely to be run by an external organization.

What role do you see the business world play in this?

– In some areas I think the regional industry can play a large part. For example, the business community is taking part in a lot of test beds at the moment. By being part of a DIH network, test beds can be used by and reach more potential users than they do today. The business sector also finances some of the environments and clusters that are potential EDIH candidates for this role in Sweden.

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