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Delivering the Digital Transformation through the Digital Europe programme

Leveraging the Digital Europe programme to deliver the Digital Transormation

Artificial Intelligence, Data Spaces, Cloud, Cybersecurity and Digital Skills: projects in these areas should be on the alert for this year's new round of Digital Europe programme calls.

This newly created EU funding programme for 2021-2027 supports investments in five crucial areas: supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills and deployment of digital technologies. The objective is to bridge the gap between digital technology research and market deployment, as well as continuing the initiatives started under previous programmes such as Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility.

With a planned overall budget of €7.5 billion - €1.8 billion of which is already advanced through its first-two-year plan - the Digital Europe programme has a different approach than other centrally managed EU funding programmes: it aims to build strategic digital capacities at EU level, ensuring a wide geographical impact and going beyond supporting smaller investments in individual countries. 

 What is funded?

Looking into the programme's objectives, four are focused on building capacities in key technological areas:

  • deploying cloud-to-edge infrastructure and services
  • establishing sectoral data spaces
  • setting up four key sectoral AI reference testing and experimentation facilities (TEFs)
  • deploying quantum communication infrastructure systems and creating a European network
  • building European cybersecurity infrastructures
  • creating future experts in these technological key areas, reskilling and upskilling workers, and developing a high-performing digital education ecosystem

A further objective pertains to deploying and using these digital capacities, promoting the Digital Single Market and advancing the digital transformation in a wide range of areas, such as the modernisation of public administrations, health, judiciary, transport, mobility, energy and the environment, education, culture and media. 

 Approach and financing

A common approach for different initiatives under the programme is to support, at first, one project that will define the governance mechanism, roadmap and requirements, and then deployment follows either through grant schemes or procurement, or using a combination of both.

As a general rule, the Digital Europe programme ensures 50% of the co-financing for the investments, thus safeguarding the commitment of the funding recipients and the Member States where the investments are deployed. The remaining 50% can come from other EU funding sources, such as Horizon Europe for research and innovation, the Connecting Europe Facility for digital infrastructure, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Structural Funds.

In common with other central programmes and supporting the wide EU impact, large consortia are expected to prepare and submit projects under this programme. The consortia must target different stakeholders in different areas and ensure a balanced approach in terms of responsibilities and ownership of the results. 

European Digital Innovation Hubs

Although part of the deployment objective, the European Digital Innovation Hubs can be treated as a stand-alone objective with their ambitious approach to develop a European Network. These hubs are key to bringing the technology and knowledge to the SMEs and public administrations delivering a quadruple set of services by:

  • ensuring the needed digital infrastructure to "test before invest"
  • providing training to develop the necessary skills
  • creating an innovation ecosystem to stimulate the networking
  • providing support to find investments
The list of selected EDIHs to set up the initial network, chosen from the call that closed this February, is expected to be released soon, in order to be able to start their operations from September 2022 onwards.

Success factors

Key factors contributing to a successful application include:

  • A close cooperation of private stakeholders with the national public administrations to ensure commitment and co-financing
  • Strong coordination of the consortium leader and internal buy-in and support from all consortium members
  • Setting clear responsibilities and deliverables for all stakeholders

To stimulate the set-up of consortia, the European Commission is organising information days with dedicated networking sessions and providing networking platforms where different stakeholders can interact.

What comes next?

Although the programme started later than expected, the first round of calls closed in February this year and mainly supported preparatory actions for different initiatives.

The 2nd round of calls is now open and focuses on the actual deployment of digital capacities.

The next work programme for 2023-2024/2025 is anticipated to offer a clear view on the approach and focus areas to be supported building on the results of these first calls.

How can we help?

Europe is only now developing its expertise in effectively leveraging the Digital Europe programme. Being able to offer early intel on the project concepts, the stakeholders involved and the possibilities this programme offers has become one of our core strengths.

We can support your team in building your submission and help connect your projects with relevant stakeholders.

To find the best opportunities for your business and maximise your chances of receiving a grant under the Digital Europe programme, get in touch with our expert team.  

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