European Digital Innovation Hubs: one-stop-shops for companies and public administration
Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) have been created all over Europe since 2016 with the support of EU Funding. A DIH catalogue – "yellow pages" – was put in place and monitors the development of DIHs across Europe. The aim of the European Union is to ensure that all companies would have a DIH at working distance. In fact, the brand-new Digital Europe Programme will support the development of a European DIHs network, at least one in each Member State in 2021 and reaching a total number of 260 by 2027. The focus is going to be on the European added value, to enhance hubs' capacity to serve more than one country and to export excellence. This objective will stimulate the broad uptake by the industry (in particular SMEs and midcaps) and public sector organisations in Europe of Artificial Intelligence, High Performance Computing (HPC) and Cybersecurity as well as other digital technologies.
They are created to be the one-stop-shops for companies and the public sector in their digital transformation. Regardless of the legal form they take, the key element of an EDIH is the not-for-profit objective. This means that all money earned by the members of the EDIH or donated to it is used in pursuing the EDIH's objectives and keeping it running. Any legal entity can be part (of the consortium) of an EDIH.
An EDIH will have a focus, an expertise and also experimentation facilities related to its specialisation to be used to test these technologies.
Four key functions will drive an EDIH's activity: 1. test before invest, offering demonstration activities, testing and experimentation possibilities with digital technologies; 2. support skills development and training; 3. brokerage role to support the access to financial institutions and investors and 4. support for networking and innovation bringing together end-users and potential suppliers of technological solutions.
Digital Europe Programme is providing financial support up to 50% for the functioning of an EDIH (facilities, equipment, personnel, travel) and the Member State needs to come up with the other 50%, either in kind or in cash, also a combination of national/ regional/ private funding can be used.
The selection of the EDIHs is a competitive 2-step process: the first step takes place at national level when each country decides the EDIHs to participate in the 2ndstep – the European selection.
The first step of the process, the national selection, is currently ongoing in every Member State and should be finalized by the end of 2020. Some countries like Germany, Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Spain and Greece are more advanced in the selection process while others are late in the process. The second step, the European selection, will start in the first quarter of 2021 and will take the form of a restricted call for proposals where the selected EDIHs will be invited to submit their application.