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Digital Innovation Hubs: helping companies across the economy make the most of digital opportunities — Brochure

This brochure provides a quick overview on Digital Innovation Hubs, one of the key pillars of the European Commission's Initiative for Digitising European Industry.

I believe Europe can successfully manage the transformation into the digital age, if we build on our strengths and values.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Digital technologies allow businesses to produce higher value products and services, and improve production processes. The term digital technologies refers to, among other things:

  • high performance computing
  • the Internet of Things
  • big data
  • blockchain
  • robotics
  • artificial intelligence

However, European companies are not making the most of all the opportunities digital has to offer.

The level of digitalisation in Europe remains uneven. The adoption of digital technologies varies strongly according to company size, sector, and location.

Bar graph showing the percentage of enterprises that adopted digital technologies in the EU. In 2017, almost 80% of large enterprises and about 30% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) adopted electronic information sharing (ERP). In 2017, about 70% of large enterprises and about 45% SMEs adopted social media. In 2017, about 45% of large enterprises and 18% of SMEs adopted supply chain management. In 2017, about 45% of large enterprises and about 20% of SMEs adopted customer relationship management. In 2018, about 39% of large enterprises and about 18% of SMEs adopted cloud services. In 2018, about 39% of large enterprises and about 18% of SMEs adopted e-commerce. In 2018, about 30% of large enterprises and about 10% of SMEs adopted big data. In 2017, about 22% of large enterprises and about 8% of SMEs adopted cross-border e-Commerce. In 2018, about 8% of large enterprises and about 5% of SMEs adopted marketplace e-commerce. Information from the Desi Report 2019 – Integration of Digital Technology (source: Eurostat)

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 it 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 5 main pillars:

Chart illustrating the five main pillars of the European platform of national initiatives on digitising industry, which are digital innovations for all – Digital innovation hubs, strengthening leadership through partnerships and industrial platforms, a regulatory framework fit for the digital age and preparing Europeans for the digital future.

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.

At a glance: Digital Innovation Hubs in the Digital Europe Programme

The Digital Europe Programme is focused on building strategic digital capacities across the EU, facilitating the wide deployment of digitalinnovations, to the benefit Europe’s citizens and businesses.

The programme also 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 the 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 Hubs.
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 Hubs

Digital Innovation Hubs in the Digital Europe Programme

  • Focus: support broad capacity building of hubs in all regions of the EU, ensuring appropriate uptake of AI, HPC and Cybersecurity by all industry and public sector organisations in Europe.
    • Investments: Through the Digital Europe programme, Member States and the Commission, will invest together in a network of “European Digital Innovation Hubs”. Member States and regions may use European Regional Development Funds and co-operate with industry. EU co-investments in EDIHs focus on experimentation & testing facilities and personnel for the related services
    • Selection: 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. 
  • Specialisation: 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.
  • Co-operation with Digital Europe Facilities and Competence Centres: DIH will closely collaborate with centres of other pillars of the Digital Europe Programme.
  • Skills development: 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.

Diagram showing networking, transfer of expertise. Public administrations, SMEs/Midcaps and train the trainer all feed in, whilst European DIHs can request specialised support. There is also interaction with HPC competence centres, Cybersecurity competence care network, AI testing and experiment facilities and advanced digital skills

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.

What have previous programmes achieved?

Horizon 2020

  • €500 million EU funding from Horizon 2020 for Digital Innovation Hubs (2016-2020).
  • Support to more than 2000 Start-ups, SMEs and mid-caps to test digital innovations in collaboration with more than 200 Digital Innovation Hubs networked across the European Union.
  • 13 EU countries included Digital Innovation Hubs in their national digitalisation strategies. More are preparing to do so.
  • Coaching more than 60 potential Digital Innovation Hubs in regions with slower adoption of digital technologies, with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe.

Examples of innovative experiments

EU-funded success stories from the I4MS (ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs) and the SAE (Smart Anything Everywhere) initiatives: