By providing access to technical expertise and testing, as well as the possibility to 'test before invest', EDIHs support companies to improve business/production processes, products, or services using digital technologies. They also provide innovation services, such as financing advice, training, and skills development that are central to successful digital transformation. Environmental issues are also taken into account, in particular with regard to the use of digital technologies for sustainability and circularity.
EDIHs combine the benefits of a regional presence with the opportunities available to a pan-European network. This regional presence leaves them well-placed to provide the services local companies need, through the local language and innovation ecosystem. The European coverage of the network facilitates the exchange of best practices across hubs in different countries as well as the provision of specialised services across regions when the needed skills are not locally available.
Following the adoption of the Digital Europe Programme work programme (DIGITAL) (.pdf) , the first restricted call for EDIHs has already been completed with 136 Grants expected to be signed and operational by the end of 2022. 50% of the funding is provided by DIGITAL, and the other 50% is provided by the Member States and/or their regions. National governments and regional authorities played a central role in the selection process of the EDIHs by identifying suitable candidate EDIHs to respond to European call for proposals.
This initial selection of EDIHs will be complemented by a 2nd restricted call, expected to be launched on September 29th and close on November 16th, 2022.
High-quality candidate EDIHs, for which no European funding was available, have received a Seal of Excellence. Some of these will be funded by their Member States or region and once they are operational, they can also become part of the network of EDIHs.
Digital Transformation Accelerator
The EDIH network will be supported by the Digital Transformation Accelerator (DTA). The DTA supports the European Commission in building a vibrant community of hubs and other stakeholders. To this end, the DTA fosters networking, cooperation and knowledge transfer activities between EDIH, SME and mid-caps, the public sector and the other relevant stakeholders and initiatives. The DTA will manage the web presence of the network, hosting appropriate software platform and tools and including an up-to-date online catalogue of EDIHs.
Moreover, the DTA will assess the performance of the EDIH network, gauging the impact that EDIH have on the digital maturity of the organisations they support. To this end, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has developed a Digital Maturity Assessment tool which will be used by all EDIH to measure the progress of Digital Maturity of EDIH customers. The DTA will support the EDIH in the introduction and use of this tool.
European Digital Innovation Hubs and other initiatives
The JRC has also developed a practical handbook with good practices on investment in Digital Innovation Hubs. The handbook aims to support regional, national, and RIS3 (Regional Strategy for Research and Innovation for Smart Specialisation) implementation and policymaking.
Many European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH) are based on existing clusters, or include organisations that are part of Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) consortia. The SME Strategy also commits to expand Digital Innovation Hubs in connection with Startup Europe and the EEN and provide a seamless service within local and regional ecosystems. A guidance document (.pdf) provides further detail on this cooperation.