DG JRC is working together with DG CONNECT on Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) and Smart Specialisation (S3). This is taking place through a number of activities; one is the DIH-online tool. Based on this catalogue, a number of other activities will be carried out to develop a knowledge base on S3 and DIH.
On the 28th the S3 Platform organised a workshop on the topic of Smart Specialisation and Digital Innovation Hubs in the Brussels EIT House. Around 30 representatives from Regional administrations, Digital innovation hubs and European commission services participated.
The workshop was part of one line of activities to document and diffuse examples of DIH involved in developing and implementing S3, to generate inputs to guidance material and to initiate a community of practise on the topic. The scoping workshop will be followed up in spring 2018 with a second workshop, where the guidance material will be launched.
The workshop explored three main themes:
The role of DIHs in S3; how DIHs interact in the functioning of the innovation ecosystem and if and how they contribute to S3/regional innovation policies.
How DIHs are funded and how synergies in funding are created; between regional and national funds, but also with ESIF and H2020 funds.
Are DIHs interested in collaborating with other Hubs? On which themes? Is there already any collaboration?
The workshop used a participatory leadership method, with active participation from all attendees, both in the preparation before the workshop, but also during the workshop itself. There were a combination of presentations from Regions, DIHs and EC services; and interactive sessions discussing jointly identified issues. The discussions focused on:
The interactions between DIHs, RIS3 and the eco-system.
DIH funding/ sustainable business models
How to incorporate the demand side perspective on HUBs, to better reach out to and engage with beneficiaries
Some of the key messages from the day include:
HUBs are not about promoting the competences of the actors connected to the HUB, but to meet the demand of the regional industries.
The purpose of DIHs is to help the existing industry with their digital transformation. Therefore, the services they offer should be driven by the needs of the existing industry of the region. They can be based on already existing clusters, co-location centres of KICs, technology transfer centres, RTO's, etc., but a DIH should focus on supporting the regional industrial sectors to digitalise, especially key regional industries that so far have not yet engaged in the most promising digital technologies.
State aid is a concern of managing authorities and this needs to be better explained when it may be an issue or not.
For interregional collaboration there are different sources of funding, Interreg and possibly Art 70, platforms, like EIT (EIT Digital has training material available to train the trainers on Industry 4.0. They are also setting up a platform for DIH training), and the thematic Smart Specialisation platform. One needs to know for what purpose the tools are adequate.
The DIHs need already consider having proper business models for long term sustainability. This is not static, but develops according to the increasing market and industry needs and a DIH needs to adapt accordingly and provide the right type of services needed.
The business model for the DIHs needs to be customer/demand driven. Regional DIHs are responsible for identifying the SMEs' industry needs within their respective constituencies.
H2020 grants are good to bootstrap a project but do not ensure a DIH's financial sustainability.
A concrete funding mix of public and private funding and a matrix of the different funding instruments for the digital transformation of SMEs is required for a DIH to remain financially sustainable.
DIHs need most likely to provide SMEs with the basic market-entry services (raising awareness, market place etc.) for free. These could be covered by a mix of private funding and regional structural funds. More advanced services, such as business model development, would probably need to be provided on a pay-per-use basis.
It is important to be in places were businesses are, to build trust and to understand needs, therefore participate in events and market the service offering, but also using all types of channels to reach SMEs. Also a suggestion was to market oneself through the DIHs partners own web pages.
Communicate through videos and printed leaflets. Successful examples can be important.
There are different markets, it can be important to segment these and address them differently, e.g. sectors, urban/rural.
Use clusters, chambers of commerce and other network organisations to identify possible beneficiaries.
To use large companies or public sector actors, as procurers or true demand givers, and then involve SMEs to supply to these, but in the process, add and stimulate new digital solutions developed, to upgrade upskill SMEs.