Digital Innovation Hubs Digital Innovation Hubs


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Contact Data

Coordinator (Networked, cluster organization)


Coordinator website

Year Established



via Piero Gobetti, 101, 40129, Bologna (Italy)


Social Media

Contact information

Leda Bologni

Contact information

Domenico Guida

Contact information

Valeria Bandini



ASTER-DIH is a non-profit consortium made up of the Regional Emilia-Romagna Government and the most relevant innovation players on Emilia-Romagna territory (Universities, RTO's, formation centers, industrial associations). The nature of ASTER-DIH let it operate as a Digital Innovation Hub at a regional level in Emilia-Romagna Region, also being a point of contact for innovation-oriented actions from other Italian and European regions. ASTER-DIH offers the connection of its shareholders and the integration of initiatives, services and opportunities to exploit infrastructures, knowledge, experiences for the sake of both companies and providers (of facilities, services, training, etc.). ASTER-DIH connects actors and services in order to cover a number of digital technologies domains and provide the right services according to meet client needs (business and public administration). It gets to a specialised offer based on the qualified technical competencies of its partners, complemented by services provided by other actors, with a special focus on TRL from 3 to 8. This role is positively supported by ASTER’s shareholders.

ASTER-DIH supports the Digital Innovation in Emilia-Romagna actong as a coordinator of his shareholder’s initiatives. More in details, ASTER-DIH:

  • supports Regional Authority in the definition of the Data Economy Regional Strategic Programme;
  • coordinates, supports, and is founding member of the High Technology Network ( )
  • coordinates the Clust-ER activity (;
  • is responsible of  the training of PIDs (Digital Entreprise Points- in Emilia-Romagna, part of the National Plan for Industry 4.0;
  • acts in its role of founder and Board of Directors Member of Associazione Big Data;
  • acts as founder and strategic board member of BI-REX (National Competence Centre);
  • leads the Artificial Intelligence and Human-Machine Interface TSSP Industrial Modernisation Thematic Area;
  • acts as member of the Strategic Forum for Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) established by DG Grow ;
  • organizes R2B events aimed at linking SMEs to scientific and technical research from the local universities and RTO’s, the most relevant being the annual R2B event (

Link to national or regional initiatives for digitising industry

National Strategic Plan for promoting 4.0 technologies in enterprises (Impresa 4.0) launched in 2016 is one of the most important initiatives that is being carried on by the Italian government to support industry digitization. The Plan offers a set of opportunities to companies that are investing in Industry 4.0 (from incentives to investments to funds for skills adaptation), mainly on the following enabling technologies: Advanced Manufacturing Solution, Additive Manufacturing, Augmented Reality, Simulation, Horizontal/Vertical Integration, Industrial Internet, Cloud, Cyber-security and Big Data Analytics. The Impresa 4.0 plan also addresses the creation of networks of entities (Competence Centres and Digital Innovation Hubs) that are offering services for digitalisation at different TRL levels, coherently with the actions promoted at European level.

In Emilia-Romagna the National initiative is integrated with several regional complementary initiatives and measures aiming at meeting a whole set of needs and widening the feasibility and effectiveness of interventions, including:

● Important computational infrastructures used by companies for simulation (new materials, digital twins, etc): 1 Tier1 Datacenter at INFN-CNAF, 3 HPC center at CINECA, hosting the Tier0 cluster MARCONI, a Tier1 cluster GALILEO and an experimental cluster DAVIDE, dedicated to Big Data processing and Artificial Intelligence application testing by academic and industrial research;

● The Big Data Technopole, located in Bologna, that thanks to regional and national investments, is going to host the data centre of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF);

● The Big Data Association, recently established in order to integrate the big data and artificial intelligence facilities and skills for the interest of local and national organizations.

● BI-REX, the National Competence Centre based in Bologna, focusing on Big Data application for Manufacturing;

● The networks of the DIH and PID (Punti Impresa Digitale - Digital Entreprise Points) established by the local entrepreneurial association and chambers of commerce in the framework of Impresa 4.0 plan;

● The infrastructure programme of the regional Digital Agenda facilitating the actions foreseen by the National UltraBroadband Plan with local interventions devoted to cover areas with limited economic potential, so as to decrease the digital-divide. Currently (AGCOM, 2018) 97% of the population is reached by broadband (33% coverage up to 30 Mbps) and/or ultralarge (35% of the population has coverage from 30 to 100 Mbps and the remaining 29% exceeds 100 Mbps). The regional population in digital divide is 3%, which rises to 8% in mountain municipalities;

● The Smart Specialization Strategy that addresses digitalization - with specific funds - in the most important (in terms of economic and social value and potential) thematic areas, namely: Mechatronics, Agrifood, Constructions, Life Science and Cultural and Creative Industries;

The High Technology Network, set up with the support of 2007-2013 ERDF, consisting of 96 facilities of which 82 industrial research laboratories and 14 innovation centres: 58 industrial research labs offer digitalization solutions based on research results;

● The Clust-ER initiative, that foresaw the creation of associations of public and private bodies - companies, research centres and training institutions – aiming at supporting the competitiveness of regional industries in the S3 priority areas plus two transversal areas (Energy and Sustainable Development and Service Innovation), includes Clust-ERs operating on a value chains and related strategic objectives among which digital manufacturing and artificial intelligence, digital platforms for innovation, cybersecurity;

● The Emilia-Romagna High Skills Plan, using ESF funds for PhD courses, research fellowships and Masters,Together with 86 Graduate Courses, 37 Doctoral Courses and 26 Master Programmes related to digitalisation;

● The Cyber Academy in Modena, the Industry 4.0 Executive Programmes of the Bologna Business School, the  Doctoral School in Data Science and Computation, promoted by the University of Bologna (UNIBO) and the Golinelli Foundation and the Master course in Supply Chain Management and Digital Innovation of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Piacenza branch;

● SMILE, the Digital Innovation Hub supported by I4MS initiative;

● CINECA, tutor of I4MS and member of the Fortissimo consortium;


Then, in Emilia-Romagna (and in Italy) there are several different initiatives aiming at supporting the digitalization, deriving from local, national and European programmes and plans. Such initiatives are in general complementary but sometimes overlap, requiring support to potential users enabling a correct usage of the different tools and, in general terms, a guide to make more effective the whole system.

Within this framework operates also ASTER, the Consortium for innovation and technology transfer of Emilia-Romagna, whose shareholders are: the Emilia-Romagna Regional Government, the six Universities and the National Research Centres located in the region (the National Research Council-CNR, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development-ENEA, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics-INFN), the Regional Union of Chambers of Commerce, working in collaboration with regional Business Associations and Innovation Centres.

ASTER-DIH is based on the experience and capacities of ASTER, and the ones of the regional stakeholders, aiming at expanding the positive effects of the variety of existing assets and tools. Integrated services are organised based on the existing actions implemented by local and national organizations.


Market and Services

Market sectors

  • Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  • Public administration and defence
  • Manufacture of food products, beverages and tobacco
  • Manufacture of textiles and textile products
  • Manufacture of rubber and plastic products
  • Manufacture of machinery and equipment
  • Manufacture of transport equipment
  • Other markets

TRL Focus

  • TRL4 - Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment
  • TRL5 - Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment
  • TRL6 - System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment
  • TRL7 - System prototype demonstration in an operational environment
  • TRL8 - Actual system completed and qualified through test and demonstration

Services provided

  • Awareness creation
  • Ecosystem building, scouting, brokerage, networking
  • Visioning and Strategy Development for Businesses
  • Collaborative Researchs
  • Digital Maturity Assessment
  • Incubator/accelerator support
  • Access to Funding and Investor Readiness Services
  • Mentoring
  • Education and skills development
  • Other

Service Examples

Support to SMEs in R&D projects

Clients profiles: Start-ups and SMEs with core competence in ICT and 3D solutions

Clients needs: Seek financial resources and specific knowledge for developing prototypes, R&D projects, new products and services in the field of ICT and 3D solutions

Support to SMEs in:

- finding grants for financing of prototypes and development of R&D projects in ICT sector, with focus in ICT disruptive/advanced technologies and 3D solutions in healthcare sector

  •  understanding participating rules
  •  preparing the applications for SME Instrument
  •  grant management

More details:

SMEs needs and research facilities matching

Following some of the successful cases of innovation cases started from a matching of needs and facilities/expertise/knowledge offers.

You can find more detailed information on

Case 1: biomedical sector

Clients: Medica SpA (SME - and MIST E-R (laboratory -

Client needs: development of a new dialyses machine

Medica SpA (500 employees) operates in the biomedical sector, with special focus on digital contents, enhanced-automation and high-precision assembly machines for the biomedical sector. MIST E-R lab produces multi-purpose micro- and nano-sensors, is partner of Medica for many research projects. In the framework of High Technology Network they usually cooperate. One of the most relevant projects is about the development and deployment of an innovative dialysis machine, able to perform its function providing less impact on the patient, making use of innovative membranes for more selective blood analysis and on data-driven adaptive behavior of the machine looking and the patient conditions.

Case 2: energy efficiency 

Clients: Pieri SRL ( and Rinnova Lab (Laboratory

Clients needs: Pieri SRL needed to enhance the energy efficiency at shop-floor and to realize new products to satisfy customer's objectives addressed to environmental issues.

Pieri SRL is a SME from Cesena, and is one of the leaders in the packaging sector in Emilia-Romagna Region. They exploit the knowledge coming from academic research to anticipate the market changes and then develop new products just in time for the market needs. Rinnova is acknowledged as a laboratory of the High Technology Network, and its main focus is the improvement of energetic efficiency in many fields. The need to improve their production chain energy efficiency by Pieri SRL and the availability of knowledge and facilities by Rinnova met thank to the High Tecnology Network related initiatives. They created a service to meter, to manage in order to reduce environmental impact of packaging, in every stage of the value-chain, starting from raw material and ending to final user. Their collaboration has been promoted, fostered and supported by ASTER.

Case 3: ICT solutions

Clients: QUIX (SME - and Datariver (Innovation ICT Lab -

Client need: QUIX needed to develop new, innovative products for their market

Quix is a SME from Modena, activne in ICT consuklting and innovative software development. Datariver is a software Lab belonging to the High Technology Network, spin-off of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, focused on exploitation of big data to enhance productivity and safety in many industrial sectors. Their collaboration started from the need by QUIX to develop new software solutions. They developed two prototypes for two different products, Qery and Qform, now on the market, developing and testing them at the Datariver Lab. They met in the framework of High Technology Network initiatives, and their collaboration project has been supported and fostered by ASTER.

Case 4: Agri-food

Clients: OPEN FIELDS (SME and SITEIA (inter-departmental academic lab -

Client needs: creating innovative ingredients,  healthy and environmentally sustainability.

OPEN FIELDS is a SME leader in Technology Transfer in Agri-food sector in Emilia-Romagna. OPEN FIELDS met the SITEIA laboratory via the High Technology Network initiatives. Thanks to SITEIA’s facilities and OpenFields market knowledge, they were allowed to develop innovative ingredients for food sector industries, caring of strong environmental and customer’s health constraints, obtaining amazing results also thanks to the digitalisation of the production chain.


Here is a library of videointerview to SMEs representatives regarding their experience wit the High Technology Network and ASTER:

More details:

Supporting industrial exploitation of INCLUSIVE (Smart and adaptive interfaces for INCLUSIVE work environment) H2020 project results

Clients profiles:  3 local companies operating in different production sectors.

Clients needs: introduce smart elements for INCLUSIVE work environment in their industrial process, applying the results of the INCLUSIVE project

Support to companies in:

ASTER is a partner of the INCLUSIVE project, funded under H2020-FoF framework, which aims to develop a new concept of interaction between the user and a manufacturing system in which the behavior of the automation system adapts to human operator capabilities. ASTER is in charge of innovation related activities, supporting the industrial exploitation of project results applied to 3 use cases in 3 companies working in different sectors:

  • production of woodworking machines  for small companies and artisan shops;
  • development and production of robotic cells for panel bending;
  • development and production of automated guided vehicles for logistics and automatic material handling in production and storage environment.

More details:

Setup of Technopoles and High Technology Network in Emilia-Romagna

Clients profiles: Regional industrial and academic ecosystem, SMEs and startups

Clients needs: Easy connection between academic/industrial research, public/private research facilities, testing labs, industrial testers, companies interested in innovation, newly born startups.

Setup of the High Technology Network in E-R 

Boasting both a national and international dimension but firmly rooted in the region and its economic system, the Emilia-Romagna High-Technology Network is already capable of effectively and professionally addressing business sector needs. The Network is composed of 82 Industrial research laboratories and 14 Innovation centres operating in the following fields: agri-food, construction, energy and environment, ICT and design, life science, mechanics and materials. The laboratories are hosted within the Technopoles: 10 infrastructures located throughout the territory that stem from an initiative of the Region in collaboration with ASTER, universities, research centres and local authorities. They organize activities and services for industrial research, technology transfer and for the development of high skills and careers on innovation.

Technopoles have been recognized by the European Commission as best practice of European Funds use in the programming period 2007-2013.

More details:


Organizational form

(part of) Public organization (part of RTO, or university)



Number of employees


Evolutionary Stage

Fully operational

Geographical Scope



  • Horizon 2020
  • European Social Fund
  • European Regional Development Fund
  • National specific innovation funding
  • Regional funding


Number of customers annually


Type of customers

  • Start-up companies
  • SMEs (<250 employees)
  • MidCaps (between €2-10 billion turnover)
  • Large companies, multi-nationals
  • Research organisations



Partner Type



Partner Type



Università di Bologna

Partner Type



Università degli studi di Ferrara

Partner Type



Università degli studi di Parma

Partner Type



Emilia-Romagna Regional Government

Partner Type

Regional government


Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare

Partner Type

Research & Technology organization


Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche

Partner Type

Research & Technology organization



Partner Type



UnionCamere Emilia-Romagna

Partner Type

Chamber of Commerce


Associazione Big Data

Partner Type


Laboratorio Nazionale di Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems

Partner Type

Research & Technology organization



Partner Type

Research & Technology organization

Technological competences

  • Robotics and autonomous systems
  • Internet of Things (e.g. connected devices, sensors and actuators networks)
  • Artificial Intelligence and cognitive systems
  • Interaction technologies (e.g. human-machine Interaction, motion recognition and language technologies)
  • Advanced or High performance computing
  • Data mining, big data, database management
  • Augmented and virtual reality, visualization
  • Simulation and modelling
  • Cloud computing
  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
  • ICT management, logistics and business systems
Last updated: 13/03/19 09:49