European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) are one-stop shops supporting companies to respond to digital challenges and become more competitive.
DIHs are one-stop shops that help companies become more competitive with regard to their business/production processes, products or services using digital technologies, by providing access to technical expertise and experimentation, so that companies can “test before invest”. They also provide innovation services, such as financing advice, training and skills development that are needed for a successful digital transformation.
The concept of a Digital Innovation Hubs was initially promoted by the European Commission during the 2014-2020 programming period.
· Regional initiatives, embedded in each region of Europe and aiming to build the regional ecosystems of users and suppliers, strengthening local innovation environment. This regional presence leaves EDIHs well-placed to provide the services local companies need, through the local language and innovation ecosystem.
· Support initiatives for digital transformation adapted to regional needs, based on the specialisation of the region as well as the hub consortium members’ own expertise. DIHs’s mission is to help increase the adoption of digital technologies and of the digital maturity level of European SMEs and Public Service Organizations through four main type of services: Innovation Ecosystem Services, Test before Invest services, Digital Skills services and Access to Finance services.
DIHs also make available the relevant experimentation facilities related to its specialisation.
In 2017 the Digital Innovation Hub concept was promoted as necessary for the regional ecosystems, and several Romanian DIHs were included in the initial JRC Catalogue for such initiatives.
In 2020, the European Commission announced its plans to develop a European DigitalInnovation Hub network. The Digital Innovation Hubs that will be funded by the new Digital Europe program (2021-2027) will receive the status of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs).
All Digital Innovation Hubs from each member state had to first undergo a national selection phase. The winning consortia could then apply to become part of the European Digital InnovationHub (EDIH) network.
Therefore, in addition to the core characteristics of a Digital Innovation Hub (DIH), a European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) has the following roles:
• Share best practices with other hubs.
• Connect local SMEs to SMEs outside the region, building new value chains in Europe.
• Seek synergies with Innovators, include artistic experimentation to find new uses of digital.
• Offer a seamless service with Enterprise Europe Network and Startup Europe.
• Act as a multiplier and widely diffuse the use of all the digital capacities built up under the different specific objectives of the Digital Europe Programme.
• Act as interface with the European Commission to support the implementation of specific sectorial, SME or eGovernment policies.
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, the first restricted call for EDIHs has already been completed with 136 Grants expected to be signed and operational by the end of 2022.
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.
In Romania, the national co-financing from the Member State is offered through the Operational Program for Competitivness, Innovation, Digitalization and Financial Instruments (POCIDIF) from the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRD) funding.