Photo Credits: IRIS DIH

IRIS DIH, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for the Industry and Society, is the Digital Innovation Hub of Navarra Region (Spain). It was set up for the purpose of accelerating the digital transformation of SMEs as well as supporting the regional administration in the development of personalized medicine, two concrete challenges addressing both the private and the public sector.

How did the story of your Digital Innovation Hub get started?

From the needs identified in the region. Long time ago Navarra was a pioneer implementing the new concepts of the S3 Smart Specialization, and it was an example to follow for other European regions. The S3 strategy has always been a tool for the internal self-assessment in collaboration with the private sector. The continue exercise along the time plus the job done on the field with SMEs made by RTOs, Universities, Clusters, Industry Associations, Professionals… as well as the implementation of a regional assessment policy programme like the “Industry 4.0 Diagnostic” led to the establishment of the basis of what were the needs of the SMEs in the area of digitalization.

From the point of view of European support, the Digital Innovation Hub of Navarra was initially supported with funds by the initiative I4MS in 2016, under the name of “NAVARDIHUB”, today “IRIS”. The initial project was coordinated by ADItech and two institutions, the Public University of Navarra (UPNA) and AIN (an RTO).

In 2020 the Navarra IRIS DIH consortium includes much more regional organizations, that in a complementary way they are able to offer technological and non-technological services and are adapted to the local needs.

Could you describe your DIH ecosystem and its development policy?

There have been several policies and instruments that have supported and are currently promoting the development of the IRIS DIH in Navarra. On the one hand, the Regional Law on Science and Technology creating the basis for a stronger regional innovation system called “SINAI” (ADItech foundation was appointed as SINAI orchestrator) and, on the other hand, the practical objectives set up in the S3 strategy for the next years including a strong support to digitalization.

The IRIS DIH ecosystem includes the community of organizations of Navarra
Innovation System (SINAI), the SIESS platform (a regional community of organizations devoted to sharing scientific and technological infrastructures), as well as the IRIS Lab platform for the provision of services related to the digital transformation. IRIS DIH takes the form of a public-private platform model of collaboration.

From the point of view of the participating organizations in the ecosystem, IRIS DIH includes RTOs and Universities as competence centers (e.g. UPNA, UNAV, NAITEC, AIN and others), entities supporting the entrepreneurship process (CEIN), the ICT cluster and other clusters, the chamber of commerce, organizations related to economic development, EEN services through two existing nodes in Navarra, supercomputing services (provided by NASERTIC), companies and others. A rich ecosystem we would say.

What specific services does IRIS DIH offer?

IRIS DIH offers services in broad areas that are similar to other European DIHs such as testing and experimentation, training, support to find investments and networking. The test before invest concept is part of the NDA Hub.

The Hub tries to be rooted to the local needs. Members of the DIH can help SMEs through a variety of complementary services that conforms a landscape of digital
transformation itineraries tailor made to the companies, including very small
SMEs. Transformation itineraries have been completed with more than 25
companies in the last programme.

Micro-companies are also important. “No one left behind” in this period of COVID-19 is of great importance. Some “hot-lines” have been implemented by regional clusters to give a fast-answer and support to very small business in the process of starting e-commerce business processes. Digital transformation needs to be useful always, it is not only about IA cutting edge technologies. Teleworking in this period of lockdown has been also important for the companies and this is connected to the sphere of the digitalization in companies, IRIS DIH has supported on this too.

IRIS DIH is specialized in Artificial Intelligence. The Data Science Lab is another service, located at the UPNA University and with the aim of promoting the application of Big Data in companies. This action is part of the “Industrial Plan of Navarra 2020” in the axis related to Industry 4.0. It is another example of supporting policy from the regional government in the digitalization area. 26 companies have participated benefiting from this service in the last programme.

In relation to other IRIS services, e.g. the support to the entrepreneurship process, more than 100 companies were created last year.

Collaboration with other European DIHs is also an IRIS cornerstone. It is not realistic to gather in a Hub all the existing knowledge and skills about digitalization in a broad sense, so the exchange of best practices and services in an international context is another challenge.

What is the experience of DIH IRIS in supporting the public administration?

One of the strengths of the Navarra S3 Areas is the Health sector. Navarre has committed itself to the development of a regional strategy for personalized medicine. The flagship of this initiative is the NAGEN 1000 platform. This initiative led by the public research center NAVARRABIOMED and the Health Regional Department has the goal of improving the health of the population by means of the application of the new genomic medicine technologies.

For this project supercomputing technologies are paramount. NASERTIC one of the members of the IRIS DIH supports with this technology in this initiative.

What is your vision of DIHs development in Europe?

Companies need to go digital, there is no doubt. What is also true is that the size of the enterprises, the sector, its physical location as well as their products, competitors and clients are the ones that will mark their priorities in the digitalization.

The added value of the pan-European collaboration will be a proactive inter-collaboration among the DIHs. Trying to not reinvent the wheel, therefore taking advantage of existing or future knowledge (e.g. through potential TEFs) and networks (e.g. EEN, Vanguard Initiative and others).

Hence the importance of a DIH is being able to offer services tailored to the real needs of their environment. It seems clear that the development of DIH in Europe will contribute to this, and it will be a success if DIHs can connect with social and environmental issues without lack of continuity.

However, the real success of the initiative will depend on each region taking ownership of it and working together at local level. Success at the European level will depend on whether there is a real exchange of experiences and knowledge among DIHs and other initiatives, and, over the time whether a market for services is created naturally.

Interview by Laura Argiles, DIHNET

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