How did the story of your Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) get started?
The idea to set up a regional DIH was born out of the new policies of the European Union that seek to develop strategies in favor of the digitalization of the european economies, in their private and public sectors. The European Union has recently set a goal of reaching a digitalization level that covers around 20% of the GDP of the union.This digitalization will work as a way to re-industrialize Europe in a smart, innovative and sustainable way.
The region of Extremadura wants to join this European race for digitalization with its own Digital Innovation Hub. Inward, Extremadura wants to become a vibrant “laboratory” for the development and research of innovative technologies, in the search of higher standards of living for its citizens and a more efficient exploitation of the natural resources the region enjoys. Outward, the digitalization of Extremadura will be key in the realization of the social and environmental goals of the EU, including the Horizon 2020 Programme or the European Green Deal. This way, the Digital Innovation Hub would become the ambassador and executor of the digitalization and environmentally-sustainable policies that the European Union is recently promoting.
Could you describe your DIH ecosystem and its development policy?
The Digital Innovation Hub Technologies for Extremadura (T4E DIH) is a physical and virtual space in which actions and services of the different agents of Extremadura are concentrated for the development and improvement of products and productive and business processes, through the use of technology.
T4E DIH is a non-profit networking initiative without formal structure, in whose germ we find the Public-Private Foundation Fundecyt Science and Technology Park Extremadura. We work directly on the field supporting the Science, Technology and the Innovation System of Extremadura with a focus on the new trends and digital strategies that are being developed in Europe. To do so, we offer several services aimed at the Innovation System, companies present at the Ecosystem and entrepreneurs to help them in the transition towards digitalization. T4E DIH is framed in the Initiative for the Digitization of European Industry offering services with the goal of tackling different challenges:
Efficiency Challenge: Energy efficiency, as the main source of cost reduction facing the industry, and which also represents an important contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of production and, thereby, reducing its impact on the environment. In the same way, the integration of productive systems with energy generation systems, following circular economy models, is key for the translation of productive projects to countries with low quality of energy supply.
Environmental Challenge: The environment is considered by the current economists as the fourth factor of production. Consciousness of the limit in the use of resources supposes a restriction, more and more generalized, to industrial development and that changes the paradigm of productivity, typical of an oil-based economy, by a new paradigm, that of sustainability, owner of a new economic model that looks for renewable sources and that tries to optimize the biological and biotechnological processes for industrial uses.
Equality Challenge: The concept of equality, or equity, refers to the social dimension of economic activity, and is a gap that is becoming increasingly large between the North and the South, even within the developed societies, giving rise to some of the most pressing problems, such as migration processes, or demographic imbalances. The digitalization, in which our DIH will play a role, needs to face several challenges like the integration of socio-economic solutions in the development of the communities, services that improve the quality of life or the enhancement of productivity in rural areas, for instance.
Economy Challenge: Economy class or low cost are tendencies that require efforts of efficiency in the use of resources, or in the redesign of processes so that competitiveness does not depend on the low cost of labour or environmentally unsustainable processes. It is certainly a challenge for the EU to face competition from countries that do not uphold our level of environmental or labor protections.
What specific services does T4E DIH offer?
At our DIH we offer four kind of services:
Test & Research:
Help in searching funding opportunities:
Ecosystems of innovation and networks
How many companies have been accompanied by the DIH on the base of the DIH services?
Since our DIH tech4E (Tech for Extremadura) started working, plenty have been the services offered to several businesses in the region. More than five companies have been supported in services related to the process of digitization, training and search of financing for their projects.
Can you please provide a practical example of a case you supported?
There are two very symbolic examples of the work done in the Digital Innovation Hub of Extremadura, Tech4E.
Did you receive any EU funds and, if so, how did you employ them?
At the regional level, T4E DIH is an organization based on the Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation, RIS3 Extremadura in the development of its strategic line LE.4 that seeks an impulse of Industrialization.
Our DIH receives structural funds from the European Commission through “direct transfers” from the government of the Region of Extremadura to FUNDECYT-PCTEX. T4E has also been granted through competitive tender projects like DigitaliseSME (Digital Enablers in SMEs: Support for Digitalisation to Improve the Capacity of SMEs in order to Internationalize and Innovate):
Both funds, those obtained through a direct transfer as well as those from a competitive process, have been used to deliver advanced services for the digitalization of business in Extremadura. In the case of DigitalizeSMEs, for instance, we delivered consultancy services from european professionals for the digitalization of the company, fostering the mobility of those professionals around Europe while financing small pilot programs for the digitalization of Small and Medium (SME) european enterprises.
What is your vision of DIHs development in Europe?
Building a network of Digital Innovation Hubs has become one of the main goals of the European Commission in its push for the digitalization of the european economy. Currently, only 20% of european companies are “highly digitilez” and a majority of the industries (60%9 and Small and medium enterprises (90%) lack sufficient digitalization to compete in the world.
The opportunities exist as well as the talent but it is turn for companies around the European Union to seize the moment and embrace to the full extent digitalization as an inherent part of the process of improvement and competitiveness of their companies. From large corporations to SMEs, the European Commission strives to scale up the degree of digitization in the next decades. The development of this network is a decisive point in the digitization process of the EU.
Set to be put in place in 2020, it marks the beginning of a process through which the EU seeks to introduce a certain degree of harmonization and equity in the digitalization of Europe, irrespective of the countries or their domestic regions. It has always been a core goal of the EU, albeit a difficult one, to leave no one behind in the economic and technological progress of the union. With this pan-European collaboration, the Commission seeks to continue its policy of harmonization and collaboration beyond the internal national borders of the EU, specially in areas like digitalization and new technologies where the old geographical barriers do not represent an obstacle anymore.
What could be the added value of Pan-European collaboration?
From Tech4E, the Digital Innovation Hub of Extremadura, we understand that the collaboration with different european partners that work in the digitalization of the economy and industries would be very helpful to strengthen the intrinsic capabilities of each ecosystems, after connecting it with a wider network of european systems. Pan-European collaboration added value four our own digitalization.
This idea is in line with our DIH project because the hub from Extremadura seeks to propel the coordination of european, national and regional initiatives that support the digital transformation of Extremadura.
We share the goals of the four work-groups underway:
Interview by Lucie Milcent, DIHNET