Basque Digital Innovation Hub

Photo Credits: Basque Digital Innovation Hub / Bizkaia talent

In January 2021, the Basque Digital Innovation Hub (BDIH) was selected as one of the two winners of the 2020 DIHNET Champions Challenge. This initiative developed by DIHNET Network aims at identifying good practice cases of mature DIHs.

We spoke with Cristina Oyón (CO), coordinator of the Basque Digital Innovation Hub, who told us a bit more about the DIH, its history and activities and how they are supporting the industry.

Tell us a bit about the hub and how it started…

CO: The Basque Digital Innovation Hub (BDIH) it is an initiative that responds to the Basque Smart Specialization Strategy RIS3. It started as a network of assets to provide easy and cost-efficient access of the Basque industrial fabric, especially SMEs, to innovative and excellent scientific-technological infrastructure and knowledge (assets) in the Advanced Manufacturing area. After a few years of operation, the BDIH has evolved to also incorporate assets related to the other RIS3 areas in the Basque Country, Energy and Health.

We started the DIH development in 2017 by carrying out the following activities that continue today:

  • Creation of the assets catalogue, including the technical description, the services offered and the location of its owner.
  • Structuring of assets in the network of thematic nodes
  • Definition of a robust asset selection system (evaluation criteria and procedure).
  • Interaction between the owners of the assets to generate added value services within each node.
  • Development of the BDIH management and exploitation information system
  • Definition of the governance and management model, indicators, business model, impact evaluation.
  • Activation of the demand
    Creation of the regional network of relevant stakeholders & of international complementary DIH

Watch the short interview with Cristina and keep reading for a more in-depth interview.

Could you describe your DIH ecosystem and its development policy?

CO: The BDIH is a consortium led by SPRI, the Basque Government´s Development Agency, composed by 21 core members (regional R&D Centers, Vocational Training Centers, Universities and Business R&D units) and over 30 (and counting) regional and European strategic partners. It is structured around the four main areas of activity of an EDIH: 1) test before invest, 2) skills and training, 3) innovation and networking ecosystem and 4) support to investment. The BDIH began as one the strategic pillars for the implementation of the Advanced Manufacturing Strategy of the Basque Country but nowadays it is evolving to incorporate the other RIS3 areas in the Basque Country, Energy and Health.

The 21 core members share more than 130 assets in the Smart Specialization Areas of the region. The assets are organized in 8 nodes: Additive Manufacturing, Flexible & Co-Robotics, Smart & Connected Machines, Advanced Materials, Cybersecurity, Data Driven Solutions, Digital Electric Grids and Medical Devices and Digital Health.

What specific services does your DIH offer?

CO: The BDIH offers the 4 main areas of EDIH service support to SMEs:

  1. Test before invest: including Analysis of needs, Technical and economic assessment, Prototype/POC development
  2. Skills & Training: incl. Awareness events (8 hours long), Deep Dives (16h) and Training courses (more than 16 h)
  3. Innovation and networking ecosystem: Networking events, Contact to potential commercial providers, Demonstrations and use cases, European collaborations
  4. Support and access to finance: Finding partners & Finding funding opportunities/investment

The thematic nodes offer these services for the different fields of application: 1) Flexible and Collaborative Robotics Node; 2)Additive Manufacturing Node; 3)Advanced Materials Node, 4) Smart and connected machines Node; 5) Cybersecurity Node.

Can you provide some figures on the companies supported by your DIH?

CO: During the last two years the members of the BDIH have provided more than 700 “test before invest” services to the Basque companies .
SPRI – as coordinator of the BDIH – manages the technical office and oversees the main relations with the nodes, its members and the wider ecosystem. It is also responsible for addressing requests and demands from industrial companies and collaborations with strategic partners at a European level. The inquiries received from the companies are redirected to the coordinators of the different thematic nodes to offer a coordinated, one-stop-shop response.
SPRI launched in 2020 a new support program that facilitates Basque companies to approach digital and sustainable technologies, connecting them with the unique assets, services and knowledge of the BDIH. During the last year we have supported 50 companies through this program.

Can you please provide a practical example of a case you supported?

CO: There are many example. An interesting one is a project on the manufacturing of vehicle parts optimized by Additive Manufacturing.The project was carried out by a Basque SME in cooperation with two members of the BDIH from the Additive Manufacturing node. The objective was to carry out a proof of concept on additive technologies (SLM and Binder Jetting) to obtain competitive advantages over conventional casting manufacturing processes. As a result, the company achieves flexibility in manufacturing and product development, reducing operating costs and shortening time-to-market cycles.

What is your vision of DIHs development in Europe?

CO: We think that it is a great initiative that may facilitate the dual digital and sustainable transition to European SMEs. The effort made by the European Commission during the last years to coordinate this regional offer to the SMEs is quite remarkable and has helped the regional initiatives to be part of a broader community, understanding our differences and our similarities. DIHNET is a very good example of this successful coordination effort.

What could be the added value of Pan-European collaboration?

CO: We should look for complementary, not all DIHs can have all needed capabilities to address the needs of European companies. We should also avoid duplicating investments and contribute to opening channels of international collaboration for companies (especially for SMEs).

Did you receive any EU funds and, if so, how did you employ them?

CO: No, all the funds we have invested in the definition, development and launching of the BDIH and the support program mentioned before have come from the Basque Government (regional funds).

Did COVID affect you? In which way?

CO: Yes. We had to postpone different activities planned to activate the demand of the BDIH such as the “Deep dives”, in-depth technical sessions with industrial companies with knowledge and close contact to the BDIH assets, services and capabilities. We are ready and willing to organize the Deep dives sessions as soon as the current situation improves. It has been also difficult to approach SMEs with an offer that supports medium and long term transitions since logically they have been really focused in the urgent needs the situations demands.

Are you a candidate EDIH ?

CO: Yes, and we think the BDIH is well prepared and willing to join the EDIH network. We consider it really relevant to be a part of a broader effort and gain critical mass to support European companies in thriving in the twin digital and sustainable transition.

 

Interview by Kristina Karanikolova, DIHNET