Vincent Marcatté is VP Open Innovation at Orange, President of the ICT cluster Images & Réseaux and of the Institute of Technological Research (IRT) b<>com and President of the French Institutes of Technology association that gathers the 15 French IRT and Institutes for Energy Transition (ITE). He accepted to share with our partner BLUMORPHO, some insights on how the DIH Bretagne has been developed to strengthen an already vivid and innovative ecosystem.
How did the story of your Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) get started?
VM: The green transition and digital transformation are just at their beginning. The Brittany Region is committed to responsible digital strategies, supporting the digitization of the economy and the digital transition of economic players.
Specialized in Cybersecurity (asset of its development and its European influence), DIH Bretagne aims to be a major player in the digitization actions of companies (from start-up to large caps group, with focus on SMEs) and public sector organizations working in the key economic sectors of Brittany region being digital society, maritime activities, health and well-being for a better quality of life, advanced technologies for industrial applications and the sustainable agri-food chain for quality food products, by relying on the digital skills of the territory.
The objective of the DIH partners, whatever their geographical coverage (local regional, national, European) or their mission (market, application, technology…), is to contribute to the economic growth and wealth of the Brittany Region. Increased use of digital technology will improve the sustainability of processes and products, in particular with regard to energy consumption and reduction of carbon emissions. For companies (mainly SMEs), this means ensuring their digital transformation by offering them a set of individual services or as part of a journey that starts with a maturity assessment and diagnosis (Digital, Cyber and/or AI) followed by transformation plan, based on their needs.
What specific services does your DIH offer?
VM: Structurally, DIH Bretagne partners bring their skills through the establishment of a one-stop shop uniting the Breton ecosystem around a catalogue of service offerings that contributes to the digital transformation of enterprises according to the axes: test before invest (cybersecurity, 5G&IoT, AI & HPC, e-Health), skills development and training (with a strong focus on cybersecurity), access to funding and benefiting from innovation / networking ecosystems.
This approach is based on a maturity assessment and diagnosis (Digital, Cyber and/or AI) of companies with an action plan and support. The human resources from the partners who contribute to the service offer provide the guarantee of efficiency necessary for the success of the project.
Beyond Brittany, how do the French IRTs and ITEs foresee their collaboration with future EDIHs?
VM: The EDIHs represent an opportunity for the Institutes to showcase their specific platforms and assets to feed SMEs beyond their own members. The deployment of EDIHs is a solution for the future to federate all the innovation players on a regional scale to mobilise the existing resources that can support the digital transformation of local SMEs and midcaps.
In an already rich ecosystem, the added value of an EDIH is to create a single contact point for companies that have neither the skills nor the resources to embark on this transformation on their own; and to help them identify the right partners. It is indeed important to implement a network structure to facilitate the management of interfaces and to help the various players work together. The digital clusters, which already have this mission as ecosystem facilitators, are very well positioned to steer the implementation of EDIHs in France. This dynamic is in synergy with their own development. The European ambition to develop EDIHs and a network of EDIHs is a highly constructive and structuring initiative. It will strenghen innovation support processes articulated around the three axes of Region, State, Europe and bring clarity to the missions and the objectives of each stakeholder.
The mission of the EDIHs will be to highlight and activate areas where members are complementary. The French IRTs and ITEs have all developed technological platforms and associated skills that result both from the expression of the needs of local entrepreneurs and from the smart specialization strategies (S3 smart specialization strategy) of each of the Regions. These pooled resources corresponding to a region’s local particularities are a differentiating element and an asset for both the institutes and the EDIHs. The wealth and diversity of the French offer means that each will have an element of differentiation and an associated European network that will feed into their complementary nature.
What are the challenges of public and private co-financing faced by innovation support providers ?
VM: The French IRT/ITE were originally set up with the aim of operating on a parity funding model: 50% from the State and 50% from the private sector. This model was already very ambitious. Today, the objective is to move towards the three-thirds model: State, Industry and competitive sources of funding (open call for projects, IP, service contracts). The objective is to reach this balance by 2025 with a first evaluation in 2023.
Regarding innovation support in general, there is a share of public funding that remains essential and critical to ensuring that the demand is solvent in one way or another. Today, SMEs and midcaps do not have the means to finance their access to innovation themselves, so either they are helped via taxation, or public authorities have to partially finance the research & innovation stakeholders who can support them.
How can synergies be created and coordination between different programmes be ensured in order to avoid complicating an already rich ecosystem?
VM: The setting up of EDIHs is an opportunity for IRTs/ITEs to gain visibility among non-innovative companies that are still far from the digital transformation.
The EDIHs will be valuable tools for developing synergies and enhancing the value of local ecosystems and resources. Similarly, the EDIHs will be a privileged tool to promote the development of cooperation on a European scale. Even if IRTs/ITEs already have an active network of European partners, the role of the EDIH network will be crucial to go further in opening up local companies to European markets.
Interview by Olivia Uguen, DIHNET