Future and shape of the EU DIH ecosystem – the vision of DIHNET.EU

Photo credits: DIHNET

The European Digital Innovation Hub ecosystem has rapidly evolved in the last years. DIHNET.EU network has been a witness and a contributor to some of those changes with its thought leadership and community building during its lifetime as a European Union’s funded project.

On the 26th of October, DIHNET hosted a virtual event for presenting the lessons learned from the last 3 years and discuss with the audience the future and shape of the EU DIH ecosystem. Anna-Puig Centelles, Project Officer at HaDEA and Ruud Baartmans, DIHNET’s project coordinator, opened the event that saw more than 290 stakeholders from innovation hubs, networks, clusters, industry, research, member states and regions.

“DIHNET is arriving to the end as an EU-funded project, but not to the end of its lifetime, because there is an important legacy.”

Anna Puig Centelles, Project Officer at HaDEA

DIHNET community and connection with other initiatives supporting DIHs

Mayte Carracedo, Partner & Chief Business Development Officer at FundingBox, presented the main outputs from the DIHNET community platform and how it will be maintained beyond the project, as well as the collaboration with other initiatives supporting Digital Innovation Hubs. She shared the main challenges, lesson learned and conclusions to inspire DIHs and EDIHs on how to connect better. 

Panel discussion: DIH and DIH networks collaboration in Europe

Reinhard Lafrenz, Secretary General of euRobotics, discussed the current and future DIH landscape with panellists Iddo Bante, Business director at the Digital Society Institute of the University of Twente; Hugo Thienpont, Vicerector Innovation & Industry Relations VUB and Director of B-PHOT; Martin Winter, Head Strategic Alliances Clariant, Process 4 Planet partnership; Mayte Carracedo, Funding Box; and Geraud Guilloud, LuxInnovation.

Photo credits: DIHNET

Profiling the DIH ecosystem: challenges and tools

Information sharing is crucial for a trustful EU DIH ecosystem in which hubs are collaborating, exchanging practices and lessons learned. But which are the challenges and the gaps to do so? Which are the tools that DIH/EDIHs need for an efficient European information exchange?

The session led by Begoña Sánchez, Senior Business Development Manager at TECNALIA, provided examples on cooperation and good practices from two DIH Champions Challenge winners: Balázs Barta, am-LAB DIH, winner of the 2nd edition and Thorsten Huelsmann, Digital Hub Logistics Dortmund, winner of the 1st edition. The session also showed the perspective of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – with guest speakers Annita Kalpaka and Gabriel Rissola, that based on the DIH Catalogue has further develop support tools for Digital Innovation Hubs.

The importance of encouraging links between DIHs and the private sector

DIHs and EDIHs’ mission is to provide services and support to European SMEs in their digitisation. To do so, they are expected to cover the whole innovation value chain from R&D to Innovation support processes up to access to public and private investment. DIHs and EDIHs are supporting different types of companies in their digitisation strategy: early stage and innovative companies as well as more mature and rather low-tech SMEs. These huge variety and heterogeneity in companies’ profiles represent an additional challenge for DIHs and EDIHs in terms of accessibility to funding and expectations regarding for private equity or debt financing.

In this session Géraldine Andrieux, co-founder and CEO of BLUMORPHO, had an open discussion with three key stakeholders and the audience on the main challenges expected to be faced by EDIHs and DIHs in supporting access to private financing. Yves Paindaveine, Head of sector Digitizing European Industry governance DG CONNECT, expressed the European Commission expectations in terms of support to private investment, while Bianca Muntean, CEO of the Transylvanian DIH and DIH Champion finalist in 2019, shared her analysis of the main challenges they have to address to match needs and expectations from companies they are supporting. Franck Murray, deep-tech entrepreneur, CEO of MURATA France and Manager of the regional fund Normandie Participations, explained how the Normandy Region developed a unique financial tool to facilitate access to private funding to their local innovative companies at different maturity stages

Download: DIHNET Final event – Exploring the challenges of access to private investments

Future of the DIH ecosystem

Taking the lessons learned during the last three years, Maurits Butter, Senior Researcher in innovation policy at TNO and Scientific Coordinator of DIHNET, presented DIHNET’s vision of how the EU DIH ecosystem could look like in the next 7-10 years as well as key take-aways from the work done in the project.

“Their thought leadership approach helped us to align the network in an innovative and needs-oriented way. Developing together the necessary strategies was a demanding but also joyful experience.”

Matthias Kuom, Policy Officer at DG Connect, European Commission

Following the previous presentation on the Future of the DIH ecosystem, Kristina Karanikolova, Innovation Researcher at TNO, discussed with Maurits Butter and a small panel their views on the future of the network developing, the positioning of the different stakeholders, and how to support collaboration and alignment in the DIH ecosystem and network in Europe. Panellists included George Megas: expert in the National Documentation Centre in Greece, NCP, EEN member and DIHNET ambassador; Pierre-Damien Berger: Director of the MinaSmart Digital Innovation Hub, member of DIHNET’s advisory board; and Zeljko Pazin: Executive Director EFFRA and the Factories of the Future PPP.

Download: DIHNET final event -The future of the European DIH community – Maurits Butter – 211026

Anne-Marie Sassen, Acting Head of Unit “Digital Transformation of industrial ecosystems” at European Commission, closed the event and gave some latest information from the EC.

We would like to thank participants, speakers, and panellists for joining us in this special DIHNET.EU final event. It has been a pleasure to celebrate these three successful years with you!

The DIHNET team