As part of the Digital Europe Programme, the European Commission, together with EU Member States, will establish a network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) to support businesses and organisations in their digital transformation and to disseminate the latest advances in cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and High-Performance Computing (HPC).
The EDIHs will be “one-stop-shops”, with a research and technology organisation (RTO) or higher education institution (HEI) based lab at its core, that help companies (notably SMEs) and public sector organisations become more competitive in their business/production processes, products or services by providing access to research infrastructure, technical expertise and experimentation, so that these organisations can “test before invest”.
As well as research/testing facilities, EDIHs will also provide other innovation services, such as financing advice, and the training and skills development necessary for a successful digital transformation. Environmental issues will be taken into account, in particular with regard to energy consumption and low carbon emissions. It is currently anticipated that there will be 2-3 EDIHs in Ireland (budget permitting). The EDIHs will be co-funded by Member States and the European Commission.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, together with Enterprise Ireland, will lead on the national designation of candidate hubs. Designated candidate hubs will be invited to apply to a restricted call that the European Commission will issue in early 2021. An outline of the process and timetable is set out in this information note.
The Digital Europe Programme
The Digital Europe Programme will run from 2021-2027 and will focus on building the strategic digital capacities of the EU and on facilitating the wide deployment of digital technologies for Europe's citizens and businesses. Within this framework, the aim of the European Digital Innovation Hub network is to provide companies and public sector organisations across Europe with support, expertise and training so they can benefit from digital opportunities.
More information on the Digital Europe Programme can be found here: ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/europe-investing-digital-digital-europe-programme
Please note, as the European Commission’s budget for the period 2021-2027 and the Digital Europe Programme have not yet been adopted, details of this programme are still subject to change.
An EDIH will be a not-for-profit, one-stop-shop to support companies (notably SMEs) and the public sector in their digital transformation. An EDIH should have a research and technology organisation or HEI-based lab at its core and have capacity in one or more of the following areas:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- High Performance Computing (HPC)
These are the key digital technologies supported under the Digital Europe Programme (DEP). Basic competencies around one or more of these technologies is required. Given the importance of Artificial Intelligence and its wide applicability in all sectors, the Commission expects that at least one of the Hubs selected in each country will specialise in AI.
An EDIH can either be a single organisation, or a coordinated group of organisations with complementary expertise working together as an EDIH. For the purpose of our national network of Hubs, the core organisation/s involved must be (part of) legal entities established in Ireland. We are keen to see applications from coordinated groups of established organisations with a good collaborative approach and a wide regional or cross regional reach. Collaboration for the purposes of forming an EDIH may be governed by a consortium agreement or similar, but at this early stage of the process there is no obligation to create a dedicated legal entity.
At the core of the EDIH there is expected to be an RTO or HEI-based lab offering services such as:
- Test before invest: The appropriate infrastructure to facilitate experimentation with new digital technologies – software and hardware (e.g. artificial intelligence, High Performance Computing, Cybersecurity) to understand new opportunities and return on investments;
- Skills and training to make the most of digital innovations: boot-camps, traineeships, exchange of curricula and training material;
- Support to find investments: such as access to financial institutions and investors, supporting the use of InvestEU and other relevant EU financing mechanisms, direction towards Enterprise Ireland and other local supports;
- An innovation ecosystem and networking opportunities: the EDIH will act as a facilitator to bring together industry, business and administrations in need of new technological solutions on one side, with companies, notably start-ups and SMEs, that have market-ready solutions on the other. The EDIH will promote local companies where possible and will network with other EDIHs to find a matching partner elsewhere in Europe when suitable local partners cannot be found.
Is the EDIH call for you?
- Are you a not-for-profit research technology organisation or a HEI-based lab? Do you have/ have access to the appropriate research infrastructure to provide ‘test before invest’ facilities?
- Do you have a track record in helping SMEs with close to market and in market training, problem solving etc.?
- Are you collaborating with partners to deliver all of the services expected of an EDIH? Or are you actively seeking collaboration partners to deliver these services?
- Do you have the appropriate governance structure and funding to carry out the functions of an EDIH?
- Have you read the European Commission Draft Working Document on EDIHs and understand what is expected of the Hubs (see attachment below)?
The digital transformation of key sectors in Ireland is also an aspect of the EDIH programme. Ireland’s key sectors are set out in the Research Priority Areas 2018 to 2023.
Illustrative examples of current potential areas of focus for Ireland (subject to the Commission’s own assessment of priority areas for the EDIH network), include:
Other Technologies (as they relate to the DEP priorities)
Examples of application areas
AI, HPC, or Cybersecurity
Simulation, blockchain, supply chain integration, robotics, additive manufacturing, advanced and novel materials, other advanced manufacturing technologies.
Manufacturing and materials
Remote sensing, photonics, hardware automation and control systems.
Precision farming; Smart and Sustainable Food Production and Processing
Sensor technologies, low power wireless networks, electric transport, smart construction, environmental and systems monitoring.
Energy, Climate Action and Sustainability
Sustainable manufacturing and business processes, resource efficiency, decarbonising the energy system
Blockchain, machine learning, data visualisation technologies.
Innovation in Services and Business Process
Digital solutions for governments; innovative service offerings, service delivery, and business processes
Advanced materials, data analytics, nanotechnology, smart sensors, additive manufacturing, biotechnology.
Health and Wellbeing
Health analytics, connected health, digitised health systems, medical devices, diagnostics, therapeutics
Future Networks, Internet of Things, Data Analytics, Robotics, Machine Learning, AI Ethics, Digital Platforms, AR/VR.
Multiple – cross sectoral
*Digital Europe Programme priorities
Given the importance of Artificial Intelligence and its wide applicability in all sectors, the European Commission expect that at least one of the hubs selected in each country will be specialised in AI.
Any EDIH in Ireland which receives a grant will be monitored on a regular basis (e.g. every 12 or 18 months) by the Commission, with the help of external experts, and also by national authorities. The EDIH will be required to produce an activity report and a description of the extent to which they fulfil their Commission KPI targets (targets to be determined and set out in the Commission Call).
European Commission Process
The European Commission has proposed a two-step selection process for the network of EDIHs as follows:
- Member States will designate a list of candidate EDIHs through an open and transparent national designation process;
- The designated hubs will then be invited to respond to restricted Commission calls for proposals.
It is expected that the Commission will publish the first restricted call for Hubs in Q1 2021. A second call for the designated EDIHs which were unsuccessful in the first restricted call is expected in late Q4 2021.
National Designation Process
Member States are asked to designate candidate entities for the EDIH Programme through an open and transparent process.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) together with Enterprise Ireland (EI) are running an EDIH Expression of Interest Call for organisations or coordinated groups interested in taking part in the programme.
Below please find details of the steps involved in both the national designation and European Commission selection processes with indicative timeline. This is adapted from the Commission’s documentation and reflects some updates to the process and changes to the timeline since the Commission’s draft document on the EDIHs was first published.
|Member States (Ireland)||European Commission||Candidate Entities|
|Launches national designation process (Q4 2020)|
|Consider and propose candidate entities to Commission further to national designation process|
Launches expression of interest
Issues a restricted call for proposals (Q1 2021)
|Are invited to a virtual networking event|
|Submit proposals including proof of being on list of designated entities (provisional Commission deadline of 27/4/21)|
|Evaluates proposals with external experts|
|Ranks proposals balancing geographical, technological and sectoral coverage|
Endorse the ranked proposals (MS committee) (Q2 2021)
To be eligible, the Commission requires that all designated entities should have:
- appropriate competencies related to the functions of the European Digital Innovation Hubs,
- appropriate management capacity, staff and infrastructure necessary to carry out the functions,
- operational and legal means to apply the administrative, contractual and financial management rules laid down at Union level,
- appropriate financial viability, corresponding to the level of Union funds it will be called upon to manage.
Who can apply?
Applications will be welcomed from organisations, consortia, or groups of organisations who have the required experience, capability, capacity and resources to be an EDIH. At the core of an EDIH there is expected to be a research and technology organisation (RTO) or HEI-based lab offering technology services.
Potential applicants should familiarise themselves fully with the objectives, requirements and rules of the European Digital Innovation Hubs in Digital Europe Programme and ensure they are in a position to apply for the Restricted Call from the Commission prior to submitting a proposal to the national EDIH Expression of Interest Call.
What happens next?
- An Expression of Interest (EoI) Form has been issued by Enterprise Ireland setting out the criteria that will be used to assess and determine Ireland’s candidate EDIHs and is available at enterprise-ireland.com/edih;
- The criteria aligns with the objectives of EDIHs as set out in the European Commission documentation referenced below;
- The official Commission Call will follow some weeks after the national designation process (est. Q1 2021).
Enterprise Ireland Call for Expressions of Interest
On 9 December 2020 Enterprise Ireland announced a call for expressions of interest to complete a national designation process to identify the Irish network of European Digital Innovation Hubs. Information on the call, as well as call documents are available at enterprise-ireland.com/edih.
European Commission Working Document
The current draft of the European Commission Draft Working Document on EDIHs (dated 22/10/2020) is attached under documentation below. This provides further details on the EDIH process, what is expected of the candidate Hubs and is a helpful document for those considering the EDIH process.
Frequently Asked Questions
The European Commission has prepared a factsheet with the most frequently asked questions, this is available at the link: FAQ document on EDIHs
Any queries on the national EDIH process can be directed to: EDIH@enterprise.gov.ie or email@example.com.
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