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EU Digital decade: Digital Innovation Hubs and Digitalisation Funding

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The European way to a digitalised economy and society is about solidarity, prosperity, and sustainability, anchored in the empowerment of its citizens and businesses, ensuring the security and resilience of its digital ecosystem and supply chains

European Commission (1)

If the past few years of the pandemic have highlighted the digital European environment is that our society is dependent on a few big tech companies and technologies, often non-EU based. Europe also witnesses a rise in cyber theft and a digital divide between those who can benefit from the well-defined digital environment in well connected urban areas and those who suffer from misinformation and lack of digital coherence – often in more rural areas.

This division also translates into businesses– as some are fully able to leverage digital technologies, whilst others are lagging. Therefore, as the recent pandemic uncovered the digital shortage of the European economy, it is highly relevant to ensure all businesses and people across Europe can properly adapt and digitally transform to improve their lives – and hence, the European economy. One of the key lessons brought by this crisis is that proper digital infrastructures can open new opportunities to connect and learn beyond borders – allowing both individuals and businesses to grow in the right direction.

The European Commission has proposed a Digital Compass, specifying concrete objectives to translate the EUʼs digital ambitions for 2030. Such objectives will follow EUs intent to set up a sustainable growth pace for digital transition – as well as the implementation of best digital principles. In the case of business transformation, the EU support through the Single Market, Digital Europe and Cohesion programmes aims at incentivizing rapid and broad digital adoption, as well as the creation of important industrial ecosystems. In sum,

For Europe’s Digital Decade to be successful, we will build strong international digital partnerships matching the four pillars of our Compass: skills, infrastructures, the transformation of business and public services.

European Commission

Digital transformation for business and industries:
EU Digital Innovation Hubs

The European Commission defends digital transformation as essential for Europe to remain competitive in the international economic context. There should be high development on cutting-edge and disruptive innovation via the creation of new businesses, as well as full integration of digital technologies into business processes, products and services:

The smart use of data
can be a powerful
lever to drive growth,
create new jobs and
open up new business
models and innovation

European Commission (2)

There is space for the development of growing Startups and the production of unicorns in Europe. Even though Europe is already creating as many Startups as the US (as of 2021), it must create more favourable conditions for investment in financing new businesses – as there is a financing gap between European investment and the US or even China’s investment in innovative companies.

With the highest representation amongst EU companies, SMEs are critical in the digital transition. However, only 20% of SMEs in the EU are greatly digitised. As such, the EU is investing in Digital Innovation Hubs and industrial clusters as a way to support SMEs accessing digital technologies and data, via proper regulation and support for sustainable digitalisation. The main objective of the Digital Innovation Hubs is to achieve high levels of digital intensity, leaving “no one behind”. The 2030 objectives set out by the Commission are

  • 75% of European enterprises have taken up cloud computing services, big data and Artificial Intelligence.
  • More than 90% of European SMEs reach at least a basic level of digital intensity.
  • Europe will grow the pipeline of its innovative scale-ups and improve its access to finance, leading to doubling the number of unicorns in Europe.

“A European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) is a single organisation or coordinated group of organisations with complementary expertise, with a not-for-profit objective that supports companies – especially SMEs and mid-caps – and/or the public sector in their digital transformation. The Digital Europe Programme will focus on capacity building for five “Specific Objectives”:

high-performance computing (HPC); artificial intelligence (AI); cybersecurity; related advanced digital skills; and digital solutions/interoperability for the public sector.

EDIHs aim to help SMEs expand into different markets and connect with other companies – leveraging on supply chain cooperation, creating new business opportunities for companies or helping them to commercialise innovation pilots.

Find the pdf file here


(1): 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade, EU Commission, 2021. Source: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52021DC0118

(2): European Digital Innovation Hubs in Digital Europe Programme, EU commission, 2021. Source: European Digital Innovation Hubs | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)

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