Launched by the EC in April 2016, the Digitising European Industry Initiative defined five pillars to bridge the digitisation divide across the EU.
Digital innovation hubs (DIHs) are of particular interest, as there are strong differences in the level of digitisation across the EU, depending on the sector and region. DIHs can help to bridge the current divide and ensure that every company, irrespective of its size or technical prowess, can grasp the digital opportunities.
According to Max Lemke, Head of the EC’s DG Connect Unit A2, the core mission of a DIH is to help ensure that “…every company, small or large, high-tech or not, can grasp the digital opportunities. With technical universities or research organisations at the core, DIHs act as one-stop-shops where companies — especially SMEs, startups and mid-caps — can get access to technology-testing, financing advice, market intelligence and networking opportunities.”
Following the Digitising European Industry agenda, EU members states are developing their national Industry 4.0 strategies and planning new measures to boost the economic adoption of research-driven innovations.
In 2016 PSNC launched HPC4Poland, the first DIH in CEE, following a survey which confirmed that more than 30% of Polish manufacturers were interested in developing advanced IT systems that were not available on the market. The survey also showed that the services expected by manufacturing companies went beyond PSNC’s own competencies.
This became the driving force for PSNC to start HPC4Poland. Employing 300 IT professionals, PSNC had little expertise in industrial applications of FEM and CFD simulations, construction engineering, pharmaceutical testing or vehicle design. Using external experts, PSNC started addressing the challenges in the manufacturing domain.
Through continuous collaboration with area-specific experts, whose skills and contacts were key to launching business-driven services, PSNC paved its way to new opportunities and funding sources.
One of the resulting business cases is the 3D immersion system PSNC developed for VOX Meble, a local manufacturer of premium furniture. It took the input of more than five external companies to inspire the concept, design the system and finance experiments. Consequently, VOX Meble has become the cutting-edge innovator on the market, while PSNC has started a follow-up project, exploring machine learning algorithms for the company.
In addition to the collaboration with VOX Meble, during its three years of operation, HPC4Poland DIH has been involved in seven other DIH-related projects, such as I4MS, MIDIH, Smart Factories and AI DIH Network. The involvement with DIH has also increased the prospect of proposals in the digital transformation chapter of Horizon 2020 ICT calls (from DT-ICT-01 to DT-ICT-13), allowing PSNC to win Shop4CF and DIH4CPS projects. Consequently, via EU projects, PSNC has gained more than 30 new partnerships, including companies such as VW Poznan, Bosch and Siemens.
“Working within the DIH structure is fabulous, because it keeps all stakeholders involved and acutely interested in results. It keeps our development teams so motivated it often becomes personal. The ability to outsource elements of the project, like trainings, UX testing, business or legal advisory to external professionals gives you peace of mind and the chance to really focus on what you’re best at. The development of innovative systems for and with industry has become PSNC’s strategic objective. The DIH developments, like the one with VOX convince us to follow this path. I believe our DIH model can be helpful in proposing DIH mechanisms across other NRENs, whose mission embraces science-to-business collaboration”, says Cezary Mazurek, Director of PSNC.
Opportunities may exist for all NRENs, with the upcoming Digital Europe Programme 2021-2027 promising €1.3 billion for “ensuring the wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society”, by means of “… building up and strengthening the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs, aiming to have a Hub in every region, to help companies benefit from digital opportunities.”