Expectations and opportunities for collaboration with (European) Digital Innovation Hubs in the IMPULSE project

by Bertille Auvray – Pôle TES

Modernising public administrations and services through digital means is crucial to reducing administrative burden on the private sector and on citizens in general by making their interactions with public authorities faster, more convenient and less costly, as well as by increasing the efficiency and the quality of the services provided to citizens and businesses” (European Digital Innovation Hubs in Digital Europe Programme).

This statement, taken from the Digital Europe programme’s draft working document on the European Digital Innovation Hubs [1] could just as easily have come from the text of IMPULSE’s Horizon 2020 application, as it is the very inner core of the project. It is therefore a natural starting point for exploring the expectations and opportunities of collaborating with (E)DIHs.

DIHs and EDIHs – at the heart of the digital transformation

A Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) is a multi-partner regional cooperation, including organisations such as Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs), universities, industry associations, chambers of commerce, incubators/accelerators, or regional development agencies.

Digital Innovation Hub network (source [2]).

In line with European digital policies and the Digital Europe Programme, DIHs will have the opportunity to become European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs), meaning that they maintain their local anchor, while having a more European recognition and expansion.

Therefore, it can be considered that (E)DIHs act as one-stop-shops to help companies and administrations become more effective in their business/production processes, products or service provision through digital technologies. To do this, they provide access to the latest knowledge, expertise and technologies to help their members test, pilot and experiment with digital innovations.

IMPULSE – a relevant partnership

When developing the project for identity management in public services, the involvement of DIHs made sense from the start. Not only does a (E)DIH have a rich ecosystem in terms of actors but also in terms of their level of understanding and need for digital solutions. Thus, a (E)DIH can support a SME wishing to experiment new digital processes, a laboratory doing basic research, or a local administration wishing to digitise one or more of its services, the last point being of particular interest to the project.

European Digital Innovation Hub missions (source [3]).

What has also been highlighted, when defining the partnership with (E)DIHs, was their capacity to act as enablers and facilitators.

  • Firstly, they can connect different actors, provide them with guidance in project development and/or look for suitable innovation partners by playing a brokering role not only on a more local level but also European. This notion is notably found in the Digital Europe programme in the part dedicated to innovation ecosystem and network.
  • Secondly, they have the ability to organise events, such as conferences, panel discussions, workshops, etc., and through their extensive network, can take advantage of this to increase awareness, knowledge transfer and collaboration in regard to innovation.
  • Finally, they have the necessary infrastructure or are able to mobilise it to provide testing grounds. Thus, when a new product or process is deemed experimental, they can act to validate or refute its use through testing/experimentation and validate/improve/refute it by drawing on their expertise. This can be related to the notion of Test before invest, which is again found in the Digital Europe Programme under the EDIH heading. The latter will be useful for the expansion of the project through the development of ancillary products or services and innovative projects as envisaged by IMPULSE.

In such way, when we look at the missions and capacities of the (E)DIHs, significant similarities can be found with those that IMPULSE wishes to perform, making the partnership more than relevant for the project.

IMPULSE – a two-way collaboration

Within the project, collaboration with (E)DIHs takes the form of various activities, on the one hand carried out for the adoption, adaptation and development of the IMPULSE solution, and on the other hand for the deployment and/or innovation of products, services and ancillary solutions in the EU countries.

  • Test and validate the IMPULSE approach by working with case study owners in particular and provide advice as well as support for the development and potential improvement of accessible secure eID in public services at the pilot regions and further by extension.
  • Locally map relevant technologies, start-ups and SMEs working on them, as well as the needs of public administrations within their region and their willingness to test new solutions and match public administrations’ needs with technologies and key local actors – in view of potential experimentations that will be promoted through IMPULSE and foster the adoption of the eID technologies – by the local public services in their network and further.
  • Participate in thematic workshops to become familiar with disruptive eID technologies linked to identity management in public services and to foster adoption and scalability as well as the conceptualisation of new fields of applicatio for the expansion of the solution.
  • Participate in the dissemination activities such as events organised by IMPULSE or where the consortium is present in order to present the IMPULSE solution and to be able to test its first versions or to promote the digitisation of public services accompanied by the DIHs for the perpetuation and expansion of eID solutions throughout Europe.

IMPULSE wants (E)DIHs to have a real role in the project so that they are not only external partners but also co-designers as well as providers of the solution. Hence, alongside the above-mentioned activities, a Digital Innovation Board (DIB) has been set up. This DIB is currently made up of DIHs with valuable technical expertise and remains open to new participants who may join during the course of the project. As a privileged interlocutor of the consortium, the DIB’s main role is to participate in the design, development and validation process as well as in the definition of the project’s roadmap and operating plans, always with a view to extending the solution developed within the framework of IMPULSE.

All this demonstrates IMPULSE’s willingness not only to collaborate within the project with multiple partners, but also to anchor itself in a European and therefore more global approach of which the (E)DIHs are the guarantors.

Pôle TES – a role as intermediary

Pôle TES is the digital competitiveness cluster for Normandy and the Seine Axis in France. Within IMPULSE, it acts as an intermediary between the consortium members and the (E)DIHs by actively establishing a relationship between the project, especially the case study owners, and the external networks for which the DIHs are the gateway.

The fact that Pôle TES acts as an DIH and future EDIH adds value to its participation in the sense that it understands the opportunities but also the challenges that (E)DIHs may face and therefore brings this knowledge of the hub network but also its partnerships within the consortium. Finally, Pôle TES represents the IMPULSE project within the hub network as well, notably by participating in the Steering Committee of the DIH-World, a European project financed under Horizon 2020 which promotes the harmonisation and expansion of the European DIHs landscape across Europe in order to address the “digital innovation hubs divide”.

[1] European Commission – Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, EC (2021). European Digital Innovation Hubs in Digital Europe Programme Draft working document. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=70324

[2] Smart Specialisation Platform. (n.d.). Digital Innovation Hubs. [online] Available at: https://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/digital-innovation-hubs

[3] digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu. (n.d.). EDIHs | Shaping Europe’s digital future. [online] Available at: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/activities/edihs