At a global level, small and medium-sized enterprises are the main pillar of the economy.
Through these businesses, an opportunity is given to local societies to change and evolve. But what happens when technological breakthroughs go beyond the status quo?
It is quite common for many businesses to declare bankruptcy because they can not keep up with bigger businesses. Bigger companies have the ability and the budget to upgrade their equipment thus producing products and delivering services, faster and better.
In the context of the development of local communities and small and medium-sized enterprises, the European Union once again gives the solution. In April of 2016, the Commission presented the Digitizing European Industry Strategy (DEI). It is an initiative designed to ensure that, no matter the industry, the sector and the size of the business, every enterprise is going to be given the opportunity to actually benefit from digital innovation. It is a great way for businesses all around Europe to improve and upgrade their products and services. This initiative is just the beginning for the evolution of SMEs thus resulting in the evolution of local societies.
Everything nowadays is about digital innovation and evolution. On a regional, national and Paneuropean level, this DEI strategy is based on the collective work of public stakeholders and private stakeholders. There are four different areas of work that make up this initiative:
- Digital Innovation Hubs
- Partnerships and Platforms
- Skills and Jobs
- Regulatory Framework
The European Platform of national initiatives on digitizing industry is used to monitor and stir this work
Regarding the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), one of the key elements of the DEI strategy. They support multiple facilities that help companies, most of them SMEs, start-ups and mid-caps, to manage and achieve a competitive identification, in the labor market. That can be achieved through the adaptation of the latest digital technologies. Imagine the DIHs acting like a one-stop-shop able to provide customers with the following
- Access to digital technologies and competences
- Infrastructure to test digital innovations
- Training to develop digital skills
- Financing advice
- Market intelligence
- Network opportunities
It is essential for every business or company all around Europe to have a good DIH at a working distance. Focus on that idea, the EU aims to be able to have at least one DIH in every region in Europe. It is no accident that, currently, Member states and regions are investing sums to help establish the DIHs infrastructure. Multiple sources are being used to fund this initiative such as national and international funding, European funds such as the EFSI (European Fund for Strategic Investments). The European Commission, from its side, invests in EU-wide collaboration across the network of DIHs and networking among the DIHs. This started in 2013 with the ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) initiative followed by the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative (SAE) in 2015.
The Smart Anything Everywhere Initiative
Smart Anything Everywhere is an initiative with a goal to manage and help SMEs, startups, and mid-caps to enhances their products and services through the use of digital innovation. It focuses on enhancing the digital transformation of the European industry through Digital Innovation hubs.
In particular, the DIHs will help bring the companies in contact with supply companies that will be able to provide them with suitable ICT products, addressing their needs preferences. This will create a win-win situation for the companies as well as the suppliers. The user company will be able to do an evaluation on whether the innovative products will be able to bring evolution to the business itself. At the same time, the supplier companies will have the opportunity to improve and enhance their products, thus achieving maximum results for their customers.
There will be three phases for the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative. The first two will be dedicated to 4 different areas of technology:
- Cyber-physical and embedded systems: the goal is to help businesses from any sector uplift the quality and performance of their products and services with innovative embedded ICT components and systems and to support eco-system building for promising platforms.
- Customized low energy computing powering CPS and the IoT: the aim is to help businesses to develop products for applications where high computing capacity at low energy consumption creates a competitive advantage and to support eco-system building for promising platforms.
- Advanced micro-electronics components and Smart System Integration: the target is to support the take-up of electronic components, sensors, smart objects, and systems by providing i) access to advanced design and manufacturing for academia, research institutes and SMEs, and ii) rapid prototyping capabilities for SMEs.
- Organic and large area electronics: the goal is to help businesses in further maturing, innovating and validating their products with organic and large area electronics technologies by i) giving them access to mature and ready to use design and prototyping facilities, and by ii) performing application experiments driven by concrete user requirements and business cases. The European industry should, therefore, gain competitive advantages.
Under the Horizon 2020 Financial Framework, in 2019 the ‘’Digitising and transforming European industry and Service’’ call will focus on the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative. A total budget of 64 million euros will be allocated to this call, for Innovation Action in products that include innovative electronic components, software, and systems. The call will focus especially in sectors where digital technologies and underexploited.
Four different areas will be addressed. These areas are:
- Cyber-physical and embedded systems: the goal is to help businesses from any sector uplift the quality and performance of their products and services by including (semi)-autonomy, paying special attention to security and privacy and to the collaboration between humans and machines.
- Customized low energy computing powering CPS and the IoT: the goal is to help businesses who are developing products for situations where high computing capacity and low energy would be a competitive advantage.
- Flexible and Wearable Electronics: the goal is to help businesses in further maturing, innovating and validating their products with thin, organic and large area electronics technologies, including wearable, portable and embedded objects. Focus is on i) access to design, technology, and prototyping which are ready to use, and ii) application experiments driven by concrete user requirements and business cases.
- Widening Digital Innovation Hubs: it addresses all three technology areas mentioned above and the technologies addressed in I4MS. It calls for Digital Innovation Hubs in industrial regions which are so far underrepresented in Smart Anything Everywhere and I4MS and builds upon a mentoring
- programme developed by I4MS and Smart Factories in new EU Member
In general, the EU plans on investing all the way up to 100 million euros per year, until the end of 2020, in order to foster DIHs and the main pillar of the Digitising European Industry strategy. Putting the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative aside, there will be calls launched for the DIHs focusing on other related initiatives. These initivatives include Innovation and Manufacturing SMES, Photonic technologies, Robotic technologies and Big Data!