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Call: Initial Network of European Digital Innovation Hubs

Programme
Acronym DIGITAL
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Digital Europe"

The general objectives of the Digital Europe Programme shall be to support and accelerate the digital transformation of the European economy, industry and society, to bring its benefits to citizens, public administrations and businesses across the Union, and to improve the competitiveness of Europe in the global digital economy while contributing to bridging the digital divide across the Union and reinforcing the Union’s strategic autonomy, through holistic, cross-sectoral and cross-border support and a stronger Union contribution.

The Programme shall be implemented in close coordination with other Union programmes as applicable, and shall aim:

  1. to strengthen and promote Europe’s capacities in key digital technology areas through large-scale deployment;
  2. in the private sector and in areas of public interest, to widen the diffusion and uptake of Europe’s key digital technologies, promoting the digital transformation and access to digital technologies.

It will reinforce EU critical digital capacities by focusing on the key areas of artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, advanced computing, data infrastructure, governance and processing, the deployment of these technologies and their best use for critical sectors like energy, climate change and environment, manufacturing, agriculture and health. Thus, the Programme shall have five interrelated specific objectives:

  1. Specific Objective 1 – High Performance Computing
  2. Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence
  3. Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust
  4. Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills
  5. Specific Objective 5 Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacity and Interoperability.

The Digital Europe Programme is strategic in supporting the digital transformation of the EU industrial ecosystems targeting upskilling to provide a workforce for these advanced digital technologies. It supports industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and public administration in their digital transformation with a reinforced network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH). The Programme will accelerate the economic recovery and drive the digital transformation of Europe.

Specific Objective 1- High Performance Computing

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 1 – High Performance Computing shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. deploy, coordinate at Union level and operate an integrated demand-oriented and application-driven world-class exascale supercomputing and data infrastructure that shall be easily accessible to public and private users, in particular SMEs, irrespective of the Member State in which they are located, and easily accessible for research purposes, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1488;
  2. deploy ready to use operational technology resulting from research and innovation in order to build an integrated Union HPC ecosystem, covering various aspects in the scientific and industrial value chain segments, including hardware, software, applications, services, interconnections and digital skills, with a high level of security and data protection;
  3. deploy and operate post-exascale infrastructure, including integration with quantum computing technologies and research infrastructures for computing science and encourage the development within the Union of the hardware and software necessary for such deployment.

Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. build up and strengthen core AI capacities and knowledge in the Union, including building up and strengthening quality data resources and corresponding exchange mechanisms, and libraries of algorithms, while guaranteeing a human-centric and inclusive approach that respects Union values;
  2. make the capacities referred to in point (a) accessible to businesses, especially SMEs and start-ups, as well as civil society, not-for-profit organisations, research institutions, universities and public administrations, in order to maximise their benefit to the European society and economy;
  3. reinforce and network AI testing and experimentation facilities in Member States;
  4. develop and reinforce commercial application and production systems in order to facilitate the integration of technologies in value chains and the development of innovative business models and to shorten the time required to pass from innovation to commercial exploitation and foster the uptake of AI-based solutions in areas of public interest and in society.

Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. support the building-up and procurement of advanced cybersecurity equipment, tools and data infrastructures, together with Member States, in order to achieve a high common level of cybersecurity at European level, in full compliance with data protection legislation and fundamental rights, while ensuring the strategic autonomy of the Union;
  2. support the building-up and best use of European knowledge, capacity and skills related to cybersecurity and the sharing and mainstreaming of best practices;
  3. ensure a wide deployment of effective state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions across the European economy, paying special attention to public authorities and SMEs;
  4. reinforce capabilities within Member States and private sector to help them comply with Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council including through measures supporting the uptake of cybersecurity best practices;
  5. improve resilience against cyberattacks, contribute towards increasing risk-awareness and knowledge of cybersecurity processes, support public and private organisations in achieving basics levels of cybersecurity, for example by deploying end-to-end encryption of data and software updates;
  6. enhance cooperation between the civil and defence spheres with regard to dual-use projects, services, competences and applications in cybersecurity, in accordance with a Regulation establishing the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre and the Network of National Coordination Centres (the ‘Cybersecurity Competence Centre Regulation’).

Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills shall support the development of advanced digital skills in areas covered by the Programme in order to contribute to increasing Europe’s talent pool, bridge the digital divide and foster greater professionalism, especially with regard to high performance and cloud computing, big data analytics, cybersecurity, distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain), quantum technologies, robotics, AI, while taking gender balance into account. In order to tackle skills mismatches and to encourage specialisation in digital technologies and applications, the financial contribution shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. support the design and delivery of high-quality, long-term training and courses, including blended learning, for students and for the workforce;
  2. support the design and delivery of high-quality, short-term training and courses for the workforce, in particular in SMEs and in the public sector;
  3. support high-quality on-the-job training and work placements for students, including traineeships, and the workforce, in particular in SMEs and in the public sector.

Specific Objective 5 – Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacities and Interoperability

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 5 – Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacities and Interoperability shall pursue the following operational objectives while bridging the digital divide:

  1. support the public sector and areas of public interest, such as health and care, education, judiciary, customs, transport, mobility, energy, environment, cultural and creative sectors, including relevant businesses established within the Union, to effectively deploy and access state-of-the-art digital technologies, such as HPC, AI and cybersecurity;
  2. deploy, operate and maintain trans-European interoperable state-of-the-art digital service infrastructures across the Union, including related services, in complementarity with national and regional actions;
  3. support the integration and use of trans-European digital service infrastructures and of agreed European digital standards in the public sector and in areas of public interest to facilitate cost-efficient implementation and interoperability;
  4. facilitate the development, update and use of solutions and frameworks by public administrations, businesses and citizens, including of open-source solutions and the re-use of interoperability solutions and frameworks;
  5. offer the public sector and the Union industry, in particular SMEs, easy access to testing and piloting of digital technologies and increase the use thereof, including their cross-border use;
  6. support the uptake by the public sector and the Union industry, in particular SMEs and start-ups, of advanced digital and related technologies, including in particular HPC, AI, cybersecurity, other leading edge and future technologies, such as distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain);
  7. support the design, testing, implementation, and deployment and maintenance of interoperable digital solutions, including digital government solutions, for public services at Union level which are delivered through a data-driven reusable solutions platform aiming to foster innovation and establish common frameworks in order to unleash the full potential of the public administrations’ services for citizens and businesses;
  8. ensure the continuous capacity at Union level to lead digital development, in addition to observing, analysing and adapting to fast-evolving digital trends, and share and mainstream best practices;
  9. support cooperation towards achieving a European ecosystem for trusted data sharing and digital infrastructures using, inter alia, services and applications based on distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain), including support for interoperability and standardisation and by fostering the deployment of Union cross-border applications based on security and privacy by design, while complying with consumer and data protection legislation;
  10. build up and strengthen the European Digital Innovation Hubs and their network.
Link Link to Programme
Call
Initial Network of European Digital Innovation Hubs
Description of call
"Initial Network of European Digital Innovation Hubs"

Objective:

Select the initial Network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH) from all candidate entities designated by Member States. Upgrade these entities to provide the complete set of services of an EDIH, including the necessary infrastructure, in a specific geographical area, covering the needs of the local SMEs, small mid-caps and/or public sector organisations with respect to their digital transformation. Network these EDIHs with each other and with other projects selected in Digital Europe Programme developing capacities in High Performance Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Advanced Digital Skills and accelerating the best use of technologies.

Scope:

Each EDIH will provide services based on a specific focus/expertise, which will support the local private and public sector with their digital and green transformation. This specialisation can be strengthened over time, and should make use of existing local competencies in this area. The services will be provided on an open, transparent and non-discriminatory basis and will be targeted mainly to (1) SMEs and small-midcaps and/or (2) public sector organisations conducting non-economic activities.

Each EDIH will act as an access point to the European network of EDIHs, helping local companies and/or public actors to get support from other EDIHs in case the needed competences fall outside their competence, ensuring that every stakeholder gets the needed support wherever it is available in Europe. Reversely, each EDIH will support the companies and public actors from other regions and countries presented by other EDIHs that need their expertise.

The EDIHs will be active in networking with other hubs, sharing best practices and specialist knowledge, in bringing companies into contact with other companies of their value chain, and in seeking synergies with innovators and early adopters - including artists, designers and other creatives that test solutions in novel experiments and can foster the adoption of digital technologies in working and business environments in a more human-friendly way. EDIHs will also play a brokering role between public administrations and companies providing e-government technologies. In all the networking activities, EDIHs will be supported by the Digital Transformation Accelerator (described in topic 1.3 of the workprogramme), and therefore it is compulsory that EDIHs participate actively in the relevant support activities of the Digital Transformation Accelerator, such as matchmaking, training and capacity building events.

Each EDIH will make available the relevant experimentation facilities related to its specialisation. SMEs, small mid-caps and the public sector will be able to test the technologies proposed, including where relevant their environmental impact, and the feasibility of applying these technologies to their business before further investing in it.

Furthermore, they will act as a multiplier and widely diffuse the use of all the digital capacities built up under the different specific objectives of the Digital Europe Programme on High Performance Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Advanced Digital Skills and Accelerating the best use of technologies. For this purpose, the EDIHs will participate in a “Train the trainer” programme where the specialists of the digital capacities train the EDIHs on how to use the capacities, so that the EDIHs can help their stakeholders to make use of them. It should be avoided that there is duplication of actions of the High Performance Computing competence centers and the Cybersecurity centers and the EDIHs, and therefore working arrangements will be agreed among them, where the focus of the EDIHs will be on their role as multiplier and reaching out to all regions in Europe. The “Train the trainer” events, together with other events for the network of EDIH, will be organised by the Digital Transformation Accelerator. EDIHs should foresee active participation in those events.

EDIHs will maintain structured long-term relationships with the relevant local actors like regional authorities, industrial clusters, SME associations, business development agencies, incubators (including European Space Agency Business Incubators, the ESA BICs), accelerators, chambers of commerce, and partners of the European Enterprise Network (EEN). Specifically, EDIHs will offer a seamless service with EEN and Startup Europe, e.g. by offering joint investor-related events, organising common trainings, workshops or info days, directing SME from EEN to EDIHs and from EDIHs to EEN as needed. It is expected that local EEN nodes that team up with a local EDIH will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to regulate their collaboration.

Finally, EDIHs will act as interface with the European Commission to support the implementation of specific sectorial policies, SME policies and eGovernment policies. This will imply that EDIHs specialised in a specific sector could be consulted on policies related to their sector of competence, and could participate in specific actions, such as the New European Bauhaus initiative, where EDIHs for which it is relevant might be asked to help accelerate the take up of results and the emergence of lead markets. Another example is the “Adopt AI” programme that is currently under development as a result of the White Paper on AI.

The Digital Transformation Accelerator will also have the role to report on overall Key Performance Indicators of the network, and therefore each EDIH will provide to the DTA the necessary information.

Proposals have to include a price list of the services to be provided to SMEs and public sector. This is necessary to compute the value of the State aid passed on by the EDIHs, even when the services will be offered for free or at a discount, as explained in the work programme chapter “4.2 Annex 2 – State aid”.

In case the price list will be modified in terms of e.g., new services, updated prices or discount conditions, the new price list will be included in the periodic report.

Expected Outcome:

Each selected project will contribute to the digital transformation of local SMEs, small mid-caps and/or public sector organisations, in their geographical area and for the technologies of their competence.

EDIHs provide services such as testing before investing, training and skills development, support to find investments, networking and access to innovation ecosystems.

Projects will also contribute to building a network of EDIH, covering all regions in Europe, addressing the needs of the public and private sectors, including all economic sectors, offering a wide range of specialised digital transformation services.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Administration & Governance, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Justice, Safety & Security, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Green Technologies & Green Deal
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Iceland / Ísland
Israel / ישראל / إسرائيل
Liechtenstein
Moldova
Norway / Norge
Serbia / Сpбија
Turkey / Türkiye
Ukraine / Україна Oukraïna
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Iceland / Ísland
Israel / ישראל / إسرائيل
Liechtenstein
Moldova
Norway / Norge
Serbia / Сpбија
Turkey / Türkiye
Ukraine / Україна Oukraïna
Eligible applicants Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Other, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Public Services, Research Institution, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), University, NGO / NPO
Applicant details In order to be eligible, the applicants (beneficiaries and affiliated entities) must:
  • be legal entities (public or private bodies)
  • be established in one of the eligible countries, i.e.:
    • EU Member States (including overseas countries and territories (OCTs))
    • listed EEA countries and countries associated to the Digital Europe Programme or countries which are in ongoing negotiations for an association agreement and where the agreement enters into force before grant signature
  • Natural persons are NOT eligible (with the exception of self-employed persons, i.e. sole traders, where the company does not have legal personality separate from that of the natural person).
  • International organisations are NOT eligible, unless they are International organisations of European Interest within the meaning of Article 2 of the Digital Europe Regulation (i.e. international organisations the majority of whose members are Member States or whose headquarters are in a Member State).
  • EU bodies (with the exception of the European Commission Joint Research Centre) can NOT be part of the consortium.
Project Partner Details Proposals must be submitted by:
  • candidate European Digital innovation Hubs whose coordinators have been designated by Member States following the expression of interest described in the work programme (Chapter 1.1). A candidate EDIH can be composed of a consortium or a single legal entity.
A European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) is a single entity or a coordinated group of entities with complementary expertise and a not-for-profit objective to support on a large scale the digital transformation of companies (especially SMEs and small mid-caps) and/or public sector organisations. Typical entities contributing to an EDIH will be research & technology organisation (RTO) or university labs offering technology services, which could work in collaboration with partners whose expertise lies in business development, public sector innovation or training such as for example chambers of commerce, industrial clusters, industry associations, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), incubators, vocational training centres or others.
Project duration max 36 months
Further info Proposals must be complete and contain all the requested information and all required annexes and supporting documents:
  • Application Form Part A — contains administrative information about the participants  and the summarised budget for the project
  • Application Form Part B — contains the technical description of the project
  • mandatory annexes and supporting documents (to be uploaded):
    • ethics issues and security issues tables
    • letter of designation by the Member State
Proposals are limited to maximum 50 pages (Part B).
Type of Funding Grants
Financial details The available call budget is EUR 240,930,000. This budget might be increased by maximum 20%.

Funding rate: 50%

Budget is allocated separately for each Member State and Associated Country. Each project will be funded from the budget of the corresponding Member State or associated country.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal. Paper submissions are NOT possible.

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