Following on from the call for projects by the SPW Economie, Emploi, Recherche, the CONNECT (Construction 4.0) and Industry 4.0 projects, designed to help Walloon businesses with their digital transformation, have been chosen to join the list of Belgium’s candidates to become “European Digital Innovation Hubs”.
On 1 April 2020, SPW Economie, Emploi, Recherche launched a call for projects to choose the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) for Wallonia. These DIHs will be tasked with facilitating and supporting the digital transformation for businesses, and for SMEs in particular.
The selection process involved two stages, starting with the submission of a brief “concept note” in June, followed by a more detailed application for the pre-selected projects, in September. 9 projects were submitted in the first phase, and three during the second.
Construction 4.0 and Industry 4.0
On the recommendations of the panel of judges, during its session on 16 December 2020, the Walloon Government decided to put forward the “CONNECT” and “Industry 4.0” projects to join the Belgian list of candidates for European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH). These two projects will also be able to take part in the restricted calls for projects due to be launched soon by the European Commission within the context of the new funding programme for a digital Europe (Digital Europe Programme).
The Walloon EDIHs selected at a European level will be able to benefit from regional co-funding. The activities will be carried out for an initial period of 3 years (and may be renewed for another 4 years). Between 3 and 6 EDIHs will be funded in Belgium.
Wallonia’s EDIH candidates :
What is the role of a European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH)?
A European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) is a coordinated group of organisations with complementary areas of expertise, whose goal is to support businesses, and SMEs in particular, with their digital transformation, on a not-for-profit basis.
To do this, it offers four kinds of service :
- awareness raising, support, technological expertise and demonstrations (“test before invest”),
- training and skills development,
- identifying sources of funding,
- creating a network and overseeing the innovation ecosystem (identifying what businesses need and offering pertinent solutions).
The EDIHs target the needs of businesses and organise themselves around a technological or sector-specific theme. They must nevertheless be able to demonstrate technological expertise in at least one of the following fields: artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and high-performance computing.
What do EDIHs offer to Wallonia ?
Wallonia’s EDIHs candidates will make sure that their work contributes to the development of the Walloon economy and responds to Wallonia’s policy priorities and the strategies that it has put in place: Digital Wallonia (Industry of the Future and Construction 4.0) and the Strategy for Smart Specialisation (S3).
They will also take the policy priorities developed for the European Union into account (industrial policy, Green Deal). They will contribute to the improvement of the digital maturity of businesses and give them more of a competitive edge in their field. Thanks to the involvement of well-known stakeholders in Wallonia’s digital ecosystem, either directly within the consortium or via partnerships, they will make sure that appropriate information and support are available for any business keen to embark on its digital transformation.
In addition, by joining a European network of EDIHs, they will be able to share best practices when it comes to raising awareness and offering support to businesses with their digital transformation, but also work more closely with EDIHs and businesses based in other regions (access to expertise, including technological know-how in particular, developed in Wallonia and in other regions, as well as making tools and facilities available if necessary, thus offering the best possible services).