Project summary

With the DIGITAL REGIONS project, eight European regions are working together to address a common challenge: how to best adapt innovation policies to support the manufacturing sector as a result of the emergence of Industry 4.0 (I4.0).

The main objective of the DIGITAL REGIONS partnership is to, by 2022, achieve a 15% increase of the number of SMEs from manufacturing sector cooperating with other innovation actors in the participant regions to implement I4.0 solutions as a result of improved innovation policies. “All partner regions have manufacturing as a smart specialisation priority. DIGITAL REGIONS partnership present the right mix of organisations regarding innovation value-chain, including public managing authorities, universities, I4.0 Centres of competence and business development intermediaries”, explains Jose Manuel San Emeterio, Project Leader. 

Project partners will cooperate together and will propose measures to facilitate improved I4.0 policy cooperation between regions, increased SMEs participation and availability of I4.0 skills. 

DIGITAL REGIONS aims to benefit all stakeholders in each region’s innovation ecosystem, i.e. innovation policy makers, SMEs that use I4.0 solutions, suppliers of I4.0 services, universities and innovation centres.  

Are you interested in the project? Don’t hesitate to contact us! 


from 1 Aug 2019
to 31 Jul 2023

Research and innovation

What policy instruments does the project address?

The BMW Regional Operational Programme 2014-2020 has a total funding package of 320 M€.


In REGIONS 4.0 we’ll focus in TO1 of the ROP Strengthening research, technological development and innovation, more concretely the investment priority 1b focused in promoting business investment in R&I, developing links and synergies between enterprises, research and development centres and the higher education sector which specific objective is to increase the number of companies undertaking Industry R&D in the BMW region.


There is a low level of Industry R&D projects from the BMW Region already highlighted in the Needs Analysis for the region. Ireland has a strong track record in supporting SMEs to innovate to produce products and services for market. The programme needs to increase the number of companies participating in R&D from the BMW region, leading to innovation and the creation of new products and services.


Although the programme already includes measures to propel the use of key technologies by Irish companies by encouraging them to work with Irish research institutes resulting in mutually beneficial cooperation and interaction, a special focus and measures are required for the digital transformation of the Smart Specialisation sectors already identified. This includes 2 manufacturing sectors, Manufacturing Competitiveness and Processing Technologies & Novel Materials where the application of Industry 4.0 approaches can positively support this transformation.

Which partners are working on this?
  • European Regions Network for the Application of Communications Technology

The Operational Programme (OP) plays a decisive role in encouraging economic development and ensuring prosperity for all citizens in Slovenia. It will significantly contribute to the achievement of the national and Europe 2020 targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.


The OP encompasses all 11 thematic objectives and corresponding investment priorities, aiming among others also on strengthening efforts particularly in the area of research and development and boosting the innovation potentials of SMEs::

• Increasing the international competitiveness of enterprises, particularly of SMEs, to accelerate economic development and the creation of jobs.

• Improving the infrastructure for research and innovation while strengthening its links with enterprises and the higher education sector.

• Improving the responsiveness of the education and training systems to the needs of the labour market and ensuring equal access to education, trainings and lifelong learning for all groups.


The OP was published in 2014, and didn’t take into account all challenges with digitalization that were brought since then. The main challenge Slovenian industry and particularly SMEs have is they still don’t have enough competencies to cope with the challenges of digital transformation. That is why we would like to use this project to improve the OP with new projects that will tackle the digital challenges in terms of skills and competences.

Which partners are working on this?
  • University of Ljubljana

The Programme’s main aim is the achievement of dynamic and competitive economy through the development of innovations, entrepreneurship, growth capacity of SME’s, energy and resource efficiency of enterprises.


The programme Priority Axis 1 “Technological Development and Innovation", related to the Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), is the policy instrument that needs to be amended to successfully support smart specialisation priorities in manufacturing sectors by responding to the diffusion of Factory 4.0 approach. Aiming at encouraging business investment in R&D, this priority axis includes support for technological development and innovation in order to increase innovation activities of enterprises.


But this programme has not been designed or amended so far to answer the challenges of the Factory 4.0 era, neither to meet the surge of the digital transformation. The already planned measures are not oriented towards harnessing SMEs to achieve the digital transformation benefits. The measures envisaging triple-helix cooperation are not intended to support and develop the digital transformation agenda from the last few years. The innovation policies need to be adapted to the new context and oriented to absorb the benefits that Industry 4.0 offers and the funding schemes to be aligned with the recent requirements of the digital era and Industry 4.0 and to support accelerating the deployment of the national overarching flagship initiative for Industry 4.0.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Business Agency Association

The Centro Regional Operational Programme (CENTRO 2020) will contribute to promote the competitiveness of the Centro region's economy and its sustainable development and internal cohesion. CENTRO 2020 is also a decisive instrument for the implementation of the RIS3 in the central region. With this programme, the Centro region aspires to become Innovation Follower.


In particular in REGIONS 4.0 we will focus in AXIS 1 aimed to:

- Increase business investment in R&D by increasing the economic intensive activities in knowledge and value creation based on innovation, strengthening the link between companies and other entities of the research and innovation.

- Development of new products and services, especially in more technology-intensive activities and knowledge as result of business cooperation with R&D centres and universities.

- Strengthen the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge to the business sector, promoting greater effectiveness in R&I system and the creation of value.


Despite the efforts and actions taken, the policy instrument should be improved, especially by increasing funds and projects towards actions and strategies among the various players in the innovation ecosystem, so that they can more effectively support SMEs in the implementation of smart specialization priorities in manufacturing sectors to be updated for the future trends, called Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, with the final objective of boost industry growth.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Business and innovation Centre of Beira Interior

Priority Axis 1 of the ERDF OP for West Region Romania aims to achieve a broader transfer of research results into innovative commercial applications and to consolidate the region’s smart specialisation sectors, in order to ensure an efficient capitalization of comparative advantages. Within it Operation A “Innovation and Technology Transfer Infrastructures" includes investments in the development of innovation and technological transfer infrastructures and the acquisition of specific innovation technology transfer services in the benefit of companies from these smart regional sectors.


The measures under this Operation A assume to be market and business oriented. Still, the actions to be undertaken by the beneficiaries of the funds, envisaged to increase innovation in the region’s smart sectors’ companies, should be customized to the market needs and to the current technology challenges. Both the policy makers and the main beneficiaries of the funds should be aware of the new trends in order to increase innovation in companies.


Therefore, the necessary interventions on the policy instrument would require a sharper focus on the types of support for innovation at regional level. The interventions would also involve the uptake of Industry 4.0 practices from more developed regions and encourage investment and innovation in the manufacturing sector, based on reports showing how emerging markets can benefit even more from the Industry 4.0 approach.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Development Agency of West Region Romania

We will address the Cantabria Regional Operational Programme 2014 – 2020, in particular the thematic objective 1 (Strengthening research, technological development and innovation) and more concretely the investment priority 1.2 (Promoting business investment in R&I, developing links and synergies between enterprises, research and development centres and the higher education sector). With an ERDF allocation of: 52,657,054.00 €, the regional programme is based on 6 priorities being TO1 the second one with in terms of budget allocation with a 14.41 % of the total budget.


In this case the actions developed by the regional government in relation with the Industrial Digitalisation and the impact of new technologies in the industry specially on SMEs will need a further action at regional level. The implementation of specific measures will impact positively on the different actions developed by the region, in order to increase the knowledge, the specific actions, the socioeconomic structures and the openness culture to increase the industry 4.0 actions.


The reasons of improving these actions are basically focused on the low impact that currently the Industry 4.0 holds in relation with the actions already developed in the industrial sector. A more focused policy and the implementation of new measures will help to integrate the new models of industrialization including the adoption of technologies, processes improvement and development of new skills.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Government of Cantabria

This policy instrument underpins the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade. It will support the change of the European Union in a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. The strategy: promoting innovation throughout the country while offering tailored aid to regions according to their specific needs. This will allow the Bavarian ERDF programme to make a significant contribution in tackling today’s and tomorrows’ challenges.


In the frame of the Technology Transfer (Group 1.2) results of research activities have to be applied in the regions. Great attention is given to SMEs and Universities of Applied Sciences, here mainly in regions that are structurally weaker areas of Bavaria.


The goal is a better networking between Science and Economy and the creation of a business environment that promotes innovation and sustainable economic growth while ensuring attractive jobs and contributing to an environmentally friendly development of the region.


It is indispensable to strengthen SMEs with certain industry-sector-specific solutions such as products, services and procedures. To have an impact, the results have to be publicly available. Later on, they may represent the new regional Best Practices to be shown to other interested SMEs. By doing this, companies will be encouraged to do the first steps of digitization.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Hof University of Applied Sciences

“Industry 4.0 / Swiss Smart Factory (SSF) Strategy – Canton Bern” is set-up by the Bern Economic Development Agency (BEDA) as a regional activity with national impact.


The policy aims to exploit the full potential of the economy in the context of digitalisation and to provide solutions to related socio-economic challenges by establishing the first Digital Innovation Hub for Industry 4.0 in Switzerland. The objective is to provide infrastructure and services that help the regional industry with the challenges related to the digital transformation. This includes the provision of training, coaching, consulting, test lab implementations, feasibility studies, R&D capacities, public demon space, co-working space and ecosystem covering relevant regional and national stakeholder.


First success stories give evidence of a successful launch of the regional police. However, in order to ensure sustainability, the collaboration and knowledge exchange with other regions is envisaged. Digitalisation is a global phenomenon and requires cross-border collaboration in order to provide answers to the underlying socio-economic challenges and to undertake the right action at policy level. The consequent next step is thus to embed the SSF policy in a European context:

• to increase the international recognition and impact of the SSF and the underlying regional policy

• to enable cross-border collaboration

• to improve the governance and to stimulate future sustainable regional policies

Which partners are working on this?
  • Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne AG