The influence of TRACS3 in the creation of a regional Digital Innovation HUB in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). 

During the TRACS3 project, CEEI Albacete together with the rest of the European partners completed the analysis of the regional mapping and the identification of the main regional infrastructures in the region. With the focus on the regional infrastructure and S3 priorities, during the present year 2020, CEEI Albacete organised several meetings among these regional institutions with the aim of getting conclusions about the gap analysis and the identification of needs in the innovation regional framework.  

One of these needs is not only to support of the SMEs in the adaption and the acceleration trough the digital transformation, but also the public sector on regional level. This need is even more important due to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic where we have been witnessed in the use of digital technologies and innovations. During these meetings, the discussion of belonging a hub was put on the table. The necessity of belonging a consortium of innovation and researching institutions and also large companies that could be involved in to provide service to the regional industry from a digital transformation way.  

To operate in a European Innovation Hub (DIH) is necessary a wide range of services offered like training facilities, testing and experimentation equipment, qualified personnel, etc. These services are expected to be offered by a hub that could include the main actors of innovation and researching in Castilla-La Mancha. So actors as important as the Regional University of the region, Regional Technological Centres (ITECAM), regional CEEIs and other important actors are working in the development of this hub, where the final step is the supporting of the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha. 

What is a DIH and what it can do for SMEs?  

Digital Innovation Hubs are one-stop-shops that help companies become more competitive with regard to their business/production processes, products or services using digital technologies, by providing access to technical expertise and experimentation, so that companies can “test before invest”. They also provide innovation services, such as financing advice, training and skills development that are needed for a successful digital transformation. Environmental issues will be considered, in particular regarding energy consumption and low carbon emissions. As proximity is considered crucial, they act as a first regional point of contact, a doorway, and strengthen the innovation ecosystem. A DIH is a regional multi-partner cooperation (including organisations such as research and technology organisations [RTOs], universities, industry associations, chambers of commerce, incubators/accelerators, regional development agencies and vocational training institutes) and can also share strong connections with service providers outside of their region supporting companies with access to their services. 

The idea is that each DIH acts as the epicentre of a local/regional or even national digital innovation ecosystem able to provide access to services, facilities and expertise of a wide range of partners. The aim is to ensure that the individual customers (SMEs) or the public sector get the services they need; that the target regional market segments get access to innovative, scalable solutions and that DIHs cooperate with each other at regional, national and/or European level. 

Some indicative examples of services offered to SMEs by DIHs are mentioned below:  

  • Test before invest: Experimentation with new digital technologies – software and hardware – to understand new opportunities and return on investments, also including demonstration facilities and piloting  
  • Skills and training to make the most of digital innovations: “train-the-trainer” programmes, boot-camps, traineeships, exchange of curricula and training material  
  • Support to find investments: access to financial institutions and investors, in order to get access to follow up finance to bring the results of testing and experimentation to the next phase, access to incubation & acceleration programmes  
  • Innovation ecosystem and networking opportunities through marketplaces and brokerage activities