A region wide consortium has secured Government support for a European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) with €5.4 million in funding for SMEs in the Northern and Western region of Ireland that are embarking on digital transformation.
The hub, which is called Data2Sustain, has the potential to support regional SMEs and public sector agencies with the funding spread over three years. It also connects the region to a network of over 200 EDIHs across the EU. EDIHs are one-stop shops supporting companies to respond to digital challenges and become more competitive. They combine the benefits of a regional presence with the opportunities available to a pan-European network that can exploit radical disruptions in advanced digital technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Blockchain technologies.
The Data2Sustain consortium will deliver applied digital research, expertise and solutions from the region’s universities - Atlantic Technological University and University of Galway - to companies through a network of customer-facing digital hubs, technology transfer and competent centres, as a portfolio of free services. SMEs and public sector agencies can access the ‘one-stop-shop’ digital hub through a region wide network of contact points including the local enterprise offices, universities, Údarás na Gaeltachta and other consortium partners– giving it one of the largest footprints of service provision in the country.
In a report on the digitalisation of SMEs in Ireland, the European Investment Bank said the country had a two-speed digital economy with the divide most obvious in the Northern and Western region.
Using a data-driven innovation approach, Data2Sustain aims to achieve disruptive digital transformation of the region’s smart specialisation target
sectors, with a focus on the circular economy and smarter and greener processes, systems, products, services and business models.
The target sectors are:
· Agri & Bio-based Food
· Marine & Aquaculture
· Meditech & Lifesciences
· Manufacturing & Engineering
· Public Services
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD, said:
“Digital technology is transforming how businesses interact with their customers and how citizens access public services. This trend will accelerate, and we need to ensure that SMEs in the Northern and Western region are prepared for it The Data2Sustain European Digital Innovation Hub is an important addition to existing supports in ensuring that SMEs in the region can compete on a level playing field.”
Chris O’Malley, Vice-President of the Atlantic Technological University (Sligo Campus), said:
“The majority of Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) have little knowledge of the requirements of digitalisation and are hesitant to embark on their own digital innovation projects. We are enabling businesses to gain better access to data or use solutions powered by artificial intelligence. The programme also invests to ensure that our regional talent can get the right skills to actively participate in the labour market. The aim is that everyone in the region – citizens, businesses and public services – can benefit from market-ready technological solutions.”
Helena Deane of the West Regional Enterprise Plan, said:
‘Data2Sustain will be a leading EDIH in the provision of digitalisation services in the area of circular economy, operations and sustainability, based on data and data analytics driven innovation approaches helping to create smarter, greener, more sustainable processes, systems, products, services and business models, which are instrumental to advancing the digital and green transformation. This will have a profoundly positive impact on the region.’
David Minton, Director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, said:
‘Data2Sustain is a coordinated cadre of organisations with complementary expertise, with a not-for-profit objective. It will support start-ups, SMEs and other businesses, as well as the public sector in their digital transformation. It has a focus on circular economy, operations & sustainability areas, utilising AI, HPC and Cybersecurity technological competence, with particular emphasis of data and data analytics driven innovation and regard to energy consumption and low carbon emissions’.