Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD welcomed the announcement by the European Commission that CeADAR, based in UCD, and the FactoryxChange consortium in the midlands, are one step closer to being fully approved as European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs).

The European Union is investing more than €700m to co-fund an EU-wide network of hubs. Each Irish hub is set to receive annual funding of €1.9m from both the EU and the government under the National Recovery and Resilience Facility.

These new hubs will work with local SMEs and public sector bodies to help them ‘go digital’, incorporating the benefits of digital technology in their operations, no matter what stage they are currently at.

The hubs will provide help with training, research and testing and advice on funding. They will be up and running by the end of this year.

Successful Irish candidate hubs

Subject to the outcome of the next phase of national due diligence and evaluation, the successful Irish candidate hubs which are eligible to be co-funded under the Digital Europe Programme are:

  1. CeADAR led by Ireland’s EI/IDA Technology Centre in Applied Data Analytics and Machine Intelligence (based in UCD) which will focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) transformation in SMEs and public-service organisations.
  2. FactoryxChange (FxC), a consortium led by the EI/IDA Technology Centre Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) in Mullingar, which will accelerate factories to become ‘Factories of the Future’ integrating ecological, digital, and societal solutions into their core business models.

Through the evaluation process conducted by the European Commission a further two candidate hubs from Ireland have been deemed eligible to join the EU-wide network of Digital Innovation Hubs having been awarded the Commission’s ‘Seal of Excellence’ for the quality of their proposals as follows:

  • DATA2SUSTAIN, a consortium led by Atlantic Technological University, Sligo which will develop a comprehensive service programme to increase the transformation capacity and transformation speed of SMEs with a focus on circular economy, operations and sustainability areas;
  • ENTIRE, a consortium led by Tyndall National Institute, Cork which will help SMEs in the Agriculture, Energy and Transport sectors to become more competitive in their business or production processes using digital technologies such as sensors.

The seal of excellence is a quality label awarded by the commission to projects which have been assessed in a call for proposals and are deemed to comply with the quality requirements of the call but could not be funded due to European Commission budgetary constraints. These projects may receive support from national sources of funding, subject to additional due diligence and evaluation at member state level.

It is intended that all of the above EDIHs, which will be either co-funded or fully funded by the government under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, will now go through the remaining evaluation, approval and contract negotiation process before their formal establishment. 

'Stay ahead of the curve'

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “How businesses interact with their customers, how citizens access public services and how we communicate and work with one another is all being transformed by digital technology. We need to make sure we are prepared for what will surely be an acceleration of this trend and that our SMEs especially, are assisted to make the most of new technology and stay ahead of the curve.

"We are doing this in many ways, including through direct grant funding, but these European Digital Innovation Hubs, EDIHs, will certainly be a welcome boost to the areas they are placed in and I hope all of our SMEs, no matter where they’re based, will see some benefits. The future is digital and we need to make sure we are prepared.”

Leo Clancy CEO of Enterprise Ireland said: “I welcome this important milestone in the development of Ireland’s candidate European Digital Innovation Hubs.

"The ambition of the proposed hubs to provide services to SMEs related to digital transformation, circular economy, sustainability, artificial intelligence, manufacturing 4.0 is welcome, as is the regional spread of the hubs here and their overall complementarity.

"Increasing the competitiveness and productivity of SMEs through higher levels of operational focus, more innovation and digital adoption is very much in line with Enterprise Ireland’s three-year strategy 'Leading in a Changing World', which is supporting a vision for Irish enterprise to 2030.”