Phase 1: Creating a well-functioning ecosystem
The first phase of the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative started in 2015 under H2020. It was building on the successful experience of the TETRACOM and COLAE projects of FP7. The total funding of these projects was €32 million.
The 160 application experiments that were conducted both in FP7 and H2020 have involved 48 DIHS, 150 SMEs and mid-caps. They have created enormous economic and societal impact, which is shown in the success stories in this brochure.
H2020 brought a major improvement. Through using the new “Financial Support to Third Parties” scheme (the so-called “cascade funding”), companies can sign a light contract with one of the projects’ beneficiaries rather than entering into a direct and more complex contract with the European Commission.
Phase 2: Growing the ecosystem and its European dimension
The second phase of SAE started in autumn 2017 with 4 new Innovation Actions (IA) and one Coordination and Support Action (CSA) to support the existing and new DIHs into forming a coherent pan-European network of hubs with a total funding of approximately €26 million. Special focus is on reinforcing the role of the DIHs in offering all innovation services that companies need. Not only testing and experimentation, but also skills development and having access to finance. Furthermore, collaboration with nationally/regionally funded DIHs is highly encouraged to be able to cover the whole of Europe.
The CSA, Smart4Europe, has an important role to play in integrating new DIHs in the existing network. They are organising networking events e.g. back to back to relevant world class events such as the Hannover Messe. Through these projects, a new set of more than 120 application experiments is foreseen, involving 40 new DIHs and 120 SMEs. They all have a cross-border dimension to foster collaboration on European level. In addition, this new phase also reflects the evolution of technology since the start of the initiative.
Skilling SMEs in digitising their business
A major role DIHs have to play is to deepen the understanding of the decision makers in SMEs, start-ups and mid-caps about which opportunities the digitisation provides for their company. This goes clearly beyond just technology transfer or offering digital services in an affordable manner. DIHs should provide the relevant staff in companies with the skills to use digital technology in order to improve their way of working and to digitise their products and services, processes and business models. The target is that at least 10-20% of the efforts in application experiments are devoted to skills development.
Further supporting SMEs and mid-caps
The total EU funding of Phase 2 is €26 million, of which about 60% will be spent to directly support SMEs and midcaps, either as direct funding or as services by DIHs. About 50% of the total funding will be allocated through 15 open calls in 2018-2020.
The presence of large industrial players in SAE will ultimately help SMEs and mid-caps, as establishing a customer relationship with such big players as reference will boost their business. The existing marketplaces will also be further enriched with new service offers and a new marketplace for additive manufacturing services will be established. Furthermore, the DIHs should attract investors to support business development of SMEs and midcap actors in successful application experiments.