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A new European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) will be established in the Northern and Western region to help SMEs apply cutting-edge technologies and digital skills to their businesses.

The online hub, with €5.4 million in funding, will support regional SMEs over the next three years and connect to a network of over 200 other EDIHs across the European Union.

EDIHs offer a portfolio of free services to help companies become more competitive through the adoption of digital technologies.

Businesses that engage these one-stop-shops for firms with digital challenges will be able to gain expertise on research and development in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Blockchain technologies.

They will also be able to access applied digital research, expertise and solutions from the region’s universities – including Atlantic Technological University and University of Galway – through a number of channels and technology transfer centres.

It is also envisaged that the EDIH will be used by public sector bodies to help make their services more efficient.

SMEs and public sector agencies can access the hub through a region-wide network of contact points including Local Enterprise Offices, universities and Údarás na Gaeltachta – giving it one of the largest footprints of service provision in the country.

Allan Mulrooney, David Minton, Chris O’Malley and Helena Deane at launch of EDIH
Allan Mulrooney, WDC; David Minton, NWRA; Chris O’Malley, ATU; and Helena Deane, WDC at launch of EDIH

Explaining the concept of the EDIH, Northern and Western Regional Assembly Director David Minton said: “This new hub, which will be called Data2Sustain, 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 and sustainability areas, utilising AI, HPC and cybersecurity technological competence, with particular emphasis on data and data analyticsdriven innovation and regard to energy consumption and lowcarbon emissions.

“What is really thrilling is that members of this new EDIH can use any of the other 200 innovation hubs across Europe. This means, for example, that a company in Connemara can avail of research in Denmark that might assist its business with a technology such as Blockchain or Robotics.

“Similarly, a company in France, could access our region’s new EDIH for essential research or knowledge at Atlantic Technological University or the University of Galway to help advance its business, service or product. The hub is a coordinated cadre of organisations with complementary expertise, with a not-for-profit objective.”

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. EDIHs 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.

Allan Mulrooney, Interim CEO of Western Development Commission said

The Western Development Commission envisions a clean and green future for the region.
Data2Sustain is a not-for-profit coalition of organisations with complementary expertise that will assist businesses and the public sector with digital transformation, with a particular emphasis on circular economy, sustainability, and operations. They will use advanced technologies such as AI, HPC, and Cybersecurity, with a focus on data analytics-driven innovation and energy-efficient, low carbon emissions. I am excited about this new regional partnership of innovation stakeholders and the EDIH, which is a critical piece of the puzzle for this region's advancement.

The new EDIH will drive digital transformation for businesses across a range of sectors, including Agri and Bio-based Food, Marine and Aquaculture, MedTech and Lifesciences, Manufacturing and Engineering, Construction, Tourism and Public Services. A particular focus will be applied to the circular economy and smarter and greener processes, systems, products, services and business models.

Helena Deane of the West Regional Enterprise Plan, said ‘Data2Sustain will be a leading EDIH 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.’

Allan Mulrooney, WDC; Chris O'Malley, ATU; Helena Deane, WDC; David Minton NWRA at launch of EDIH
Allan Mulrooney, WDC; Chris O'Malley, ATU; Helena Deane, WDC; David Minton NWRA at launch of EDIH