European Digital Innovation Hub Northern Netherlands

European Digital Innovation Hub Northern Netherlands

EDIHs: accelerating digitization

Together with sustainability (Green Deal), digitization is the main pillar of the European Union's current strategy. As part of the "Digital Europe Program," there will be a network of about 150 regional European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH).

These EDIHs are used to accelerate and broaden digitization of the regional economy. To this end, each EDIH must organize and offer services, some of which are prescribed. Moreover, each EDIH has to build up its own specialization, which will be exchanged among themselves in order to create a strong European ecosystem for digitization. EDIHs (budget 1.8 mio/yr.) are funded for 7 years by the EU (40%), the state (40%) and the region (20%) and after that they should be able to stand on their own feet. The EU offers many services to support EDIHs in their role as catalysts of digitization.

Netherlands opts for industrial EDIHs

The Netherlands will have five EDIHs, including one in the North, all building on the already existing regional Smart Industry Hubs. With this, our country is opting for an industrial interpretation of the EDIHs. In addition, there will be one EDIH with a focus on the public sector. The Dutch EDIHs cooperate intensively through a back office, an underlying Smart Industry program and a shared approach for various EDIH services. Specializations are also aligned on a national level.

EDIH North Netherlands: catching up and taking position for the future

Whereas the public sector in the North is among the frontrunners in terms of digitization, the industry, on average, is actually quite behind. This is not without risks, as industry is and will remain an essential part of the Northern business model. Digitization offers unprecedented opportunities, but companies must catch up. Against this background, EDIH Noord Nederland (further EDIH-NN) is simultaneously focusing on eliminating backlogs (through generic services around digitization) and creating a strong position for the future.


Specialization on autonomous systems

In addition to generic services to accelerate digitalization at companies, the EDIH-NN is going to put extra effort into Autonomous Systems (see box), in particular to support the four important transitions that must be gone through to achieve the desired sustainability of our economy: (1) Smart Agro, (2) Factory of the Future, (3) Life Sciences & Health and (4) the built environment, utilities (especially energy) and mobility. With this, EDIH-NN reinforces the previously chosen Northern innovation strategy, described in the RIS (Regional Innovation Strategy). The Northern Netherlands is a true transition economy and autonomous systems play a key role in it. Strengthening ourselves further in this area in particular will create a continuous flow of new opportunities for companies, which are therefore enthusiastic. The Northern Netherlands (both in the knowledge institutions and companies) has sufficient basic expertise to grow into a national and international leader in this field. This knowledge base will be expanded through the EDIH-NN over the next 7 years.

In addition to the choice of autonomous systems, EDIH-NN uses a number of other criteria to create maximum leverage. Thus, the focus is on (a) stimulating the driving companies (companies with supra-regional sales) and (b) in companies that are part of the value chains (develop, make and apply) of autonomous systems and (c) the underlying services in the aforementioned transition areas.

Autonomous systems play key role in solving societal challenges

In the vernacular, Autonomous Systems are primarily self-driving transportation devices such as drones or self-driving cars that find their way without human intervention and respond to unforeseen circumstances.

More conceptually, it is an advanced organizational concept from measurement and control engineering - made possible by advancing technology. A system performs a certain function, such as drying milk or performing a bypass operation. We speak of Autonomous Systems when this function can be performed independently - that is, without human intervention. To do so, it must have intelligence on board so that it can autonomously observe and correct itself. In terms of complexity, they can range from relatively simple (for example, regulating a traffic square) to highly complex, think complicated production lines or operating robots. Complex systems are extremely sensitive, are self-learning, involve multiple functionalities ("System of Systems") or are based on feed forward control. Society is becoming increasingly complex. Autonomous systems meet the need for better (more robust, higher-level) control of this complexity.

What will the EDIH-NN do?

EDIHAll EDIHs will work according to a prescribed programming with specializations for regional situation and choices. This has resulted in a comprehensive work program for the EDIH-NN.


  • A Smart Factory Accelerator through which companies active (or to be active) in the world of autonomous systems are structurally supported in the field of digitalization. The Accelerator consists of an assessment with follow-up activities to support companies (coaching, master classes, development of roadmap, etc.). This approach was developed within the Smart Industry Hub. The successful Assessment of the Smart Industry Hub is being broadened to Autonomous Systems.


  • A 'Test-before-invest network' that gives companies low-threshold access to demo and test facilities and thus enables them to digitize faster. EDIH-NN fulfills this through a new cluster of about 20 northern organizations that, each in their own domain, will pay extra attention to applications of autonomous systems and together through the EDIH network put themselves in the shop window as a European testing ground.


  • An Entrepreneur Counter where companies can go with questions about digitalization. This counter is run by first-line organizations Ynbusiness (Friesland), GroBusiness (Groningen) and Ik Ben Drents Ondernemer (Drenthe). The supply side is also now organized. Fundamental questions are submitted to the knowledge institutions, action-oriented questions go to Solution Providers and more application-oriented questions to students of the Digital Innovation Workshops (HBO) and the Digital Skills Workshops (MBO). For specific support in the field of DEP-Technologies (Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and High Performance Computing) considered important by the EU, special provisions have been


  • A Skill program for companies related to digital technologies prioritized within Digital Europe. These are: Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and High Performance Computing. Students, knowledge institutions and Solution Providers will have an important role in implementing this skills program.
  • The northern branch of the Smart Makers Academy as a new national learning concept to regroup (and supplement as needed) existing educational resources and offer them to students as individual learning paths, with a pilot for education around autonomous systems.
  • Additional financial services, such as a Funding Readiness Support program to strengthen the financial viability of digitization plans. Opportunities are also being explored for a funding scheme (#Digistart). This "Support to find investment" approach is being rolled out nationwide.
  • A Competence development program to build the Northern Netherlands into a European leader in autonomous systems. This program consists of:
    -Matchmaking to identify, activate and bring together supply and demand around autonomous systems, both in the North itself and between the North and the rest of the EU;
    - Portfolio management: building and strengthening technologies and competencies in the joint companies and knowledge institutions needed to become frontrunners;
    - activities to profile the Northern Netherlands in the European EDIH network and to connect companies and organizations to European initiatives, including the major innovation programs, again with a focus on autonomous systems.

Seeing and being seen

The European ecosystem for digitization is based on exchange of knowledge and expertise between European EDIHs. It is important to be recognized and acknowledged in this as a region. Around autonomous systems, the Northern Netherlands can contribute a nice proposition, built around:

  • Our joint testing ground where other EDIHs and companies can go for expertise and demo and test facilities on autonomous systems in the mentioned transitions.
  • An approach to organize offerings around High Performance Computing that allows industrial SMEs to more quickly deploy shared services around data sciences, greatly lowering the threshold for digitization.
  • Our Smart Factory Accelerator with underlying toolbox, including the successful Smart Factory assessment - of particular interest to EDIHs in traditional industry regions.

Spider in the web

The plan for the northern EDIH was initiated by NOM. About 40 organizations are involved in the start of the northern EDIH, from employer organizations to educational institutions. In Europe, all EDIHs together form a large network that will implement the Digital Europe Program. Also within the Netherlands, the five EDIHs will act together, through a common back office.