Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) are support organisations that aim to make businesses more competitive by speeding up the development and uptake of digital innovations. They provide these services close to the end-users (“at working distance”) and thereby cater to the needs of agricultural producers and food processors in a specific region.
Structurally, Digital Innovation Hubs maintain working relationships with a number of different actors to form a “one-stop-shop where companies —especially SMEs, startups and mid-caps— can get access to technology-testing, financing advice, market intelligence and networking opportunities” as shown in the figure below. One or more Competence Centres inside or outside the region provide the knowledge, technology, infrastructure and facilities that underpin the technological transformation.
These can be (agricultural) research institutes at universities, experiment stations or farms, extension agencies or seed companies. The Competence Centre may also play the role of the Digital Innovation Hub orchestrator, taking a coordinating, organising and/or an agenda setting role. End-users, e.g. farmers or cooperatives are the main target and beneficiary of the Digital Innovation Hubs. Financial institutions include banks, but also governments in their role of funding R&D and innovation activities. Finally, education and training play an important role in building capabilities for the Digital Innovation Hub and users.
Digital Innovation Hubs are public-private partnerships for innovation, providing a mix of different services to their clients. These include technology services such as R&D, provision of lab facilities, testing and validation are mainly the domain of the competence centres. Innovation ecosystem support services include community building lobbying, brokerage, knowledge sharing and advocacy.
Business services include activities such as business support, and access to finance and skills development are provided by financial institutions, government agencies and education and training institutions in the Digital Innovation Hub.
As such, the idea of the Digital Innovation Hub is fully in line with the multi-actor approach of SmartAgriHubs.