On Friday 25 September 2020, the Policy Learning Platform hosted a webinar on Centres of Competence (CoCs). Centres of competence are collaborative research centres that are usually located in universities. They tend to focus on regional strategic sectors in applied research projects in collaboration with leading regional businesses. In centres of competence, the university- industry collaboration is reinforced through:
- Having the private sector in the management and governance structures
- Dedicating services to the private sector
- Steering academic work towards more applied research
- Facilitating interregional linkages thanks to the participation of international companies
Webinar agenda overview
00:30:05 Q&A: What are the policy instruments that you see relevant to get more synergy between SMEs and the European Digital Innovation Hubs?
00:34:38 Q&A: What is the difference between a Digital Innovation Hub and an European Digital Innovation Hub? Would a Digital Innovation Hub be recognised in the S3 EU Digital Innovation networks?
00:37:44 Presentation by Raminta Žemaitytė, Government Strategic Analysis Centre, Lithuania, on the National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre at Kaunas University of Technology (INKREASE project)
00:44:54 Q&A: Do you have any tips on how to get engagement with the business sector? How can they be attracted to user services and remain loyal in the long-term to Centres of Competence?
00:59:10 Q&A: Do you have any recommendations on how stakeholders can better engage with university actors, that might not have same objectives European Innovation Digital Hubs?
01:00:26 Q&A: What criteria are used to assess or fund universities?
01:02:44 Q&A: What are the main difficulties in setting up Centres of Competence?
01:11:28 Q&A: Is it easier to engage with multinational companies? Is it easier to engage with sponsorship of chairs?
01:17:03 Q&A: To what extent can we see national cooperation to avoid duplication of projects in Europe?
01:25:05 Q&A: If you were to identify one service to create the interest for SMEs to come work with you, what would that be?
From this webinar, we can highlight three insights on how regional policymakers can experiment with Centres of Competence in their regions:
- Regional policymakers must recognise the importance of Centres of Competence, working in consortium with established institutions, to improve regional technological capabilities in specific regional sectors. More importantly, Centres of Competence must be supported with resources and be aligned with regional Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) and strategic regional priorities and/or missions.
- In the next programming period 2021-2027, the European Commission (EC) has launched the Digital Europe Programme (DEP) to respond to digital challenges and promote European digital sovereignty. One of the programme’s key pillars is the creation of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) that function as one-stop shops to support companies, namely SMEs, and the public sector in their digital transformation. European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) can be seen as Centres of Competence dedicated to digital diffusion and capacity-building with a technological focus on supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and advanced digital skills. DIHNET.EU enables the coordination of European, national, and regional initiatives to develop a pan-European network of DIHs and offer opportunities for interregional collaboration.
- One of the main challenges for Centres of Competence is to involve private sector actors, namely SMEs, Mid-caps, and large companies. Centres of Competence must have the technological infrastructures and equipment to offer services to respond to the private sector needs. For instance, services such as technology demonstration to showcase and test cutting-edge technologies to prototype proof of concept (PoC) or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) are attractive for SMEs. In the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) programme, SMEs can take advantage of European initiatives such as InvestEU that gives grants to SMEs or Horizon Europe programme. Moreover, large private companies can participate in Centres of Competence through sponsoring a chair or services.