On November 20th a consortium of the strongest representatives of Lithuanian science and businesses was nominated as the European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) for the Vilnius region. This EDIH brings together digital technology expertise and infrastructure, provides digitization and innovation support, and advisory services for SMEs and the public sector.
The European Digital Innovation Hub will be focusing on three main areas of technological solutions:
- Information and communication technologies,
- Automation and robotics,
- Digital technologies for manufacturing processes (such as electronic systems and components).
In the Vilnius region, especially in the industrial enterprises, the need for such solutions is growing, so the partners of the hub will ensure that needs are properly responded to. The range of services will vary from professional consulting and digital maturity assessment to the final solution development and implementation for the company’s business processes.
Dr. Laima Kaušpadienė
Strong foundation of science and study institutions
“It is a great opportunity to increase the direct cooperation between Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VILNIUS TECH) and the private sector. The university has both technological infrastructure and the experience of people who have been working with robotics, information, communication and other technologies for many years. Research teams participate in national and international projects, so we really have a lot to offer for those who want to implement digitalization processes,” notes VILNIUS TECH Vice-Rector for Science and Innovation, Dr. Antanas Čenys.
Vilnius University (VU) Vice-Rector for Science dr. Edita Sužiedėlienė is pleased that “this hub will not only support Lithuanian small and medium-sized enterprises in digitization processes, but will also prepare future specialists with targeted competencies. This will give a positive impact for lithuanian economic potential and efficiency. Our existing technological infrastructure, high-performance computers and world-class researchers are already in demand in the private sector, so together with the EDIH partners we anticipate the growth of this demand.”
Digitalization in the face of a pandemic
Digitalisation is now more relevant than ever – most market evaluators cite it as the key process to sustain economic growth in the aftermath of a global pandemic. Digitization includes the streamlining of business and production processes, as well as the development of employee competencies by adapting to the changing market needs. “During the pandemic, we see how important it is to be able to organize work remotely or ensure the availability of services and products to customers simply by using a computer or mobile phone. This encourages us to strengthen our position of an intermediary between the public and private sectors – we strive for Lithuanian companies to take advantage of available business support opportunities and become digitalisation leaders of the region,” says Dr. Laima Kaušpadienė, the Director of Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park that also coordinates the Sunrise Valley Digital Innovation Hub.
EDIH partners have many years of experience in international and national cooperation related to competence development, experimental development, technology transfer or other innovative activities. A comparative analysis between Scandinavian and Baltic DIHs has been implemented in one of the international projects coordinated by the Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park. It showed the knowledge and technology infrastructure gap between the two regions. “Scandinavian countries are still identified as leaders in digitalization, so this analysis has led us to build on good practice, pool competencies and expand the range of services we provide,” emphasizes Dr. Laima Kaušpadienė, the Director of Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park. By the end of the year, Sunrise Valley DIH is planning to successfully implement digital maturity self-assessment tool and a virtual map of digital competencies of the Baltic Sea region, which are also the results of cooperation with international DIHs.
The growing market in the region is the result of digitalization processes
Global market analysts note that economies of Central and Eastern Europe, including Lithuania, have experienced strong growth over the past 20 years. In 2019, the region has recorded the lowest unemployment rate, significantly increased labor productivity, and these figures are rapidly catching up with those recorded in Western Europe. Digitalization has been identified as one of the main drivers of such growth and it is expected to continue progressing.
Justinas Katkus, the Head of the Robotics Digital Innovation Hub, which has been active for several years by helping Lithuanian companies to digitalize, notes that Lithuanian businesses already understand the benefits of digitalization. “In Lithuania, we are observing a ‘two-speed’ economy. One is dominated by businesses whose processes are already digital in all levels, people work with latest technology, can monitor processes at any given time, work both locally and remotely, and can evaluate efficiency of those processes. Unfortunately, we also have another speed, where businesses are still working with old and outdated technologies. We need to help for this latter business category to become more competitive by tackling automation, processes digitalization, robotics or other tools. It is already clear that, first of all, digitalization must create conditions for maintaining existing workplaces and productivity levels. This shall help both for Lithuania and for Europe to remain competitive.”
Eglė Radvilė, Adviser on Digitalization to the Vilnius City Administration, is pleased with the regional digitalization ambitions: “One of the most important directions in Vilnius city is to induce the collaboration and digital knowledge sharing among business, science and public sector institutions. Vilnius city together with its citizens are seeking to increase the future readiness index through information technologies, AI, robotics wider application and mutual communication.”
The current pandemic has also shown that countries of Central and Eastern Europe have not yet reached the limit of their digital economy potential. As soon as the market environment drastically changed, nearly 12 million new users of internet services came into this market. The highest growth of new users is among the older groups of people. With this in mind, private businesses are increasingly looking for ways to adapt innovations of the digital age, increase the efficiency of business processes and take advantage of the opportunities offered by public support mechanisms.
Dr. Antanas Čenys, dr. Edita Sužiedėlienė, Eglė Radvilė and Justinas Katkus
The European Digital Innovation Hub consists of: VILNIUS TECH, Vilnius University, Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park, Lithuanian Robotics Association, Lithuanian Biotechnology Association, Visoriai Information Technology Park, Vilnius City Municipality, UAB BOD Lenses and the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology. 9 partners of this hub operate in Vilnius region and represent different competence areas: research and study institutions, associations, innovation support organizations and the public sector represented by Vilnius City Municipality. All these organizations already consolidate separate digital competence centers, represent diverse interests, coordinate joint activities and promote networking. Now they are combining their forces, infrastructure and competencies for a common goal – comprehensive digital transformation of Lithuanian industry, small and medium enterprises, and public sector.