On 30 September 2021, the EU4Digital Initiative organised a virtual excursion to support stakeholders of the Eastern partner countries in joining the ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) initiative.
The session offered a practical conversation with I4MS, a European initiative supporting the digitalisation of manufacturing SMEs and mid-caps, which was introduced during an earlier EU4Digital networking event on the topic of Digital Innovation Hubs. Interested parties were facilitated to join the I4MS community and consulted on the use of particular services.
The consultation targeted selected groups of organisations from the Eastern partner countries: business associations and competence centres with specialised technological expertise that can potentially support local manufacturing SMEs. The consultation gathered about 20 organisations from the partner countries.
The virtual excursion was opened by Rūta Šalvytė-Tamošiūnienė, EU4Digital Facility Deputy Team Lead, and facilitated by EU4Digital ICT Innovation Stream Lead Anna Pobol. Representatives from I4MS then led the practical excursion: Ms. María Roca, Senior Project Manager at FundingBox, introduced the contribution of I4MS to enhancing the digital transformation of European manufacturing sector, and led an excursion into the I4MS online community. This provides the opportunity to connect with over 1,500 entrepreneurs and experts in the area of digitalisation and deeptech.
The event marked the launch of the dedicated community – ‘EU4Digital Smart Industry Community Space‘ that will facilitate EaP stakeholders to build on the network for expertise sharing for the digital transformation of SMEs. From now on, organisations and experts from Eastern partner countries can promote their events, projects, and organisations within the established community and connect with any of the members. The event also marked the connection of the first organisations who have already joined I4MS, namely: representatives of the Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine (APPAU) and Platform 4.0 Industry in Ukraine, Georgian ICT Cluster, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, Robotics & AI association in Belarus, and others. Interested experts and representatives of organisations aiming to support digitalisation of SMEs can join the the EU4Digital Smart Industry Community Space free of charge.
Ms. Marta Portalés, EU Projects Coordinator at Mobile World Capital Barcelona, then introduced the brokerage system and space announcing the open calls to projects as well as catalogue of training opportunities. Ms. Portalés emphasised that manufacturing SMEs from Armenia, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine (Horizon 2020 programme countries) can get access to financial resources to test new Industry 4.0 technologies via the brokerage system, while SMEs from any EaP country can view and connect with representatives of relevant innovation and technology adoption projects. Also, all SMEs can get access to training to upskill their workers, an issue of significant importance as EaP participants have indicated access to training of staff as one of the most critical challenges of digitising SMEs in their countries
Finally, Ms. Irina Frigioiu – Deputy Project Manager at FundingBox, explained the process of becoming one of the I4MS Network Contact Points, which allows dissemination of the most actual information about technology development and funding opportunities for digitalisation of SMEs with interested parties on national level. Additionally, Mr. Alexander Yurchak, Director of APPAU, shared his experience of acting as I4MS Network Contact Point in Ukraine, and emphasised the importance of experts driving specialised sub-communities and topics related to digitalisation for the development of businesses and technologies.
Overall, EaP stakeholders were invited to use the practical I4MS tools and take over the EU4Digital Smart Industry Community Space ownership for promoting themselves and developing a regional expert community to enchance support the digitalisation of SMEs in their countries.
The informational material on I4MS activities, opportunities and eligibility criteria can be found here.
ICT Innovation promotion eventsICT Innovation networking events aim to facilitate the establishment of EaP communities in selected ICT Innovation policy areas. In addition to creating networks in the region, they strive for the establishment of bilateral and multilateral bridges between the Eastern partner organisations and EU stakeholders to enable further sustainable joint activities and projects. These efforts aim for overall deeper knowledge and understanding of relevant EU best practices by stakeholders in the region. Therefore, the series of events target a wide audience, including ministerial level representatives and agencies, associations and networks of relevant policy areas, ICT Infrastructure organisations as well as other ICT Innovation ecosystem actors.