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Workshop take-aways: European industry digitalisation – the challenges ahead

7 Jul 2022

Workshop take-aways: European industry digitalisation – the challenges ahead

On June 28, PPMI hosted a workshop on the trends and challenges faced by European industries when adopting digital technologies. 

This workshop was the first in the series of the Smart Industrial Remoting study, which aims to produce evidence-based recommendations to advance European industry digitalisation. Participants from across Europe joined the workshop to discuss barriers and opportunities of industrial digitalisation. The European Commission also presented the latest updates on the newly established European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) network.   

Below, you can find the summary of the workshop and access the speaker presentations. 

Industry digitalisation – research findings 

Heidi Cigan, Senior Policy Officer at DG CNECT, started with an overview of the new network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH). EDIHs will act as one-stop shops aiming to provide access to technical expertise and experimentation for SMEs. The setup of this network will ensure that Hubs cover all European regions, industry sectors, and most relevant technologies. As of now, 136 EDIHs have been selected, whereas a second call for hubs is set to take place in January 2023.   

Julian Müller, professor at Kufstein University of Applied Sciences, presented five key gaps that industrial SMEs encounter when adopting digital technologies. Firstly, a lack of capabilities and resources among SMEs sometimes impedes the uptake of even the most basic digital technologies. Secondly, many SMEs simply do not perceive the uptake of digital technologies as feasible or pertinent for their business. Furthermore, lack of end-customer access hinders both vertical and horizontal integration across supply chains. Lack of standards and economies of scale was another barrier highlighted by prof. Müller. Finally, the lack of access to the supply chain data creates further barriers for digitalisation.  

Rūta Gabaliņa, Senior Researcher at PPMI, then shared the preliminary findings of the gap analysis conducted as a part of the Smart Industrial Remoting study. Her presentation drew the evidence from five industries: construction in Romania, textile in Portugal, agrifood in Lithuania, automotive in Hungary, and retail in Poland. The presentation underlined that the level of a company’s digitalisation depends on such factors as its size, position in the value chain and the degree of pressure from customers. The most pronounced challenges are the lack of awareness, knowledge and digital skills. 

Industry perspective – panel discussion  

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Barbora Kudzmanaitė, Senior Researcher at PPMI. The panel brought together five representatives from Digital Innovation Hubs: Przemyslaw Kowalski from (Poland), Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė from AgriFood Lithuania (Lithuania), Ionuț Tata from Iceberg Plus (Romania), Gabor Vicze from innomine (Hungary) and Pedro Machado from CITEVE (Portugal).  

The discussion looked at the impact of COVID-19 on industry digitalisation. Some SMEs had to postpone long-term investments in the adoption of digital technologies due to decreasing demand and lower revenue. Yet sectors like agrifood in Lithuania or textile in Portugal found digital solutions beneficial for raising the resilience of the supply chains and increasingly used digital channels for direct communication with the customers.  

The panelists also discussed how a company’s position in the value chain affects its capacity to digitalise. The key point, which emerged from the discussion, was that collective knowledge, communication, and the promotion of best practices are key in unlocking digitalisation opportunities. Besides, Digital Innovation Hubs need to pursue a tailored and needs-based approach to supporting SMEs. This includes supporting them in identifying most appropriate technologies for their business and helping to choose only relevant digital tools to invest in.  

The panelists also explored the role of the Digital Innovation Hubs in facilitating the digitalisation journey of the SMEs. They highlighted that building trustworthy partnerships with businesses, facilitating exchange of experiences and providing help to navigate funding opportunities serve as important enablers of SME digitalisation. 

At the end of the workshop, participants were asked to share what they will remember from the event. Their responses are presented in the image below.  

What’s next? 

Keep an eye out for our future events! The next workshop in the series will be focused on digitalisation best practices and will take place in October 2022. If you have questions for the team or wish to join our mailing list, you can always reach us at  

Here, you can download the presentations from the workshop.