says Martin Duda, Executive Manager of the European Digital Innovation Hub Ostrava.
Cost savings, increased efficiency or productivity and better data analysis. These are the main arguments why companies are digitizing their business. According to the latest survey by the Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Tradesmen of the Czech Republic, one third of businesses with up to 250 employees plan to go digital. At the same time, however, companies are struggling with a lack of expertise, and they also lack financial resources.
All this can now change thanks to the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH), which offers companies and public administration organisations digitalisation know-how on favourable terms or, in some cases, free of charge. Entrepreneurs and businesswomen from the Moravian-Silesian Region are not missing out either. In Ostrava, under the EDIH Ostrava brand, you will find experts and women who have extensive experience with digital technologies. We talk about EDIH Ostrava with its manager Martin Duda.
There has been a lot of talk about digitalisation in recent years. We also often hear about digital twins. What does a layman imagine under these terms?
If I were to put it philosophically, then I would describe digitization as the conversion of physical existence into the form of ones and zeros, i.e. digital form. Not only do we convert analogue documents, typically text records for example, but also various processes and processes such as experimental testing into digital space. All this saves time and money.
In the case of the digital twin, I will draw on my family experience to define it, as we are raising twins at home. What makes them twins is not only their origin, their intense communication is very important. If you convert a physical object into the digital world, you only create a digital model. But the essence of a digital twin is the communication between the physical object and its digital model.
With a digital twin, you observe the behaviour of the physical object in the digital world. You don’t create expensive prototypes that need to be tested at length and at great expense. In the digital space, you open up possibilities for predictions and simulations. Everything is faster and more economical. With a digital model, you refine and improve parameters, in short, you explore how your physical product or process could change for the better. The new data input from the physical world allows you to continuously improve the digital twin. You then translate the results back into your real product.
The services of the European Digital Innovation Hubs are primarily aimed at small and medium-sized companies. How do these EDIHs work?
There are currently more than 150 EDIHs in Europe. These primarily focus on supporting companies in the region or Member State where the local EDIH is located. Each of them is specialised to a certain extent, in artificial intelligence, supercomputing, cyber security, linking digitalisation with additive or other sophisticated technologies or digital skills development.
What all EDIHs have in common, however, is that they help their clients to find financial resources and connect companies with each other or with other important actors in the field of digitalisation.
The subsidy funding set up allows EDIHs to significantly discount their services – the service is usually provided at an 80-100% discount. In the Czech Republic, this subsidy support is implemented in the form of “de minimis”. The subsidy consists of a 50% contribution from the EU Digital Europe programme and the other 50% comes from the National Recovery Plan.
The service portfolios of EDIHs are therefore broad. Which ones would you like to highlight in relation to EDIH Ostrava?
The first service I will mention, which goes behind the IT4Innovations supercomputing centre, is the possibility to check the use of supercomputing infrastructure and know-how in the field of high-performance computing, advanced data and artificial intelligence.
The second type of services will be appreciated by companies interested in digitizing their pre-production or production processes. Here, our clients have access to an industrial testbed – a first-class laboratory facility that features the latest technologies. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at VŠB-TUO is the guarantor here.
For both of the above-mentioned types of services, we offer training courses, the offer of which can be found on our website.
Finally, the third, equally important, package of services, managed by the Moravian-Silesian Innovation Centre, aims to support the digital readiness of companies. This is a form of cooperation where, at the beginning, our experts look for opportunities with the client company to use digital technologies to increase the client’s competitiveness. Subsequently, the collaboration can develop into the preparation of selected change projects or even into “supervision” of their implementation. This service benefits especially companies that do not have much experience with digitalization.
What kind of clientele do you expect? Which of your services will be most in demand?
Basically, we are here for companies across all sectors. IT4Innovations supercomputers are used by companies operating in the healthcare, energy, agriculture, engineering and many other sectors. Even when it comes to financial consulting and digital audits, we will work with all clients regardless of the sector they operate in. Only in the case of Testbed, it is logical that due to its focus, it will be primarily used by companies in industrial production, for example in the automotive industry.
What are you responsible for as the executive manager of EDIH Ostrava?
Making sure that everything fits together in the end and that EDIH Ostrava fulfils its goal of helping specific companies to use digital technologies. I put a lot of effort into making sure that our client is exposed to as little administration as possible and that the cooperation with EDIH Ostrava can focus on its substance.
At what level are your digital competencies?
Unfortunately, I ended my programming career at the age of 14. From Basic I still remember the programming lines “10 PRINT “Trinec”; 20 GO TO 10″.
I would describe myself as a moderately advanced user of digital technology – at work, like most, I am probably involved in the preparation and solution of projects. In my personal life, then, I strongly prefer to manage finances and formalities in a digital-only world. On the other hand, I wouldn’t describe managing my home and garden as “smart”. Here, however, I justify it by the fact that every physical activity should have some other purpose.
Thank you for the interview and we wish you that the services of EDIH Ostrava will help companies to move forward in the digital world.
* We are preparing more interviews to introduce you to the individual services of EDIH Ostrava. For example, we will take a closer look at digital auditing and we will also introduce Industrial Testbed.
Since January 2023 he has been the Executive Manager of EDIH Ostrava. He has long been professionally involved in grant management in the field of research and development, technology transfer and support of start-ups in the university environment. He has held the positions of Executive Director of the Ostrava supercomputer project IT4Innovations national supercomputer centre at VŠB – Technical University Ostrava and Director of the Innovation Support Centre at this university. From 2017 to 2021 he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. He is currently in charge of the development unit at IT4Innovations.
In his free time, he spends time with his family, enjoys gardening and would like to return to hiking one day. He lives in Dolní Lhota near Ostrava.