The evolution of DIHs:
Why is it important to know in which stage your DIH is?

The creation of a Digital Innovation Hub is an evolutionary process that can take years in the making and a lot of effort to translate research into commercialized products, services and value chains. Understanding the development stages allows DIHs to anticipate problems and plan their activities.

The development of a DIH can be depicted in 5 distinct evolutionary phases/stages. In each stage, a DIH faces different challenges and its funding needs vary accordingly.

During these 5 stages, an innovation hub expands its ecosystem and partnerships and grows in term of activities, turnover, and employees. As the hub develops, the initial public funding is increasingly supplemented by private contributions and the focus of the innovation hub shifts from larger enterprises to SMEs.

A Digital Innovation Hub may start as a fresh start-up with limited technological infrastructure and partnerships or as the renewal of an innovation  hub as it approaches its termination phase. Such continuous growth demands an evolutionary approach and organic strategy. The innovation hub needs to be responsive to the changing needs of the ecosystem, markets, industry, government and society.

What are the five stages of DIH development?

The figure below represents the 5 evolution stages in the lifespan of an innovation hubs.

Source: EU-Great! project


Preparation Stage: During the preparation stage, the overall vision of the hub is created. A preliminary assessment of the needs and viability of the hub are examined. The innovation hub develops its services and works out its funding plan.

All these elements should be incorporated in a business plan, which explains the added value of the DIH in the ecosystem as well as the envisioned services, investments, and organization.

Initiation Stage:

The initiation stage sees the activation of community targeted by the DIH. The DIH brings together different experts and aligns the available infrastructure. A core element of this stage is securing the funding needed for the operation of the DIH. What is more, during the initiation stage the hub portfolio is established and marketing of the DIH and its products is initiated.

Stabilization Stage:

During the stabilization stage, the foundation of the hub stabilizes with regard to business development, funding, organization and governance. This allows the DIH to commercialize outputs and expand its community from regional towards national and international markets. The innovation hub becomes the ‘spider in the web’ and expands its services.

Continuous Growth Stage:

Following a period of stabilization, most innovation hubs face the challenge to continue adding value to the innovation ecosystem. In order to sustain their continuous growth, the innovation hubs need to adjust their focus and (partially) renew their equipment/expertise.

This renewal may even lead to new partners and a new customer focus. Therefore, the consortium partners may need to update their business plan.

Termination Stage:

After a certain time period, the core technology supported by the innovation hubs will become mainstream or obsolete. At this stage, it is expected that innovation hubs will either be terminated or the core services and markets reinvented. It is important for innovation hubs to anticipate and prepare for this stage in order to ensure a smooth ending of services or refocus of activities. Awareness of this stage is especially important with regard to financing, in particular in case of reinvention and securing new financing sources.