Digital Europe Programme in a nutshell

DEP is about building the strategic digital capacities of the EU and on facilitating the wide deployment of digital technologies, to be used by Europe's citizens and businesses. It is meant as a logical step from the Digital Single Market Strategy which wanted to create the necessary legal framework for a Europe wide digitization. With a planned overall budget of € 9.2 billion, it will shape and support the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy. 

DEP is thus not about innovation. Or is it?

It’s true that the funding of innovative research (and development) activities happens dominantly through Horizon 2020 (and Horizon Europe). This is a challenge driven, highly selective, subsidy scheme for pan-European collaborative projects that advance the state-of-the-art. 

Both programmes will be complimentary and the goal is to keep them aligned as the state-of-the-art advances over the years. The innovations that are being made in Horizon Europe on digitization will for example be diffused to SME’s and public administrations by Digital Europe.

Strategic consideration of DEP 

The Digital Europe Programme is strategically very important for Europe as there is a worldwide race going on between China, US and the EU to be the front runner in the digital economy. Already 50% of our trade deficit with China are digital services and there is no European high-performance computer in the top ten worldwide. The already very digitized economy makes us vulnerable to cyber-attacks and we risk losing competitiveness if small business doesn’t keep up with digitization around the world. The realization that we must step up to keep up is one of the main reasons this programme is being created.  

What are the main themes that will be funded?

The goal of DEP is to improve Europe's competitiveness in the global digital economy and increase its technological autonomy. The main themes are: 

  • Artificial Intelligence – putting up interoperable data spaces, which include algorithms, for different sectors to be used to create new A.I. applications and creating testing and experimentation facilities where A.I. is being deployed. 
  • High Performance Computing – financing some world class European supercomputers and connecting these with businesses around Europe through national competence centers. 
  • Cybersecurity – investing in a quantum-secured public communication infrastructure, setting up a European Cybersecurity certificate and organizing. 
  • Advanced digital skills – supporting both the making of long- and short-term training activities for advanced digital skills by higher education institutions and professional certification bodies. 
  • Deployment, best use of digital capacity and interoperability – to connect everything that the programme has to offer and to make sure that new technologies are being adopted an open network of European Digital Innovation Hubs is being put up. These hubs are meant to be a one-stop-shop for business and administrations to aid them in their digital transformation. 

How will the funding happen?

The practical implementation of DEP is still ongoing. As it looks now, most probably this will be a mixture of grants and single or joint procurement; depending on which part is being financed. For example, the work of procuring the high-performance-computers is being done by the Joint Undertaking EuroHPC where Belgium is a member of. For the making of the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs the EC want to co-finance together with member states. The first calls are expected to be published in the autumn of 2020 as the programme is meant to start the 1st of January 2021. 

How to stay informed? Whom to contact?

NCP Flanders will continue to bring updates on the practicalities of DEP as a part of the ICT-theme. 

If you want to be involved deeper into DEP, you should contact Simon Verschaeren (simon.verschaeren@vlaanderen.be) from Department EWI of the Flemish Government. 

Finally, this is also related to https://www.industrie40vlaanderen.be/, make sure to check that out as well.