Digitization To-Go: JKU Experts Involved in Consulting and Research for and with SMEs

While digitization may come across as a fairly large word, what does it mean when it comes to small and medium-sized companies? The Digital Innovation Hub has answers.

Symbolbild Digitalisierung; Credit: Pixabay
Symbolbild Digitalisierung; Credit: Pixabay

While digitization may come across as a fairly large word, what does it mean when it comes to small and medium-sized companies? Is it worth using artificial intelligence? How can small and medium-sized companies prepare themselves for global competition? Starting June 30 and along with partners in academia and the business community, the city of Linz’ Digital Innovation Hub at the Johannes Kepler University Linz will address various issues and provide concrete answers.

The smaller the company, the greater the fear of digitalization. That shouldn’t be, says Prof. Uli Meyer, head of the JKU Department of Sociology, Focus on Innovation and Digitization, as: "Digitization can begin using everyday software programs and not every company needs its own solutions using machine learning or elaborate in-house R&D."

Every company does need, however, customized digital expertise, whether it be in sales, production, or services.

This is where the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH.work) comes in to serve as a point of contact for small and medium-sized companies in regard to people-focused designs in the digital working world. Based in five scientific digital centers that include the Johannes Kepler University, the Institute for Vocational and Adult Education Linz, the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences - Hagenberg Campus, the Linz University of Art - Creative Robotics and the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences, “DIH.work” also involves the active expertise of approximately 20 network partners ranging from Google Austria to the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor.

Klaus Luger, mayor of the city of Linz, remarked: "This makes Linz a hub within a broad network of regional, national and international institutes and companies. DIH.work stands out as an innovation laboratory offering scientifically and academically based services in support of digitization and making this information available to SMEs."

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas commented on the significance: "Expertise in successful digitization should not only be available to large companies as small and medium-sized companies in particular are the backbone of a domestic economy. We want to give them access to our digitization researchers’ expertise. This gives the university an opportunity to demonstrate our responsibility and solidarity with the region.”

Uli Meyer believes that in addition to technical aspects, the services will shed light on what digitization means for employees and the companies’ organization. "The Digital Innovation Hub Arbeitswelt supports Austrian SMEs so they can survive long-term in a digital society. The starting point is each individual company’s concrete situation and its employees. Based on our understanding of sociology in organizations, work and technology, we work with companies to develop customized digitization strategies. To assist with implementation, we can draw on JKU expertise. Our network partners include the Institute for Information Systems - Software Engineering, the Institute for Organization, and the LIT Robopsychology Lab.”

Christine Antlanger-Winter, country director for Google Austria, added: "The focus now is on strengthening the local SMEs’ digital capabilities. DIH.work provides Austrian small and medium-sized companies with very concrete assistance to expand their future-oriented skills, become more sustainable, and implement a successful design to support business activities."

Encouraging Contact
Companies should be able to access our services simply and as unbureaucratically as possible. DIH.work is based at the Tabakfabrik Linz. Meyer sees sufficient demand for services: "There are approximately 800 start-up companies created in Linz every year and even a little help can go a long way. Our doors are open to firmly established companies as well."

What is the greatest advantage for companies? "We don't aim to sell a particular technology or push anything. We want to work with entrepreneurs and offer our expertise to find and implement the best individual solution."

In addition to the Tabakfabrik, a small office will also be located in the city center providing information free of charge and without any obligation. Digitization to-go, so to say.

One Million Euros for Consulting in Digitization
Funding for DIH.work. in Linz has been approved by the Austrian Federal Research Promotion Agency (FFG). The latter will bear half of the total costs of € 920,000 for three years, while the city of Linz will cover the other half. Five full-time employees will support SMEs on a decentralized basis, i.e., on-site at the companies, and focus on challenges in digitization and labor in order to help ensure that the state capital’s economy can look forward to a digitalized future with confidence.

If you would like to schedule an interview, register at: https://dih.work/services, opens an external URL in a new window oor contact the office of the Innovation Headquarters (Pfarrgasse 3, 4020 Linz, 0732 7070 1010).

The Next Steps

Phase 1: Set-Up Phase – First Half of 2021

The Set-Up phase began earlier this year and on

June 30, 2021, DIH.work entered

Phase 2 (Operational Phase 2021-20). During this period, operations will be secured through co-financing provided by the City of Linz (subject to upcoming municipal council resolutions) and the FFG.

DIH.work plans to operate beyond 2023 with Phase 3 (Operational Phase 2024-2031). In cooperation with other cities and the FFG, DIH.work has applied for the upcoming EU Commission call for proposals for European DIH (EDIH). Decisions will be rendered during the coming months.