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A way to build
Only the idea that it is perfectly possible to design, create and build an
innovation hub is a far leap.
CREATING HUBS AS AN INPUT ACTIVITY
In most real cases, you do some actions
and assume that the outcome will match
the definition of an innovation hub,
namely a physical hotspot that brings
together web entrepreneurs, mentors,
investors, students, academia, public
sector innovators and industry
A hub also needs to be connected to an
incubator that provides business
development and backend services as
well as offers work spaces. Depending
on the thematic domain, the hub should
connect to relevant infrastructures (for
energy, city, mobility, health, education,
Next to this, an Innovation Hub should also be sensitive to grassroots movements:
avantgarde, see where pushing the boundaries takes place.
An iHub (Internet innovation hub) is
a small entity within an existing
Internet innovation ecosystem.*
*Definition of Innovation Hub as agreed on by the I3H project.
A way to build
Or in other words: an Internet innovation hub is a small entity within an
existing internet innovation ecosystem.
IT NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO MAKE A SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMIC CHANGE in the
innovation and value creating processes in the ecosystem.
One can definitely have a say in the success of your innovation hub,
because looking at existing areas of high innovation activity shows a range
of conditions that are common. This Internet Innovation Hub Buildup Guide
is using these common factors as baseline.
This guide is for everyone looking at the possibility of setting up an internet
innovation hub and become part of the iHub.eu network. Next to this, it can
also be used as a separate guide for building an innovation hotspot.
“iHub.eu builds bridges to help regional and local actors
to become global. We need to believe that Europe can
be a place for business as good as any other continent
in the world”.
The Internet Innovation Network
1. About iHub.eu
iHub.eu is a network of incubators and accelerators, carefully selected out
of the whole of Europe, who are dealing with future Internet technology.
We believe that the real value of such a pan-European network lies in the
power of its community, which can only be achieved through sharing
resources & good practices to help companies grow.
THE FUTURE INTERNET TECHNOLOGY
iHub.eu is one of the projects in third phase of the Future Internet PPP
program.* This phase is where 16 accelerators encourage SMEs, startups
and web entrepreneurs to develop highly innovative services and
applications, based on the Future Internet technology, called FIWARE.
iHub.eu is in charge of creating this network of innovation hubs, that help
the existing accelerator program in ensuring the sustainability of the whole
*FI-PPP is a 5-year FP7 initiative with a global budget of >600M€. The programme outcome is called
What makes you an iHub:
◎ you are a physical hotspot
◎ you bring together: web entrepreneurs, mentors, investors,
technology, developers & experts, public sector innovators and large
◎ you are an accelerator: providing business development and backend
services, as well as workspaces
◎ you are FIWARE savvy
◎ you are connected: to special infrastructures like energy, smart city,
mobility, education, open data, 3D printing, testing, etc.
◎ you are sensitive to grass-root movements
◎ you have a legal entity for your iHub activities
◎ you are willing to grow European and global.
We stress the value of the iHub.eu network being built primarily on quality,
the incentive for hubs to join their forces in this network is to improve the
quality. Therefore, a quality monitoring and audit system, was setup, called
the stage gate process.
1.1. The Stage Gate Process
In order to be able to
guarantee the fit
with the iHub.eu
gate process for
The incubation stage
gate process has its
inspiration in IEEE
incubation plan for
new themes aiming
to be included as
Our IIH stage gate
cycle has budgeted
only 18 months, but
aims equally at the
Stages of becoming a full-blown
with the FI PPP
take actions to reach
your community of
startups regarding the
FI PPP program
build a new app/service into a
prototype and presentable
1.1. The Stage Gate Process
As iHub.eu is using this model to allow new hubs to become part of the
network, it makes sense to adopt this approach to allow startups to be
incubated at your local hub.
SELECTING THE BEST STARTUPS & SETTING CONCRETE MILESTONES
to make it to the next stage, is definitely worth considering.
This way, you set a clear scene for your startups what the concrete
objectives are to make it to the next point, which can be (further)
investment, (further) coaching, participating in a demo day and so on.
It is important to set clear requirements and a clear timing. It is even more
important to support the startups in achieving the objectives and meeting
the required timeframe, by offering them the means to reach the
You can do this by providing dedicated mentorship and professional
trainings. Copyright @iHub.eu
2.1. About FIWARE
iHub.eu is a community which shares and supports hubs all across Europe
to push technology into profitable services.
FIWARE IS HERE TO FACILITATE THE MOVE FORWARD.
FIWARE is an open software platform for the creation of innovative cloud-
based applications and services. It provides both powerful and easy to use
modules that allow developers to quickly and cost-effectively build their
Development of context-aware applications, which connect to the Internet
of Things, carry out real-time processing of data and content, perform Big
Data analysis or incorporate advanced user interface capabilities has never
been so easy, saving developers time and effort. FIWARE components
provide APIs that are public and royalty free, supported by open-source
“FIWARE is an open initiative aiming to create a
sustainable ecosystem to grasp the
opportunities that will emerge with the new
wave of digitalization caused by the integration
of recent Internet technologies.
How to integrate FIWARE
In order to become part of the iHub.eu network, it is important to facilitate
the adoption of FIWARE technology in your community.
FIWARE technology can namely help your startups prototype faster and
scale their business because of (amongst others):
◎ a single API to access all kinds of data sources
◎ standardization of interoperability, for example in IOT
◎ the prevention of vendor lock in, because it is a completely open and
standard based infrastructure that easily allows you to switch from
one provider to another
◎ technology that is supported by large industry players and the
“The Innovation Hubs play a key role in maintaining and
ensuring the sustainability of the FIWARE initiative”.
Startups for example in the smart city industry, can reduce time to market and
cost of acquisition because of the high adoption rate of fiware technology, since
already 31 cities joined the protocol. It’s obvious that using the same protocol
and standards, gives numerous benefits to startups looking at selling their
solution to cities, if this solution is powered by fiware technology.
An Internet innovation hub can not be part of the iHub.eu network until it is
willing to adopt FIWARE technology. Of course, iHub will support you in several
ways and by all means, get you introduced in the FIWARE community.
We provide targeted and tailored trainings about FIWARE, the technologies
(generic and specific enablers, APIs), use of open-source software, how to
provide FIWARE locally, possibilities for the Hubs' SMEs and Start-Ups
interested in creating their applications on the platform. Next to this, there is
also access to infrastructure and platform, where these elements are available
with known service level characteristics.
easy access to
tools for testing
and validating the
and platforms are
available as part
A number of A16
part of the
how to incubate
startups, that are
part of their
“I would learn about FIWARE because it’s an open solution, it’s
open source, and it’s supported by main players in the industry
and the European Commission”.
The concept of a Pan European Accelerator is to not only help startups
gain market traction locally, but introduce them to a European market,
with the help of all the iHub members involved.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER, which definitely counts if we want to
incubate startups on future Internet technology. A startup is per
definition born global. When a startup, incubated at a regional help,
needs support in setting up there business on the other side of Europe,
there is definitely another hub in the network, that can share additional
And this does not only count for incubation support, but also for
SHARING BEST PRACTICES,
SETTING UP JOINT ACTIVITIES and others.
The existing network of iHub.eu consists of several members that
scored high on the UBI Index in 2014. This gives an overview of the best
university business incubators in the world. Needless to say that a lot
can be learned from the hubs regarding their best practices.
Joining forces to set-up a European Accelerator program, is a next step
is in this intensive collaboration. This accelerator exchange program,
called STARGATE, will be the gateway for startups incubated at a local
iHub.eu member to scale globally.
In an intensive 3 month program, focus will be on generating that extra
mile of sales, pitching to large corporations and getting a touch and feel
of other flourishing startup ecosystems in Europe, such as Berlin and
“ We have one common goal, this goal is to identify,
support, and especially grow the pioneers of the digital
economy in Europe”.
3.1. Physical location
Starting from scratch: CHOOSE A GOOD SPOT. This is, preferably, a natural
crossing point for the targeted players in the ecosystem. Second best
option is to be close to the most scarce domain in the ecosystem.
An absolute freedom in geographically positioning a new innovation hub is
the best road to success. By nesting the hub in the middle of a thriving
Without limitations like budget and availability, the physical location could
be an impressive building. Easy to access and perfectly fit for the job as
coworking and networking area.
In most cases, the freedom to choose a location is limited and tied together
with the initiating entities. Within the available space, the optimal location
should be targeted.
3.1. Physical location
The main goal in choosing the location is being on A NATURAL CROSSING
FOR SEVERAL PARTS OF THE ECOSYSTEM.
If this is not possible, or still offers multiple options, another approach
would be to be as close as possible to the most scarce part of the
The building has to allow all the relevant activities to be ran. Again, when
total freedom is available, the building offers an open invitation to join
different type of activities, ranging from networking to education and
workshops. There should be room for incubation, hosting, different types
of meetings and others.
3.2. Organizational setting
It is in their best interest for a hub to have a SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
MODEL. But when reality comes in, we have to admit that only a small
number of hubs actually manages in doing so.
The current status is that most initiatives are highly dependent on
governmental funding. This is not something to worry about as it is crucial to
have a government on board who actively supports these types of initiatives.
But after the set-up phase, one needs to look at more stable and long term
cash flows. A number of options in doing so, are raising funds with investors
or corporates, ask for startup equity, offer acceleration as a service or
monitise the physical space.
It all comes down to FINDING A RECURRING REVENUE STREAM and most
probably, the answer lies in a combination of the above.
“The real value of the network is about the community itself. Every accelerator
has itself a community around them, from mentors, business angels, start-ups,
and other public-private initiatives. What we are doing is building up another
layer on top, so the real thing is about sharing”
In order to make the innovation hub an inspiring pace, it needs a set of
services to attract new startups but in the meantime, also maintain the
A good way to start, is to make a list of services that you want to run.
Then you can work towards two criteria:
◎ is this service a priority? Does it fill a certain need or is it a ‘nice to
◎ are there enough resources to setup this service? And if no, is it easy
to find them (for example through sponsors are co-organisation with
A list of services can include:
◎ (free) office space
◎ monthly community meetups
◎ dedicated training programs
◎ technological support
◎ legal advice
◎ marketing & communication services and the list can go on.
Keep in mind that you can’t possible offer all the services you want, because
of lack of resources or knowledge. It is therefore highly recommend to
surround your hub with relevant partners, who can provide the support that
your startups need.
Close partnership agreements with corporate partners, who offer additional
support for startups. PARTNERSHIPS are really the most efficient way to
build an interesting package of services for your startups.
"Fiware provides access to a rich
library of APIs, which means
startups get access to free
technology that is easy to use.
It's allows them to focus more
on the business models and
business logic of the
What we offer:
FIWARE ACCELERATION AS A
◎ FIWARE technical
◎ I&E coaching
◎ Legal consultancy
◎ Market research
◎ Access to finance
◎ Prototyping & Testing
◎ FIWARE fosters open-data
◎ Data collected, secured,
anonymised and cleaned
◎ Static & dynamic use of FIWARE
SOFT LANDING IN NEW
Benefits for iHubs:
◎ Quality label
◎ Expertise Exchange
◎ International scalability
◎ Access to tech-scouting
◎ Access to funds
◎ iHub Community
“An internet innovation hub can not be a single
entity in a landscape of innovation. On the
contrary, it is crucial to establish a broadly
covered network of relevant players. Having an
exceptional network, can make you an
Developing that network, starts with a good
look at the readily available players in the
4.1. EIT Digital
The starting point of the iHub.EU is the initial network of EIT Digital hubs in
Budapest, Eindhoven, Helsinki, Madrid, Paris and Trento coinciding with the
Nodes of EIT Digital, the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) on
information society of the European Institute of Innovations and Technology
One of the main goals of the iHub.eu project is namely to foster deeper
relations between the FIWARE initiative and EIT Digital.
EIT Digital is THE MAIN BODY FOR DRIVING IT INNOVATION IN EUROPE.
An important part of setting up your own internet innovation hubs ecosystem
your relation with regional and international government. It is clearly shown
that governments play a crucial role in setting up a strong and innovation
driven economy. The impact of governmental policies are enabling the
innovation opportunities in the long run.
4.1. EIT Digital
Good contacts and working relations with, are an important part of the
innovation hub. Governments are present on a wide range of levels. The
differentiated approach to every specific level is needed., but not all levels will
be as relevant for the local innovation ecosystem.
On a European level, contacts and involvement with governments and public
institutions offer insights in the complex web of funding, support and project
calls. The setting of an internet innovation hub is not an isolated entity. It's
about reaching out to other hubs and actors around Europe.
Hubs that are part of the iHub.eu network, can benefit from the existing
relations with the EIT Digital nodes. EIT Digital namely offers, in
correspondence with their action lines, support to startups that are active in
4.2. The ecosystem
There are a lot of answers to the question on how to segment an innovation
These guidelines use the same method as a the big ICT institutions within the
European Commision: THE KNOWLEDGE TRIANGLE THAT CONJOINTS
EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND BUSINESS.
This is in line with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
and the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC's) that operate under
the mandate of this institute.
4.2. The ecosystem
Education is on the
forefront of building the
mindset of the next
generation of people.
Research and early stage
comes out of universities
and their students.
Contacts with educational
institutions in the iHub’s
region, are therefore
It makes sure it has access
to the leaders of tomorrow
and an introduction to
entrepreneurship will help
these young minds to have
a closer look on what it
means to be an
Organise events where different stakeholders can meet each other in order to
guarantee a maximum exchange of experiences.Next to this, offering students
the opportunity to do an internship in one of the startups, might even be a life
As a successful incubator, you can also DRAW THE LINES FOR THE FUTURE
OF EDUCATION. By framework agreements with schools and universities, the
internet innovation hub can build yearly repeatable programmes or courses
around entre- and intrapreneurship.
All activities that improve the cooperation between the educational ecosystem
and the other domains are interesting.
Establishing good relations with the main research actors in your ecosystem,
will definitely pay off in the long run. Not only your incubator will stay up to
date, but more important, your startups can benefit from adding state of the
art technology to their offering.
One way of transferring technology from research to the market, is the
common way, namely establishing a spin-off and take your solution to the
market. Another way is to reinforce existing startups with research outcomes.
Startups are major engines of economic development, yet they often lack
research capacity to solve their key technical innovation challenges. A flipped
tech transfer model, you can say.
For instance, universities cover all the stages, from in depth fundamental
hypotheses to contract research with globally competing corporates.
The universities are also very close to the market and in particular through the
people of which they helped developing their skill- and mindset. The transfer
of people that are really skilled in research into the innovation ecosystem is a
strong way to enforce the innovation capabilities.
THE COOPERATION BETWEEN THE BUSINESS SECTOR AND THE
UNIVERSITY OFFERS STRONG LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES.
A close collaboration with businesses is also one of the success drivers for
innovation ecosystems. Success breathes success and young startups can learn
a lot from former startups that managed to valorise their offer into a stable or
fast growing business. Not only large large corporations bring added value,
also SMEs are crucial for the establishment of a strong network.
It is crucial to FIND A WIN-WIN SITUATION WITH THE ENTERPRISES IN YOUR
NETWORK. You can involve them as a sponsor, so this party gets first-hand
knowledge about the startups in your portfolio, in order to offer them their
services, preferably at a reduced cost.
Another way is to engage them in your ecosystem, is as a preferred partner,
meaning they support your incubator and your startups with financial
resources, advice, etc. while you provide them with the opportunity to co-
invest in the technology of the future. Instead of building their own corporate
incubator, they TRUST YOUR EXPERIENCE AND INVEST IN YOUR BEST
Being able to count on good relationships with the business actors in your
environment, significantly increases the opportunity to sell solutions from
startups to (large) enterprises.
Another type of business worth mentioning, is the investment scene. The
Internet innovation hub needs well developed contacts with actors in all the
phases of entrepreneurial growth. This starts with pre-seed funding, seed
funding and incubation resources. After those steps, the fueling of growth and
acceleration needs specific funding systems.
Most venturing or investment funds operate in a small segment of the
company lifecycle. The creation of a network across the chain, ensures an
optimal situation when it comes to evolving from one phase to the next.
The pay it forward
mentality is strong on
this one. Having a
solid approach to
keep on engaging
definitely benefit you
in the long run.
They are your
bringing new startups
to your program, and
your mentors for
advising the current
batch of startups.
With this handbook, iHub.eu wants to shed a light on how to
start building an innovation hub in your area.
We hope it can serve as your guide and first aid, during the
setup of the whole process.
The iHub.eu network currently consists of 24 members, who
all went through the same phases, as you are about to do.
Consider this as a warm welcome to reach out to us to
address all your questions.
WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU!
Glossary of terms
A16: The 16 Accelerators in the FIWARE program
CLC: Co-Location Center
DG Connect: European Commission Directorate General for Communications
Content & Technology
EC: European Commission
EEIG: European Economic Interest Grouping
EIT: European Institute of Innovation and Technology
FI PPP: Future Internet Public Private Partnership
FP: Framework Programme
H2020: Horizon 2020 programme
KIC: Knowledge and Innovation Community
UBI: University Business Incubator
“Accelerate now” Whitepaper by NUMA