Building a digital Europe: interview with Maria Michalopoulou

During the inaugural EDIH Network Annual Summit, we had the opportunity to sit down with several EDIH representatives and capture their visions, challenges, and aspirations as members of the network. In this interview, we uncover their insights and explore the potential impact of EDIHs on the European digital landscape.

Could you start by introducing yourself and your EDIH, and could you tell us what is your area of expertise and how it’s helping SMEs and public organisations to overcome digital challenges?

Μy name is Maria Michalopoulou, I come from Greece and I am the coordinator of DigiAgriFood. It is an EDIH that covers most of the Greek mainland and specialises in the digital and green transformation of the agricultural sector. The Digital Economy and Society Index places Greece at the 27th position, so rather low, meaning that there is a lot of ground to be covered. Although there are digital tools and services available, few SMEs are using them. Our main goal is first to move ahead with digital transformation, which will then help green transformation come along, too. We want to ensure that Greek SMEs reach the level of SMEs in Europe and that they will be able to follow strategies like the common agricultural policy, the Green Deal, and whichever policy becomes a priority for Europe.

Now that you are in Brussels, what are your expectations for the first EDIH Network Annual Summit?

We are looking forward to listening to and discussing about topics related to the conditions and the goals of this attempt with other EDHIs as with the members of DG CONNECT and their officers. This includes matters related to the service portfolio, reaching KPIs, what inspires us to work more effectively as well as the tools that are available to us to achieve that.

How do you think that being a member of this network is going to impact the performance of your EDIH? What added value is it going to bring to your own operations?

This network is composed of highly skilled organisations and individuals, so being part of it gives us access to a valuable source of knowledge and experience.  We can implement the means and expertise we already have available while at the same time design future activities and services. This is very important. Along with learning about best practices we are also hearing about pitfalls that we can avoid and the way that other hubs, whether of similar or more advanced maturity levels, may have already solved the problems that we are facing now.

Could you share a success story with us whereby one of your clients has made significant progress in their digitalisation goals thanks to the work of your EDIH?

We do not have a complete success story to share at the moment because we are only six months into this project. Nevertheless, we are actively running our service portfolio and identifying the needs of our clients: SMEs, individual farmers as well as public sector organisations.

Have you had the chance yet to collaborate with any other EDIH from the network?

Yes, from the very beginning of our membership to the EDIH Network we have established a very close cooperation with the three other EDIHs in Greece. As we are facing similar challenges, we are in constant collaboration to solve problems and to define ways to navigate this project. Also, we are part of two European groups of EDIHs specialised in the Agrifood sector and this is something that we want to drive forward during the Summit by forming a group related to our area of expertise.

What do you think is making this collaboration successful? Which lessons do you think you have learnt so far?

First, having a common goal that inspires us in keeping the work ethic high. Finding trust in our partners and true value in what we are doing. These are common values that we share with our partners, and we are all investing to keep this spirit high and overcome the technical problems that are present in every project. A second lesson learned or advice would be to include the expertise of other networks in daily operations, such as the European Enterprise Network, that can further enhance our efficiency.

Last but not least, what message or advice would you like to share with our participants here to motivate them to continue growing and advancing this network collectively?

Something that I keep telling myself as well: get the services to the market, reach the market, get to your points of interest. This will yield the valuable feedback that is needed to further enhance our performance and build up this innovation ecosystem.