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DFKI and partners launch CITAH - Weser-Ems region becomes European innovation hub for SMEs

| Press release | Health & Medicine | Farming & Agricultural Technology | Autonomous Systems | Data Management & Analysis | IT Security | Machine Learning & Deep Learning | Virtual & Augmented Reality | Smart Enterprise Engineering | Osnabrück / Oldenburg

With the initiative CITAH, "Cross-Industry Transformation in Agriculture and Health", funded by the EU and the state of Lower Saxony with 4.9 million euros, services for the regional economy were established at the beginning of the year. Agriculture, the food industry and the health sector are regarded as leading industries between Osnabrück and Oldenburg. In CITAH, formats are being created for these industries and SMEs across all sectors to enable mutual learning in the digital transformation and to enable SMEs to use the potential offered by AI. The initiators are the DFKI research department "Smart Enterprise Engineering" and the OFFIS Institute.

© DFKI, Annemarie Popp
CITAH supports small and medium-sized enterprises in bringing digital technologies into practice.

What can an agricultural machinery manufacturer learn from an application in nursing or vice versa? Often, cases and functionalities differ when using artificial intelligence or augmented reality, but not the technologies themselves. One opportunity for companies looking at digitalising their business is to look beyond the boundaries of their own industry.

"The Osnabrück area is a hub for the food and agricultural sector. Oldenburg is a competence region in the healthcare sector. Both have successfully established themselves over decades and are currently mastering the digital transformation. Based on the 'first movers' in Lower Saxony's economy, the application of digital technologies can also be made accessible to others and become widespread," explains Prof. Dr. Oliver Thomas, head of the research department at DFKI.

To this end, the region is now receiving funding from the European Union's "Digital Europe" programme, which aims to strengthen the economy and society in Europe in the use of digital technologies (funding code: 101082978). In addition to the DFKI Niedersachsen in Osnabrück and the Oldenburg OFFIS – Institut für Informatik, the universities of Oldenburg and Osnabrück, the Agrotech Valley Forum and the GewiNet Kompetenzzentrum Gesundheitswirtschaft are participating in CITAH. The DFKI research department is contributing budget from its funding from the state of Lower Saxony to CITAH and is doubling its investment in the Osnabrück innovation landscape with this project.

Full service for digitalisation

Prof. Thomas sees CITAH as an opportunity for the transfer of research into practice: "With the funding from CITAH, we can put together a 360-degree all-round package for the digital transformation of companies in and around Osnabrück, Germany's top SME region, and carry our current research findings directly into practice. Around 600 SMEs of all kinds will be addressed by us in the area between Osnabrück and Oldenburg and can benefit."
CITAH will offer companies services in four areas:

  • Advanced Training on technological competences, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, interoperability and cyber security.
  • Innovation labs at the locations Oldenburg and Osnabrück for prototypical "test-before-invest" applications.
  • Advice on financing digitalisation activities.
  • Networking of the agricultural and food industries as well as the health sector with companies from the field of information technology to form strategic alliances and ecosystems.

Companies will prospectively be able to take advantage of the first services in the middle of the year. There will be kick-off events to get to know the services and the network in Oldenburg on March 7 and in Osnabrück on  April 26, 2023.  The activities in CITAH and the first get-together will also be linked to a new location in Osnabrück: the new Coppenrath Innovation Center. In the first half of the year, the DFKI will begin moving both research departments into the renovated Ringlokschuppen. Companies interested in participating in the event or in obtaining more information about CITAH can contact Dr. Pascal Meier in Osnabrück ( or Dr. Marco Eichelberg ( in Oldenburg.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Andreas Hein, member of the board of OFFIS and spokesperson for CITAH: "With CITAH, we will become the central points of contact for the digital transformation of SMEs in and around Oldenburg and Osnabrück. I am looking forward to our events, am curious about the needs of the companies and would like to invite everyone to talk to us about digital progress".

Towards a European initiative

CITAH will be linked to a newly created, Europe-wide network of further "European Digital Innovation Hubs", with which an exchange of knowledge is intended to take place. There are a total of 19  innovation hubs in Germany and 137 in Europe. Lower Saxony is represented twice with CITAH and a hub in the Hannover-Braunschweig region. CITAH builds on the Zentrum für Digitale Innovation in Niedersachsen (ZDIN) founded by the state of Lower Saxony in 2019 and the Lower Saxony innovation network SmartHybrid.

© KRESINGS/ImagineWeCreate
CITAH is located in Osnabrück in a renovated roundhouse. In the so-called Coppenrath Innovation Centre, researchers and companies will work together in the future. The DFKI will move into the building as an anchor tenant in 2023.
© Tobias Schwertmann
Prof. Dr Oliver Thomas, DFKI research department "Smart Enterprise Engineering", supports companies in their digital transformation. His research area has a long tradition of cooperation with medium-sized companies and SMEs.