Modern science requires digital access to data. European collections account for 55% of the natural sciences collections globally, holding more than 1 billion objects, which represent 80% of the world’s bio- and geo-diversity. Only around 10% of these have been digitally catalogued and 1-2% imaged, rendering their information underused. The sheer scale and complexity of digitising and providing access to this information requires technological, socio-cultural, and organisational capacity enhancements across the continent. This challenge is being tackled by the new ESFRI initiative Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo). DiSSCo will unify access to collection data in a harmonised and integrated manner across Europe. It will enable critical new insights from integrated digital data to address some of the world's greatest challenges, such as biodiversity loss and impacts of climate change. However, new research and technological innovation will be required to solve the challenges of efficiently digitising and seamlessly accessing the collections. Building on previous project outputs, community and industrial expertise, the ICEDIG project will design all the technical, financial, policy and governance aspects for developing and operating DiSSCo. A consolidation stream will develop a shared governance model to support all aspects of service unification such as implementation of the open access principles, incentive schemes, planning and prioritisation, capacity development, etc. A technology stream will focus on the innovations that will be required to digitise a significant part of major collections in a foreseeable time, at acceptable cost, and to manage petabyte-size data. The work will be carried out in wide consultation with the larger community. The outputs will be prototypes, blueprints, novel workflows, new industry partnerships, and citizen involvement models, paving the way for the successful construction of the DiSSCo research infrastructure.