HomeInsightsEuropean Commission sets out path to digitise European industry


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As part of its Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission has unveiled its plans to help European industry, SMEs, researchers and public authorities make the most of new technologies.

The Commission’s plans are a set of measures to support and link up national initiatives for the digitisation of industry and related services across all sectors and to boost investment through strategic partnerships and networks.  The Commission also proposes concrete measures to speed up the development of common standards in priority areas, such as 5G communication networks or cybersecurity, and to modernise public services.  As part of the plans, the Commission will set up a European cloud that, as a first objective, will give Europe’s 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals a virtual environment to store, manage, analyse and re-use a large amount of research data.

While many parts of the economy have been quick to take up digital technologies and processes, some traditional sectors (such as construction, agro-food, textiles or steel) and SMEs are lagging behind in their digital transformation.  Recent studies estimate that digitisation of products and services will add more than €110 billion of revenue for industry per year in Europe over the next five years.

Several EU Member States have already launched strategies to support the digitisation of industry.  However, the Commission says, a comprehensive approach at European level is needed to avoid fragmented markets and to reap the benefits of digital evolutions such as the internet of things.

As part of this approach, the Commission will:

  • help coordinate national and regional initiatives on digitising industry by maintaining a continuous EU-wide dialogue with all those involved. A governance framework will be set up with Member States and industry;
  • focus investment in EU’s public-private partnerships and strongly encourage the use of the opportunities offered by the EU Investment Plan and European Structural and Investment Funds;
  • invest €500 million in a pan-EU network of digital innovation hubs (centres of excellence in technology) where businesses can obtain advice and test digital innovations;
  • set up large-scale pilot projects to strengthen the internet of things, advanced manufacturing and technologies in smart cities and homes, connected cars or mobile health services;
  • adopt future-proof legislation that will support the free flow of data and clarify ownership of data generated by sensors and smart devices. The Commission will also review rules on safety and liability of autonomous systems; and
  • present an EU skills agenda that will help give people the skills needed for jobs in the digital age.

The European cloud initiative also forms part of this package.

Overall, the Commission says that its plans should mobilise over €50 billion of public and private investments in support of the digitisation of industry.  To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.