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Brussels, 11th March 2008

Standards to boost innovation and competitiveness

Standardisation can make an important contribution to the development of sustainable industrial policy, unlock the potential of innovative markets and strengthen the position of European economy through more efficient capitalising of its knowledge basis. These are the main conclusions of a European Commission communication “Towards an increased contribution from standardisation to innovation in Europe” published today. It identifies the most important challenges faced, presents concrete objectives for standardisation and the use of standards, and consolidates on-going efforts and proposed measures to be launched both by relevant stakeholders and by the Commission. The communication identifies key elements for focusing EU standardisation policy on innovation such as commitment to market-led standardisation and to the voluntary use of standards, inclusion of new knowledge in standards or access to standardisation of all interested stakeholders, in particular small and medium enterprises, but also consumers and researchers.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “The success of the European standardisation system in removing technical barriers to trade has played a vital role in ensuring the free movement of goods between Member States. A strong role for Europe in international standardisation means European leadership in new markets and gaining first-mover advantages in global markets ".

Standardisation must adapt to growing international competition in standards-setting from emerging powers, who consider standardisation an important strategic asset. Faced with this background, the Commission proposes to Member States, industry, users, standards bodies and other stakeholders key elements for focusing EU standardisation policy in support of innovation and competitiveness. The intention is increase the impact of Europe in global standardisation, to facilitate the inclusion of new knowledge in standards, to make effective the access to standardisation to all stakeholders, in particular to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), to accelerate the uptake of standards by users, and to reform the infrastructure and procedures of European standardisation in order to render it more supportive to innovation.

As a result, the EU expects standardisation to make an important contribution to the following priority actions for innovation and competitiveness:

  • Sustainable industrial policy: this aims at improving the energy and resource efficiency of products, processes and services and the competitiveness of European industry. Standardisation is important in enabling the uptake of eco-innovation and environmental technologies.
  • Lead markets: Standardisation is one of the key elements for the success of the lead market initiative which aims to accelerate the emergence of innovative market areas such as eHealth, sustainable construction, recycling and renewable energy. A European lead in developing globally accepted standards would facilitate the growth of these markets both in Europe and abroad (see IP/08/12).   
  • Public procurement: the appropriate use of standards in public procurement may foster innovation, while providing administrations with the tools needed to fulfil their tasks.
  • The integration of ICT in industry and administrations: the potential to improve the competitive position of the European economy through a more efficient and effective use of ICT tools is important, and standards are essential to realise this potential.


Standardisation is a voluntary cooperation among industry, consumers and public authorities for the development of technical specifications based on consensus. In the EU standards are developed by the European Standards Organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI contributing to the EU’s Better Regulation policy as a key element in keeping EU legislation simple and limiting it to the essential elements for the protection of public interests such as health and safety of citizens.
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