I. Digitising European industry: Reaping the full benefits of a digital single market
What does the Commission propose?
Building on and complementing the many national initiatives for digitising industry, such as Industrie 4.0 in Germany, Smart Industry in the Netherlands and in Slovakia, Fabbrica Intelligente in Italy or Nouvelle France Industrielle (Industrie du Futur) in France, the Commission plans to use its policy instruments, financial support, coordination and legislative powers to trigger further investments in all industrial sectors.
This includes working with Member States to focus investment in public-private partnerships; pooling resources for ground-breaking developments in digital technologies and platforms, including high-performance cloud infrastructure for science and innovation as well as large-scale test-beds to accelerate standards setting.
The Commission will monitor the commitment by the private sector to invest on average three to four times as much as the EU investments in the public-private partnerships (PPPs). The Commission strongly encourages the use of the opportunities offered under the Investment Plan's European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and through the European Structural and Investment Funds.
Who will benefit from the plan?
Companies will be able to develop new products, processes and business models that can provide improved safety and greater comfort for users. They will be able to sell personalised products at mass production cost, and they can optimise the use of energy and other resources.
Digitisation can help to solve issues related to an ageing society (people can stay longer at home), use less energy (for instance, city lightning that only switches on when it is needed), monitor the environment, etc.
1) A framework for coordination of national and regional initiatives
What does the Commission propose?
There are currently more than 30 national and regional initiatives on digitising industry. The Commission will organise:
- twice-yearly high-level roundtables of representatives of the Member States' initiatives, industry leaders, and social partners to ensure a continuous EU-wide dialogue, monitor progress and investments, to be kicked off by meetings at the Hanover Fair later in April 2016; and
- an annual stakeholder forum involving stakeholders from the full digital value chains beginning in early 2017, prepared by working groups in the second half of 2016.
What added value will today's plan bring to Member States?
For Member States which have already launched their initiatives, Commission’s plans will better coordinate and link up national digital programmes. This could improve access to finance for all. The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) has shown that the EU as a whole can mobilise resources for investment that no individual Member State could raise on its own, and can leverage private investments to greater effect than many Member States.
2) Co-investing in digital innovation
What are digital innovation hubs?
The Commission will invest €500 million in digital innovation hubs so that every industry, large or small, high-tech or not, can get access to knowledge and testing facilities in the latest digital technologies. These centres of excellence would be based in technical universities or research organisations and should provide companies, in particular SMEs, with access to facilities for digital innovation; supply advice on potential sources of funding or finance; make available spaces for testing and experimentation; and help workers find the necessary skills and training.
Example of successful hubs in Europe include the micro-tech cluster in southern Germany where institutes like Fraunhofer and university labs play an essential role, or the Grenoble digital innovation eco-system in France around institutes like the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) or the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA).
The Commission will invite digital innovation hubs to bid for EU funding in a series of calls for proposals over the next five years. It will also encourage Member States and regions with no appropriate hub or facilities to invest in them, in particular with EU regional funding.
How will the Commission reinforce the role of EU public-private partnerships? Will new partnerships be created?
Current EU public-private partnerships (PPPs) cover the whole digital value chain from robotics and electronics to 5G and big data. They also include the PPP on Factories of the Future which will be able to implement the solutions achieved in a factory setting. The full list of EU PPPs is available here.
Overall, more than €20 billion are already planned to be invested in the coming five years in the digital-sector PPPs by industry and the EU in support of strategic research and innovation agendas.
The Commission plans to focus a significant part of the PPPs and national investments on cross-sectoral and integrated digital platforms. The Commission will support the Member States in aligning their national investments with the strategic industrial agendas of the PPPs.
3) Providing the right regulatory conditions
What does the Commission propose?
With the support of industry and Member States, the Commission will:
- propose in 2016 an initiative on free flow of data within the EU in order to remove or prevent unjustified localisation requirements in national legislation or regulation as well as to examine in greater detail the emerging issues of data ownership, access and re-use rules, including as regards data in an industrial context and especially data generated by sensors and other collecting devices.
- explore the legal frameworks for autonomous systems and internet of things applications in particular safety and liability rules and the legal conditions to allow large-scale testing in real-life environments.
- initiate work on on the safety of applications and other non-embedded software not covered by sectoral legislation to gather views on possible need for further action at EU level.
What is the free flow of data initiative?
While personal data is covered and protected by EU rules, there are no clear guidelines for other types of data. Large amounts of data are produced every second, created by people or generated by machines, such as sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, or GPS signals. They represent a goldmine for research, innovation and new business opportunities. But data often remains stuck in national expensive data centres (e.g. Member States requirements to keep data inside their territory). Unnecessary restrictions should be removed and national systems better aligned to allow a better flow of data within the EU and to stimulate the development of new technologies such as cloud computing. The Commission will assess the different legal and technical obstacles and will then define measures to address them.
What is the internet of things and which issues does it raise?
With the internet of things (IoT), physical objects – e.g. devices, vehicles, buildings – including electronics (e.g. sensors) and connected to the internet can create networks and exchange data between themselves as well as with people. The IoT can create new smart environments and help make our lives safer and easier.
Several issues have to be addressed for the IoT to unleash its full potential for the economy and society:
- A single market for the IoT: IoT devices and services should be able to connect seamlessly and on a plug-and-play basis anywhere in the EU, and scale up across borders. The right standards for interoperability must be available. To ensure convergence of standards and interoperability in this field, the Commission has proposed several actions under this package (see below). It also calls for current legal framework, either in relation to data protection, safety or liability rules to be fit for purpose. These aspects, including the emerging issues of data ownership, rules on access and re-use of non-personal data in an industrial context (especially data generated by sensors and other collecting devices) will be examined as part of the free flow of data initiative.
- Open IoT ecosystems: IoT ecosystems should be developed through open environments working across silos to support developer communities to innovate.
- A human-centred IoT: the IoT in Europe should be based on European values, notably high standards for the protection of personal data and security. Operators and service providers for the IoT could develop and adopt a 'Trusted IoT label', aimed at consumers, giving transparent information about different levels of privacy and security, and where relevant, demonstrating compliance with the EU's Network and Information Security Directive.
4) Preparing Europeans for the digital transformation
What does the Commission propose?
Digital transformation is not only changing our economy, but also the nature of work and labour markets. There are concerns about how this may affect employment conditions, employment levels and income distribution. The Commission will explore these themes in a social dialogue with stakeholders including Member States, industry, social partners and education professionals.
Future jobs are likely to require different skills or knowledge which are not currently provided by today's education or training systems. For example, operators, engineers and administrative staff could soon be designing, maintaining and supervising intelligent machines that assist in the performance of tasks, instead of doing the tasks themselves. In addition to digital skills there is an increasing demand for other complementary skills, such as entrepreneurial, leadership and engineering skills.
- Together with all stakeholders, the Commission will:
- reinforce the role of industry and research organisations in the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and stimulate further commitment from industry to take action.
- improve the understanding of skills requirements for new technologies in all sectors of the economy.
The Commission will address digital skills and training as part of the upcoming EU Skills Agenda later this year.
5) Mobilising investments
Today's plan would mobilise over €50 billion of investment over the next five years. Where will this money come from?
Investment is planned as follows:
- €37 billion investment to boost digital innovation.
- €22 billion investment in digital public-private partnerships (PPPs) over the next 5 years. This includes approximately:
- €4 billion in EU support to PPPs and focussed areas (key platforms to support cross sector digital transformation) through the research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020;
- €1 billion from the Member States through the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) partnership; and
- €17 billion private investment committed by industry to these public-private partnerships (PPPs).
- €15 billion from targeted national research budgets. The Commission encourages Member States to dedicate at least to €3 billion each of the five years of their combined national Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) research & innovation budgets to research in the key areas to be identified by industries involved in the digital PPPs. Member States and private project promoters with digital investment projects should apply to the European Investment Bank to see if they are eligible for financing under the Investment Plan's European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). They can also take advantage of financing opportunities from the European Structural and Investment Funds.
- €22 billion investment in digital public-private partnerships (PPPs) over the next 5 years. This includes approximately:
- €5.5 billion national and regional investments in digital innovation hubs.
- €500 million in EU investments in digital innovation hubs will come from Horizon 2020;
- €5 billion national and regional investment over five years. To create new, or reinforce existing competence centres offering digital innovation hubs across the whole EU and stimulate their use by industry, e.g. with digital innovation and skills vouchers. Again, European Structural and Investment Funds and the European Fund for Strategic investment (EFSI) and more specifically its SME window could be used to support digital innovation hubs in regions.
- €6.3 billion for the first production lines of next-generation electronic components.
- €6.7 billion for the European Cloud Initiative: The Commission estimates that, overall, €2 billion in Horizon 2020 funding will be allocated to the European Cloud Initiative. The estimation of the required additional public and private investment is €4.7 billion in the period of 5 years.
Detailed estimated investments for digitising European industry
EU (ongoing or planned)
Member States (via digital focus)
Digital innovation hubs
€500m (from Horizon 2020)
Part of the below
Close to €4bn
Close to €1bn
Close to €17bn
Part of the above
Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI)
€300m in the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) partnership
€1bn from Member States which could include France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom
European Cloud Initiative
The Commission estimates that, overall, €2 billion in Horizon 2020 funding will be allocated to the European Cloud Initiative
€4.7bn additional funding from public and private sources for the European Data Infrastructure.
II. A European Cloud Initiative
What does the Commission propose?
The European Cloud Initiative will build on a trusted, open environment for the scientific community to store, share and re-use scientific data and results: the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). Underpinning this, the new European Data Infrastructure (EDI) aims to deploy the super-computing capacity, fast connectivity and high-capacity cloud solutions required by the EOSC. This initiative will bring together existing and new data infrastructures.
The Cloud Initiative will make it easier for researchers, businesses and public services to exploit big data. Cloud storage means that data is maintained and managed remotely and made available to users over a network. Today's initiative combines data infrastructures that store and manage data; the high-bandwidth networks that transport data; and ever more powerful high performance computers that can be used to process the data. The Cloud will make it possible to move, share and re-use data seamlessly across global markets and borders, and among institutions and research disciplines.
What is the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)?
The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) will offer 1.7 million European researchers and 70 million professionals in science and technology virtual environments with open and seamless services for the storage, management, analysis and re-use of data linked to their research, across borders and scientific disciplines. The initiative will also ensure that the scientific community can re-use the enormous amount of scientific data that Horizon 2020 projects generate.
Scientists have identified four main reasons why the EOSC is needed:
- a lack of widespread awareness of the value of data and of incentives for data sharing in academia and in industry;
- a lack of common data specifications and protocols to ensure their inter-operability;
- a need for increased high-speed connectivity, for data storage and for high-performance computing in Europe;
- there is significant fragmentation and lack of federation of scientific data infrastructures across scientific communities and between countries.
Focusing initially on the scientific community, the user base of the EOSC will be enlarged to the public sector and to industry, creating solutions and technologies that will benefit all areas of the economy and society.
The Commission is taking this initiative now because of the challenge of rapidly increasing and diversifying data in the face of decreasing resources to store and process them. There is near-consensus among scientists and stakeholders on the need for common action on scientific data-sharing and on the long-term sustainability of data infrastructures. This need has also been expressed via the European Parliament, via the European Council and by respondents to a recent public consultation related to data and cloud computing.
Why is it needed?
Overall, data sharing is the corner stone of modern science and innovation. Making research data openly available can not only help scientists to produce better research, but also help boost Europe's competitiveness by benefitting start-ups, SMEs and companies which can use data as a basis for research and development and innovation. Opening research data can even spur new industries, as demonstrated by the international Human Genome Project. There have already been significant efforts to open up research data related to public health emergencies such as Ebola or the Zika virus, and the European Open Science Cloud offers a greater potential to use research data systematically and in an inter-disciplinary manner to tackle societal challenges. While existing scientific data infrastructures are a great starting point for Europe, the EOSC will provide scale and coordination, ensure cost-effectiveness and address long-term sustainability for the sharing of increasingly big data.
Who will have access to the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and how much will that cost to access it?
Initially, the EOSC will be accessible to researchers and innovators from European universities and research institutions, and their global scientific collaborators. At a later stage, as new and existing resources become available, access will be widened to research and innovation staff from the public sector and from the industry. When this happens, not all access to data will necessarily be free, as the legitimate interests of right holders need to be respected.
The EOSC will include a system for the clearing of intellectual property rights (IPR) in relation to the access and use of specific datasets. In the long run, 'pay per use' access to valuable contents may also help ensure the sustainability of the new scientific data infrastructure.
To encourage this move, the Commission plans to take the lead in data-sharing by making all scientific data produced by Horizon 2020-funded projects open by default by 2017. This will extend the current pilot, whereby projects implement data management plans to make it easier to find, access and re-use research data. However, existing opt-out facilities will be preserved, to take into account for example the sensitiveness of certain data from domains such as security or data that are very close to market.
How will the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) be governed and operated?
There will be a governance platform for policy development on infrastructure and services, mechanisms for global data stewardship, decision-making on funding (requirements and procurement instruments) and long-term sustainability for the EOSC and for the supporting European Data Infrastructure (EDI). This will involve scientific users, funders and procurers, and will build on existing governance structures, such as the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) or the pan-European data network for the Research and Education Community (GEANT) (see also European research infrastructures).
In 2016, the Commission, in cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, will explore potential governance and financing mechanisms for the EOSC and the European Data Infrastructure (EDI) and define an implementation roadmap. A dedicated call in Horizon 2020 will assist with the development and early implementation of the governance structure.
How will the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) benefit scientific disciplines or Member States that are less advanced in terms of sharing data?
The EOSC will provide a more accessible gateway to excellent science for a greater number of scientists from more Member States. The EOSC will make it easier for groups like citizen scientists, scholars in the humanities, or scholars working on less-developed areas (e.g. genomics of rare species) who are less advanced in data use or sharing to use these techniques and technologies. It will also help scientists and innovators who cannot access large-scale infrastructures, or who are in Member States that have not yet embarked on large-scale national programmes on big data, cloud-based infrastructure for science or data stewardship.
They will benefit from existing expertise, best practices in data management as well as from the scientific collaboration based on data at a lower cost. In this respect, the initiative explicitly foresees the use of structural funds to widen access whenever possible.
What is the European Data Infrastructure (EDI) and why is it needed?
The European Data Infrastructure is the combination of world-class supercomputing (HPC) capability, high-speed connectivity, leading-edge data storage and interfaces for cloud-based service delivery. High-performance ICT infrastructures are needed to manage the current and expected scale of future data flows. European science, industry and public services need world-class infrastructures and cloud-based services to compete and thrive in the digital economy. The EDI will provide the right support for the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
Who will be able to use and benefit from the European Data Infrastructure (EDI)?
The European Data Infrastructure (EDI) will be open to users from across the emerging digital economy:
- Researchers. Every research centre, every research project and every researcher in Europe should have access to world class supercomputing, data storage and analysis through the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
- Businesses will have access to top level data and computing infrastructures. Thanks to this extra processing capacity and speed, they will be able to process data more quickly, or deal with more complicated problems and concepts – meaning they can be more adventurous in their ideas and develop more innovative concepts, products and services. This will enable them to develop new data driven markets and compete at world level.
- Public authorities.Access to the EDI will help deliver lower cost, faster, better and interconnected public services. Public sector activities that themselves generate massive amounts of data or need large computing resources (e.g. smart cities) will benefit from economies of scale, flexibility and continuity.
All this combined will improve the quality of services delivered by the public sector (health and personalised medicine, smart transport and mobility, smart cities), give EU citizens more access to science and education and bring new innovative products faster to market.
What is the financial impact of the Cloud Initiative? Where will the money come from and how will it be invested?
While the European Cloud Initiative will require funding at various stages, this funding will follow, not drive, decisions on governance and on the extent of federation and services needed by scientists. The Cloud Initiative is a based on a European Open Science Cloud and a European Data Infrastructure.
The public and private investment needed to implement the European Cloud Initiative is estimated at €6.7 billion. The Commission estimates that, overall, €2 billion in Horizon 2020 funding will be allocated to the European Cloud Initiative. The required additional public and private investment would amount to 4.7 billion in the period of 5 years.
This additional investment includes €3.5 billion for data infrastructure, €1 billion for a large-scale EU-wide quantum technologies flagship and €0.2 billion for the actions on widening access and building trust. The Commission considers that this investment need can be met through a combination of funding from EU programmes, Member States and private sources. The initiative will over time generate revenue of its own through 'pay per use' content, and growing uptake by the scientific community, innovative startups and the public sector.
The Commission intends to make proposals on how the different sources of financing at EU and national level could be blended in order to realise the objectives of the Communication and will discuss them with Member States. Infrastructure of this level of ambition will require strong involvement of Member States, in particular by leveraging structural funds and guarantees from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), and involving the private sector and coordinating their investments. In this respect, the proposed Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on high performance computing (HPC) and big data shows the possibilities and the positive effects of Member States' engagement.
III. Priorities for ICT standards
What does the Commission propose?
All sectors of the economy increasingly rely on digital technologies, while cross-sector applications bring value to digital systems. ICT standards ensure that digital technologies and systems have a common language and work seamlessly together.
The Commission has identified five priority areas where improved ICT standardisation is most urgent to create a Digital Single Market: 5G, the internet of things, cloud computing, cybersecurity and data technologies. The Commission will focus on these priorities when asking industry and standardisation bodies to work on standards.
The Commission has proposed a high-level political process to validate, monitor, and – where necessary – adapt the list of priorities. In these areas, the Commission wants future connected devices – including appliances, phones, vehicles, and industrial equipment – to be able to communicate regardless of manufacturer, operating system or device technology.
In the future, many more devices will be connected to each other – ranging from cars and transportation systems, to appliances and e-health systems. The results of today's plan will ensure that European standards are in place quickly enough to allow future devices to connect smoothly across the Single Market while avoiding vendor lock-in (which makes a customer dependent on a vendor, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs). A special focus on cybersecurity will ensure that safety, security and privacy considerations are built-in to new standards from the outset.
The Commission will also co-finance the testing and experimentation of technologies to accelerate standards setting including in relevant public-private partnerships. This will ensure timely delivery of standards to spur innovation and business growth.
The Commission proposes further measures in the area of research, development and innovation to ensure that research and development results are better linked to new standards, as well as to improve collaboration between standard setting organisations in Europe and internationally. This will include strengthening European participation in global standard setting discussion.
How are standards set and what is the EU's role in standardisation?
Most standards are set by voluntary, industry-led consensual standard setting processes. Based on the current EU Regulation on Standards the EU can request and authorise the three European Standard Setting organisations CEN/CENELEC and ETSI to define standards for products in the Single Market.
Compliance with such standards allows businesses to sell their products across the EU, which Member States are obliged to respect.
The rapid change and increased convergence of digital technology however means that in many domains the traditional standard setting process falls short. Digital businesses increasingly define standards outside traditional standard definition organisations, and typically outside Europe. This leads to much complexity: for example, there are already more than 600 closely related standards in the area of the internet of things. It is essential to clearly map the most relevant standards.
Global standard setting is a strategic element of European industrial policy – it allows innovations to scale up in Europe and then compete globally. In domains such as e-health or smart cities, innovations often cannot easily be connected up and re-used from one hospital or one city to the next – this means that good ideas cannot grow. The EU's role is to ensure that the Single Market offers the right standardisation infrastructure for innovations to scale up, but also to ensure that the European approach is sufficiently well represented in global standardisation discussions.
IV. e-Government action plan
What will the Commission do?
The e-Government Action Plan includes 20 initiatives to be launched in 2016 and 2017 (full list). Several of them aim to accelerate the implementation of existing legislation and related take-up of online public services. The Commission will notably support the transition of Member States towards full e-procurement, use of contract registers and interoperable e-signatures.
Another part of this set of initiatives focuses on cross-border digital public services. For example, the Commission will submit a proposal to create a Single Digital Gateway as a one-stop entry point for business and people to all Digital Single Market related information, assistance, advice and problem-solving services and making sure that the most frequently used procedures for doing business across borders can be completed fully online. The ESSI (Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information) will help national administrations to electronically share personal social information between Member States, thereby making it easier for people to live and work across borders.
Finally, the action plan aims to ensure that high-quality digital public services are designed for users and encourage their participation.
What is the "once-only" principle?
The "once-only" principle means that citizens and businesses should supply the same information only once to a public administration. Public administration internally shares this data, so that no additional burden falls on citizens and businesses. It calls for a reorganisation of public sector internal processes, rather than forcing businesses and citizens to fit around these processes.
The Commission will launch a pilot project with Member States to apply once-only principle across borders, with €8 million funding from Horizon 2020. This pilot will test out a technical once-only solution for businesses working in different EU Member States. Another activity will explore the once-only concept for citizens, and support networking and discussions on how this could be implemented, in due respect of the legal framework on personal data protection and privacy.
What is the digitisation of company law?
A number of EU company rules were conceived in a pre-digital era, when every form had to be completed on paper. As a result, many companies cannot fully benefit from digital tools where it comes to fulfilling company law requirements or interacting with business registers because many of the rules and processes are still paper-based.
The Commission will work on ways to achieve simpler and less burdensome solutions for companies, by facilitating the use of digital solutions throughout a company's lifecycle in the interaction between companies and business registers, including in cross-border situations.
For instance, in order to set up as a company in a Member State, it is necessary to register that company in a business register. The Commission will look at how and in what ways online registration procedures could be made available in order to reduce the administrative burden and costs of founding a new company. Also, under EU law, companies are obliged to file a number of documents and information in business registers. Cost and time savings for companies could be generated through better use of digital tools when a company needs to submit and disclose new documents or up-date those throughout its lifecycle, for instance when the company name changes.
How will the Single Digital Gateway help European businesses and citizens?
The Single Digital Gateway will link up (not replace) relevant EU and national websites, portals, assistance services and procedures in a seamless and user-friendly way. Over time it will offer users a streamlined, comprehensive portal to find information, initiate and complete transactions with Member States’ administrations across the EU. The most frequently used administrative procedures will be identified and be brought fully online, so that no offline steps like printing and sending documents on paper will be needed.
This will save time and thereby costs for businesses and citizens when they want to engage in cross-border activities like setting up a business, exporting, moving or studying in another EU Member State.
How will interconnecting businesses registers, insolvency registers, and making the e-Justice portal a one-stop shop for justice help businesses?
These initiatives will help businesses trade within the EU with much more confidence. Not only will they be able to find the relevant information on other businesses themselves, but also on their possible insolvency, through the different interconnections of registers. This will increase transparency and enhance confidence in the Digital Single Market.
Interconnecting business registers will also ensure that business registers can communicate to each other electronically in a safe and secure way and that information is up-to-date without any additional red tape for companies.
The European e-Justice Portal provides a lot of additional information in case of problems, including tools to find a lawyer or notary, and tools for the exercise of their rights. It gives businesses easy access to information needed before entering into a business arrangement, as well as the confidence that if things go wrong, a solution is near at hand.
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