European Commission sets out path to digitise European industry


Delivering on its Strategy to create a Digital Single Market, the European Commission today unveiled its plans to help European industry, SMEs, researchers and public authorities make the most of new technologies.

The European Commission today presented 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 today’s 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 big amount of research data (press release).

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “The industrial revolution of our time is digital. We need the right scale for technologies such as cloud computing, data-driven science and the internet of things to reach their full potential. As companies aim to scale up across the Single Market, public e-services should also meet today’s needs: be digital, open and cross-border by design. The EU is the right scale for the digital times.

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “Europe has a very competitive industrial base and is a global leader in important sectors. But Europe will only be able to maintain its leading role if the digitisation of its industry is successful and reached fast. Our proposals aim to ensure that this happens. It requires a joint effort across Europe to attract the investments we need for growth in the digital economy.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “The digital economy merges with the real economy. We need leadership and investment in digital technologies in areas like advanced manufacturing, smart energy, automated driving or e-health.

Digitisation of industry

While many parts of the economy have been quick to take up digital technologies and processes, European industry across sectors and regardless of a company’s size must fully use digital opportunities if it is to be globally competitive. Traditional sectors (like construction, agro-food, textiles or steel) and SMEs are particularly 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 in the next five years.

Several EU Member States have already launched strategies to support the digitisation of industry. But 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 actors involved. A governance framework will be set up with Member States and industry.
  • focus investments 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 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.
  • 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 and will help Europe lead in the data-driven economy.

Overall, today’s plans should mobilise over €50 billion of public and private investments in support of the digitisation of industry.

Priority standards to boost digital innovation

In the Digital Single Market, billions of connected devices – including phones, computers and sensors – should communicate safely and seamlessly, regardless of their manufacturer, technical details or country of origin. For this they need a common language: standards.

The Commission proposes concrete measures to speed up the standard setting process by:

  • focusing on five priority areas, when asking industry and standardisation bodies to work on standards. These areas are: 5G, cloud computing, internet of things, data technologies and cybersecurity.
  • co-financing 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.

This faster, more focused approach will also speed up the development and take-up of technologies such as smart grids, mobile health services, connected vehicles and other sectors. The EU plans to support participation of European experts in international standardisation decisions, to help ensure European ideas contribute to global solutions.

Digital public services

People and businesses are still not reaping the full benefit from digital public services that should be available seamlessly across the EU. Today’s e-government action plan will modernise digital public services and make the EU a better place to live, work and invest.

The Commission put forward 20 measures to be launched by the end of 2017. The Commission will notably:

  • set up a digital single gateway enabling users to obtain all information, assistance and problem-solving services needed to operate efficiently across borders.
  • interconnect all business registries and insolvency registers and connect them to the e-justice portal, which will become a one-stop shop.
  • set up a pilot project with administrations that will apply the “once-only” principle for businesses across borders. This means companies will only need to provide paperwork to public authorities in one EU country, even if they operate in other EU Member States.
  • help EU Member States develop cross-border e-health services such as e-prescriptions and patient summaries.
  • accelerate the transition to e-procurement, e-signatures and implementation of the “once-only” principle in public procurement.


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