Open data for open innovation in European industry
25 April 2016, Digitising European Industry, Hannover
Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Check Against Delivery

Commissioner Oettinger, Commissioner Bienkowska, Ladies and gentlemen, Good afternoon!

Future economic value, and future solutions to global challenges, will not come from keeping data locked away. Nor will they come from traditional business models. They will come from opening up data to the people who can turn it from a raw material into a distilled resource; they will come from Europe welcoming an open data culture and from investing in open data infrastructure that will place us at the forefront of the 4th industrial revolution.

Do you remember the H1N1 influenza outbreak? In 2009, it reached 6 continents in 3 months − infecting between 11% and 21% of the world’s population. By the time research was available to allow clinical trials to start, the outbreak was over. And no clinical trials means there is no medicine to benefit patients. No revenue for the pharmaceutical industry and no solution before the next outbreak. After similar delays during the Ebola crisis, the World Health Organization now has a dedicated page on its website for open access data on the Zika virus. So we have to recognise that, in the digital age, economic and societal value is created by sharing data, not protecting it. Value is determined by how soon, and how effectively, we can collaborate, not how fast we can patent or publish.

So, today, I'd like to talk about 3 things:

  1. Why open access to data is increasingly needed for innovation in the digital age.
  2. How digital is now impacting on innovation in the physical world.
  3. And what the Commission is doing to adapt to these new paradigms.

This brings me to my first point. Why open access to data is increasingly needed for innovation in the digital age.

Two weeks ago, I visited the European Bioinformatics Institute in Heidelberg. They told me that the institute generates a benefit to users − and their funders − of around 1.3 billion euros per year. Just by making scientific information freely available to the global life science community. This is equivalent to more than 20 times the direct operational cost of the institute! So openness can certainly create revenue. But more than that, the institute is also able to attract the best talent: the people who are passionate about sharing insights and developing solutions, at a time when we are not even close to reaching the limits of the data we can produce.

According to IBM, in 2013, 90% of the data produced in the world, had been produced in the previous 2 years. I imagine this percentage is now even higher. The challenge of data management is therefore being felt across more and more fields of science and technology, and the innovations we're creating to solve these challenges, are transforming industry and the economy.

This brings me to my second point. How digital is now impacting on innovation in the physical world.

Digital technology is clearly transforming industry, but it is also transforming the markets in which industries operate. Consumer behaviour now leads to economic change. We buy an e-book, rather than go to a book shop. We use a search engine, rather than visit a public library. Today, it is the user who determines what they want and how they want it. Meaning that the value of a product, more and more often, lies in its interface with the user and the data it generates, rather than in the product itself. This is having a big impact on our innovation processes in physical world, because now, having a few engineers around the table is no longer enough. Innovation is increasingly interdisciplinary and requires user input to succeed commercially.

This brings me to my third and final point today. What the Commission is doing to adapt to these new paradigms.

In our Horizon 2020 projects, we're already making open data the norm: unlocking a wealth of data that has been generated with public funding. But, as with any industrial revolution, to gain leadership, we must also invest in the necessary infrastructure. So last week, the Commission presented its plans. For Europe's 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals, we will create a new European Open Science Cloud. The idea is to make it easier for researchers and innovators, to access and re-use data, while reducing the cost of data storage and high-performance analysis.

But what is the benefit of this to business and industry?

The Cloud will require investment in high-bandwidth networks, large-scale data storage facilities and the super-computing capacity to access and process large datasets. Businesses will have affordable, easy access to state-of-the-art computing infrastructure. SMEs will have access to huge amounts scientific data and industry will benefit from the creation of a large-scale cloud ecosystem, supporting the further development of new European technologies, such as low-power chips for high performance computing.

Anyone wondering, if this investment in digital infrastructure is necessary, need only look a few years into the future, to see how science will continue to increase the pace at which we use and produce data. One of the most exciting new research infrastructures under construction is the Square Kilometre Array in Australia and South Africa. This will be the world's largest radio telescope, allowing us to see the universe in unprecedented detail. When it is switched on, it will generate 10 times the data flow of internet traffic today.

So, ladies and gentlemen, for European industry to remain relevant in the digital age, we need to leverage data. We need to unlock its vast economic value. We need open data for open innovation.