This is the second time in a month that I am heading to Hannover for a trade fair: Last time, at CeBIT, it was all about IT and how the whole economy, be it industry, trade or other sectors, will become digital in the future. This time the focus is industry in general. But digitising the sector, in Germany called industry 4.0, is of course one of the most important topics at this fair.

This is why my speech tomorrow will be on industry 4.0. I will outline some of my ideas on how to make it a reality in Europe. But I am happy to share some of the thoughts already today:

As Industry is a key pillar of the European economy with 2 million companies and 33 million jobs, our overriding political and economic challenge is to see that all industrial sectors make the most of digital innovation in products, processes and business models.

My first aim is therefore that every region in Europe has a digital innovation hub which can provide world-class expertise and the necessary digital skills for the local and regional economy. There are already some outstanding national initiatives – like Industrie 4.0 and Smart Industry with labs like Fraunhofers in Germany, TNOs in the Netherlands or Catapults in the UK - but we need these to be everywhere in Europe to fully seize the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.

And we need these competence centres to work together Europe-wide. This is why I will propose that for the first time a substantial amount of the EU Budget foreseen for Research and Innovation in the Digital field will go into this. And I will work with Member States, regions and the private sector to find the necessary additional investments to make this happen. The Commission has laid the groundwork through initiatives such as I4MS which brings ICT expertise to SMEs in the manufacturing sector. Our ambition should now be to significantly increase these efforts and join forces to create critical mass and attract private investment.

Secondly, I am aiming for a smart regulation for tomorrow's smart industry. It is becoming all too clear that new technologies and digital business models sometimes move at a quicker pace than national and EU rule-making procedures.

This fundamental digital revolution triggers important questions. For example, who is liable for the actions of driverless cars and other autonomous technologies which are becoming more widespread? How can we assure the highest level security standards be applied in and across our smart factories and their supply chains? How can we guarantee safety in tomorrow's warehouse or on the factory floor where robots and humans work side by side? Equally importantly, how do we ensure the protection of massive amounts of data generated by digital manufacturing?  The availability and use of big data is crucial to the EU's competitiveness but there is insufficient clarity about who owns this industrial data, how it may and may not be used. This reduces incentives to develop data-analytics services. It also puts industrial IPR and know-how at risk.

To find speedy answers to these questions and to make quick progress in this area, I will invite key players to share their views on how to transform our current legislation on regulatory framework for platforms, liability, security, safety, IPR and data protection to make it fit for purpose in the digital world.

These are just some of the ideas which I will be presenting at Hannover Messe. You can follow the debate, and find out more about my thinking on @GOettingerEU and by following the #hm15 hashtag. You will also be able to catch up with my speech shortly after it is delivered on this website and on EBS on Tuesday afternoon.

 

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