Our plan to help European industry, researchers and public authorities to make the best of the digital transformation has been published. Lowri Evans and Roberto Viola share some thoughts on what this could mean for Europe's future.

Authors: Roberto Viola is the Director General of DG CONNECT, and Lowri Evans is the Director General of DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW) at the European Commission.

 

Your car has more in common with a desktop compuuter than with Karl Benz' original invention. And the connected cars that are around the corner will be data-crunching mobile devices on wheels – cleaner, safer & more comfortable.

This change is happening everywhere. eHealth, manufacturing, energy, even agriculture, are increasingly driven by data, relying on high-speed networks. To harness the opportunities of this transformation, many countries have launched their own initiatives.

We have just tabled what we believe should be the EU Agenda for the Digitization of Industry, standards and skills for the years to comeIt can be summarized in three big priorities:

Our first priority is to join-up all these national initiatives to generate scale and create solutions that work across the continent.

This is a new industrial innovation infrastructure for Europe, built around digital innovation hubs, the gateways for SMEs to the digital world. Without them our supply chains will remain analogue.

We have earmarked €500 million to network these hubs, and we want the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. We will step up our research & innovation to avoid our efforts fragmenting into sub-scale actions.

But our plan is more than networking. We need to plug the investment gap in new technologies. 

We know how to build successful public private partnerships like ECSEL or Future Internet. Our plan is now to align all our partnerships so that they drive the digital transformation, including also national investments, not only European ones.

And this is backed-up by an investment of more than €5 billion from H2020 for innovation pilots for smart cities, smart living, driverless cars, wearable tech and mobile health. To this, industry has committed more than €20 billion of co-investment.

We want to focus in particular on developing a new European Cloud initiative to give access to the world-class computing power that new data-hungry services will need – including a bold bet on quantum computing to prepare for the future; and a renewed push to ensure that public administrations go digital, too.

In order to ensure all connected devices communicate seamlessly with each other, regardless of manufacturer, operating system or other technical details, our aim is to push for interoperability in which open standardisation systems are the key - they avoid vendor lock-in, keeping markets open, responsive and competitive.

We will concentrate our efforts on 5 priority areas: 5G, Cloud, Internet of Things, Cybersecurity and Data technologies; the building blocks of the Digital Single Market and where the old technology cycle of develop – test - deploy - standardise is too slow if we are to see new standards emerge. We'll also take a careful look at Standard Essential Patents – protected inventions that are part of digital standards.

Alongside investment in technology, we need to see investment in people.

Digital innovations have a great potential to create new & exciting jobs, leading to dynamic new companies, and to new perspectives for established companies as digital technologies enable them to re-shore industrial jobs. But our workforce needs the skills to match. No other investment will bring a higher return for society.

Rapidly growing demand is projected to lead to around 800 000 unfilled vacancies by 2020. Our current education and training systems are not yet delivering the mix of soft and hard skills that these new jobs require.

We have started to address these issues in our "e-Skills for Jobs" initiative for training opportunities, and the Grand Coalition for digital jobs which has attracted pledges from more than 100 stakeholders to train hundreds of thousands of people with new digital skills. Thirteen EU Member States have seen national coalitions set up and more are planned, alongside new national digital skills' strategies.

The forthcoming New Skills Agenda will broaden our digital skills initiatives to include workforce re-skilling. Last but not least, our two departments will join forces to promote digital skills and jobs for the workforce across various sectors.

We need your help to spread the word by sharing, commenting, and discussing our vision

If you're involved in industry, you can get involved in the Digital hubs, and check if your company has already made a pledge for more digital jobs. If you're involved in standard setting, take a close look at our plan and share it in your community. Or look out for the dialogue we are planning with the social partners as part of the digitisation of work.

Whatever your interest, feel free to comment!