In the context of the initiative “Building a European Data Economy”, the European Commission is examining restrictions to the free flow of data inside the EU and potential barriers to an efficient use and re-use of data across borders and across business sectors. The European Commission (DG CONNECT) organised a high-level conference with a view of obtaining insights from stakeholders in different business sectors, deepening its understanding on emerging business models and on challenges and opportunities of data-driven innovation.

With its Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission strives to improve the framework conditions for a thriving data economy in Europe in which companies of all sectors can build on the opportunities of data-driven innovation. As part of this Strategy, a "Free Flow of Data initiative" aims at tackling restrictions to the free flow of data among Member States, in particular unjustified restrictions on the location of data for storage and processing purposes and is looking at "emerging issues of ownership, interoperability, usability and access to data".

The goal of this high-level conference was to discuss first-hand insights and positions from different stakeholders across sectors. Together with representatives of Member States, big and small companies, and legal experts in the field, the following questions were discussed:

  • Is the current legal framework with respect to rights on data, in particular raw, machine-generated data and access to such data fit for purpose? What are the existing barriers to data flows?
  • Is the current legal framework protecting sufficiently investments made into data collection capabilities?
  • Do industrial players have access to appropriate IT environments for access to and exchange of data, including experimentation with data – across companies, sectors and borders ("industrial data platforms")?
  • Is there a specific issue regarding liability arising in the context of the provision and use of data services and technologies?
  • Is there a need to enable portability of data between services and across borders so as to foster a competitive environment and the development of new innovative services?
  • Which provisions in EU Member State legislation require storage or processing of certain data to be restricted to within that Member State and do such provisions present a burden for business?

Due to very limited seating capacity, participation was upon invitation only.

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In the framework of a broad stakeholders consultation process, further opportunities for stakeholders to express their views on these issues, including an online public consultation, will be available in the coming months.