Access to data is a prerequisite to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions in Europe. An important obstacle is the currently limited access to data held by public and private actors. The “Data for AI” specific objective in the Digital Europe Programme (DEP) supports the development of common European data spaces, to ensure data access in specific and between sectors.

This dialogue with stakeholders follows the adoption of the Data Strategy. Its results will feed into future European Commission initiatives on access to and re-use of data.

Workshops on Common European Data Spaces

In order to explore with the relevant experts the framework conditions for creating common European data spaces, the European Commission's DG Connect organised a series of 10 workshops  between July and November 2019. They brought together more than 300 stakeholders, mainly from the private and the public sectors, and covered different sectors: agriculture, health, finance/banking, energy, transport, sustainability/environment, public services, smart manufacturing and crosscutting aspects such as data ethics and data market places.

The stakeholders supported the creation of the common European data spaces concept and the European Commission will maintain the dialogue on this important initiative. The following conclusions came out of the discussions:

The Common European data spaces should both allow the clarification and harmonisation of data governance models and practices and rely on the necessary infrastructures, including pan-European sustainable cloud federations, for the sharing of good quality and interoperable data.

Irrespective of the type of platform, data spaces could become the key instance for clarifying and streamlining data control rights and balancing them with rules on data access and use. This particularly relates to areas where control rights are an important concern because of sensitive data at stake (e.g. health), or because of an existing competition between different actors (e.g. agriculture, transport, energy).

Interoperability and data quality are also key issues that common data spaces could handle. There is a need for structured, prioritisation of standards on data, especially in view of increasing the opportunities for cross-sectorial re-use.

Data storage and processing cloud based infrastructures and services are essential to host the common European data spaces and to operate European AI. European investments are needed for building European Cloud Federations (see Pillar 2 of CEF2 non-paper) aiming at both federating the existing cloud infrastructures scattered across the Member States and at offering a set of pan-European cloud based-services including a European cloud market place. Cloud Federations will ultimately equip Europe with trusted, secure, competitive and sustainable cloud-based infrastructures and services, widen users’ choices and enhance European technological sovereignty.

The sectors have different levels of maturity and needs but there is in general a need for ensuring fair competition on data markets.

The market setup (consumer-facing vs B2B), the types of data most exchanged (personal data, non-personal data, aggregated data, insights) and the usage types (one-to-one exchange of information, aggregation of data for analytics) suggest that the architectures of common European data spaces will need to differ. Personal data platforms are different from industrial data platforms, and inside the latter there are platforms that focus on match-making between data holders and data users, on data pooling, or that are organised as a peer-to-peer network. Most combine the different functions.

Industrial manufacturing has certainly seen most industry-driven creation of data platforms. In agriculture, the differences of market power between farmers and vendors of farming equipment or seeds/fertilizer make for a specific need (EU Code of Conduct on agricultural data sharing). In the banking & insurance sector, the discussion is mostly focussed on an increased and trusted processing of consumers data, pleading for rolling out personal data spaces. Existing sectorial legislation (e.g. the electricity market directive) can be a good basis for these data spaces to materialise. Some good practices could be institutionalised across the EU.

In the data economy, one can observe big companies keeping control over large quantities of data. Common data spaces should allow more data to be shared with all types of European actors (including SMEs) and across sectors, allowing new market dynamics to be created.

The importance of ethical dimension is present across the board, as well as user empowerment.

Data ethics were mentioned in most of the workshops as an area where clarity is needed. It goes much beyond the use of personal data; it concerns the entire life cycle of all types of data and extends to the non-use of data. Stakeholders pleaded for technical tools and a clear regulatory framework, taking inspiration from national and sectorial examples (e.g. Denmark presented its Data Ethics Seal).

User or data-subject empowerment generally appeared as a missing element, especially in sectors where sensitive and/or personal data are at stake (e.g. health, transport, energy, agriculture).

There would be societal benefits from the creation of common European data spaces.

The organisation of the data sharing in certain areas such as environment, agriculture, energy or health could benefit the society as a whole, helping public actors to design better policies and improve public services, as well as private actors to produce services contributing to facing societal challenges. For instance, stakeholders explained that currently, while there is no shortage of environmental data, these data are not easily findable, comparable, accessible or affordable. There is a need for harmonised standards and work on data quality.

Overall, the workshops helped to identify the specific challenges in sectors and the commonalities as regards the conditions needed for the creation of common European data spaces. The results of these discussions now support the preparation of the DEP and CEF2 Work Programmes, but also feed into the reflections on future data policy actions of the European Commission.

Reports of the workshops on common European data spaces

Workshop on labels for or certification of providers of technical solutions for data exchange

This online workshop was organised by DG Connect on the 12th of May 2020 and brought together around one hundred participants from businesses, including SMEs, European institutions and academia. The purpose of the event was to examine whether a labelling or certification scheme could boost the business uptake of data intermediaries by enhancing trust in the data ecosystem.

The discussion has shown that there is enormous interest in the topic and that important novel services are emerging for the data economy.

Summary of discussions


Further information

Building a European data economy

Guidance on private sector data sharing

Big Data, Open Data