Data has become a key asset for the economy and our societies similar to the classic categories of human and financial resources. Whether it is geographical information, statistics, weather data, research data, transport data, energy consumption data, or health data, the need to make sense of "Big data" is leading to innovations in technology, development of new tools and new skills.

Big data refers to large amounts of data produced very quickly by a high number of diverse sources. Data can either be created by people or generated by machines, such as sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, GPS signals, etc. It covers many sectors, from healthcare to transport and energy.

Generating value at the different stages of the data value chain will be at the centre of the future knowledge economy. Good use of data can bring opportunities also to more traditional sectors such as transport, health or manufacturing. Improved analytics and processing of data, especially Big Data, will make it possible to:

  • transform Europe's service industries by generating a wide range of innovative information products and services;
  • increase the productivity of all sectors of the economy through improved business intelligence;
  • better address many of the challenges that face our societies;
  • improve research and speed up innovation;
  • achieve cost reductions through more personalised services
  • increase efficiency in the public sector.

Relevant EU activities :

  • The Building a European Data Economy Communication and accompanying Staff Working Document, adopted in January 2017.
  • The EU strategy on the data-driven economy, adopted in July 2014.
  • Funding research and innovation activities in the field of "Big Data" and "Open Data". More on current research funding opportunities.
  • Data technologies standards are considered as one of the five priority areas under the Digitising European Industry initiative.
  • The communication "Connectivity for a European Gigabit Society" recognises connectivity as an essential enabler of the data economy.
  • The policy on Open Data, in particular:
    • Legislation on re-use of public sector information, such as the PSI Directive (Directive 2003/98/EC), the national implementing rules as well as rules on re-use of the Commission's own data;
    • Non-legislative measures supporting the opening up of public sector information;
    • Open Data Portals.
  • Facilitating use and re-use of publications and data resulting from scientific research experiments funded at least partially from public funds – commonly referred to as Open Access.
2 July 2014
Last update: 
16 August 2017
Team responsible