The data-driven economy stimulates research and innovation on data, increases business opportunities and availability of knowledge and capital across Europe. The European Commission's position on the free flow of data and its analysis of emerging legal issues in the data economy is presented in its communication on "Building a European data economy".

The value of the EU data economy was more than €285 billion in 2015, representing over 1.94% of the EU GDP. If favourable policy and legislative conditions are put in place in time and investments in ICT are encouraged, the value of the European data economy may increase to €739 billion by 2020, representing 4% of the overall EU GDP.

A data economy holds enormous potential and opportunities in various fields which Europe cannot afford to miss like health, food security, climate and resource efficiency to energy, intelligent transport systems and smart cities.

Communication on "Building a European data economy"

The European Commission adopted a Communication on building a European data economy on 10 January 2017, based on the conclusions of the Communication on data-driven economy (2014).

This Communication and the accompanying Staff Working Document address issues such as free flow of data across borders and data localisation restrictions. As a follow-up action the Commission has published on 13 September 2017 a legislative proposal on free flow of non-personal data. They also look into emerging legal issues in the context of new data technologies (e.g. access, liability, portability). These legal issues include:

  • access to and transfer of non-personal machine-generated data,
  • data liability, and
  • portability of non-personal data, interopability and standards.

On the basis of these documents, the Commission organised a dialogue with stakeholders, including a public consultation and a number of sectorial and horizontal workshops.  These helped identify policy measures that can unleash Europe's data economy in a Digital Single Market. The conclusions from this process can be found in the synopsis report of the consultation.

Communication on "Towards a thriving data-driven economy"

The Communication on "Towards a thriving data-driven economy" was adopted in July 2014 and relied on a coordinated action plan involving Member States and the EU so as to guarantee the necessary scope and scale of the activities. The envisaged actions aimed at accelerating innovation, productivity growth, and increasing competitiveness in data across the whole economy, as well as on the global market with Europe as a key player.

To be able to seize these opportunities and compete globally in the data economy, the EU took action in the following fields:

  • support "lighthouse" data initiatives capable of improving competitiveness, quality of public services and citizen's life
  • develop enabling technologies, underlying infrastructures and skills, particularly to the benefit of SMEs
  • extensively share, use and develop its public data resources and research data infrastructures
  • focus public R&I on technological, legal and other bottlenecks
  • make sure that the relevant legal framework and the policies are data-friendly,
  • accelerate the digitisation of public administration and services to increase their efficiency,
  • use public procurement to bring the results of data technologies to the market.


The two Communications adopted in 2014 and 2017 built upon the ideas first formulated by Commission former Vice-President Neelie Kroes in a strategic initiative on the data value chain, which was launched in November 2013. This initiative focused on nurturing a coherent European data ecosystem that will stimulate research and innovation around data and the uptake of data services and products. One of the key features is the creation of a public-private partnership (PPP) on data.

The three documents are fully aligned with other related European strategies, like open data, cloud computing, High-Performance Computing (HPC) and access to scientific data.

2 July 2014
Last update: 
14 March 2018
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