05 May 2021

EU Industrial Strategy: digital will underpin stronger, greener, more competitive European industries

Today, the European Commission has published its updated Industrial Strategy. DIGITALEUROPE welcomes the creation of ‘digital pathways’ that will enable our industries to accelerate the twin transition, but we urge the Commission to outline clear targets in line with the Digital Compass.

As the attention turns to the strategy’s implementation, we encourage the Commission to focus on five priority areas: trade, standardisation, green transition, infrastructure and SMEs.  

The Industrial Forum will be central to the strategy’s implementation, building on the industry’s work to develop concrete investment use cases and help each industrial ecosystem to digitally transform. DIGITALEUROPE is ready to use our member network and expertise to make the Industrial Strategy a success.

Director-General of DIGITALEUROPE Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl said:

“The Industrial Strategy must set us on the right pathway to achieve our targets for the Digital Decade. As it is now, the strategy lacks clear success indicators. We want a European industry where at least half of European businesses use advanced cloud computing services, one in three SMEs trade across borders, and enterprises provide ICT training to at least 70 per cent of their employees.

Focusing on modern infrastructure, open markets, and harmonised standards is our best shot at becoming leaders in developing critical technology components, such as semiconductors. This will help our industries grow at home and abroad, and attract the world’s best businesses and investors in Europe.

We commend the recognition of digital’s enabling role for greener and more competitive European industries through ‘digital pathways’. It is vital that these pathways lead to the creation of easily actionable plans to support our industries in the twin digital and green transitions.”

EU Industrial Strategy: Five priorities

While the updated Industrial Strategy provides a good framework, as we move to implement it, it is crucial to focus on the following five priority areas, identified by DIGITALEUROPE in our comprehensive input to the Commission:

  • Europe’s industry resilience goals are best achieved by advancing public-private partnerships and making Europe an attractive place to do business in an open economy.

We believe Europe should boost its capabilities in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, batteries, microprocessors, semiconductors, high-performance computing, quantum and cyber technologies. This requires collaboration between industry and the public sector, and with our international partners for strong, diverse and digitally-enabled global value chains – reliance solely on home-grown technologies may be justified for highly critical applications, but these should be defined narrowly, and a multi-sourcing strategy should remain the preferred approach. This means that the EU Industrial Strategy must also go hand-in-hand with a comprehensive and open EU trade strategy.

  • A stronger, more integrated Single Market is key for the European industry to grow.

The European standardisation framework should be able to easily adapt to new technological developments on the market. The principles of the New Legislative Framework must therefore be safeguarded and restored. To avoid fragmentation, harmonised standards for digital as well as new green technologies should be developed with industry partners and with a global perspective, allowing European companies to scale up world-wide and attracting businesses looking to invest in our continent.

  • Digital will be a critical factor in the green transition of traditional industries.

Studies show that by digitalising Europe’s most carbon intensive sectors we can cut carbon emissions by a fifth by 2030. To embrace digital-driven sustainability, targeted funding measures for industrial actors can achieve greater long-term results that prescriptive regulatory proposals.

  • Europe must upgrade its digital infrastructure.

Despite being home to global leaders in network infrastructure, Europe lags critically behind in uptake of very high capacity networks such as 5G. By spurring large-scale investments that ensure seamless connectivity across the EU, the Industrial Strategy will enable key technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things in manufacturing or real-time data analysis in mobility.

  • SMEs need support in digitalising

The EU Industrial Strategy must reduce barriers within the Single Market and open up access to finance for small and medium enterprises. One concrete measure is establishing a single European administration centre for businesses, with centralised registration schemes (for company registry, product authorisations, unitary patent scheme, etc.) and an active information network that provides guidance on entering new markets and that connects scaleups with relevant national authorities and organisations. This centre – a concrete request from SMEs surveyed in our Scaling in Europe report – would help small firms in benefiting from the Single Market much more than they do today.

Fostering the necessary digital skills is also an important aspect of the EU’s digital and green transition. Efforts should be increased to educate, upskill and reskill workers and all citizens to help them benefit from the opportunities of the digital age and navigate future economic shocks.

For more information, please contact:
Chris Ruff
Director for Political Outreach & Communications
Vincenzo Renda
Director for Single Market & Digital Competitiveness
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