10 Mar 2020

The future for Europe’s industry is digital

“The Commission’s new industrial strategy ticks a lot of the right boxes. But whilst we strongly support the initiative, far too much energy has already been spent trying to play catch up with other regions. Europe needs to focus on its strengths in business to business sectors like health, transport, green tech and manufacturing, and drive them into the digital age.”

– Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE.

The Commission today presented its new industrial strategy. DIGITALEUROPE is pleased to see a strong focus on digitalisation and looks forward to engaging with the EU institutions on the next steps.

DIGITALEUROPE published on 6 February ‘A Stronger Digital Industrial Europe’ – our own industrial strategy paper. In it, we argue that we need to refocus our priorities towards driving the digitalisation of the industries where Europe is strong instead of trying to copy the successes of other continents. Our full set of recommendations are below.

Cecilia Bonefeld Dahl added:

“Investment in digitalisation is the most efficient way to reinforce the EU’s competitiveness and deliver good, well-paid jobs for our citizens. Digitalised companies grow two and a half times faster than non-digital companies.

We are pleased that the Commission recognises the common thread between the industrial strategy and the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Digitally-enabled industries could support a 20% reduction in global CO2 emissions – there’s no Green Deal without digital. As a sector, we are also evaluating all options to reduce our own carbon footprint.

The EU budget is not yet aligned with the aims in this industrial strategy. Only 2-3% is dedicated to digital in the latest proposal. More funds need to be available in order to build our technological capabilities. Likewise, more spending should be earmarked for digital skills; over half of European workers will have to retrain in the next five years.”

Our recommendations for a sustainable, prosperous and stronger digital Europe

These are the five key areas that require action from decision makers in the next five years:

  • Framework for a European digital transformation of industry

The EU must drive the digitalisation of our industry, building on existing strengths in manufacturing, mobility and health and focusing on areas of the common good such as the environment, digital skills, connectivity and cross-border data spaces.

We need to boost digital spending up to 10% of the EU budget, of which half should be focused on the deployment of new technologies. It is currently just 3% in the Commission’s proposal.

  • Open markets and fair global competition

Europe must lead at the international level: on World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, on digital trade negotiations, and on data flows. The EU should open up global markets for our digital companies and advance new tools like the International Procurement Instrument.

  • Crucial aspects of digital transformation

The EU should build a trustworthy AI environment which promotes innovation.

Europe should narrow its focus on high-risk AI applications where regulation is necessary and adopt a sector by sector approach. SMEs in particular need guidance and resources.

We need to prioritise building a 5G and high-capacity network throughout Europe in order to boost our industrial connectivity.

Europe can lead on cybersecurity if it can guarantee a strong and coherent legislative framework at EU-level and avoids fragmented rules.

  • Upscaling SMEs and upskilling the workforce

Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) must play a crucial role for the participation of SMEs in collaborative research programmes on digital technologies

The EU should develop standardised metrics to measure the digital skills gap in each Member States. It should also build data models to analyse and forecast future skills needs.

Governments should put digital skills on the school and university curriculums.

  • Sustainability goals to drive industrial leadership

Digitalisation is key to the Green Deal. It can transform our most energy-intensive sectors. We know that digitalisation has the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by 20%.

The EU should develop performance indicators to measure the decarbonisation sustainability potential enabled by digital technologies.

The EU should also allocate specific funds towards the implementation of digital technologies aimed at decarbonisation and the circular economy.

For more information please contact:
Chris Ruff
Director for Political Outreach & Communications
Ray Pinto
Senior Director for Digital Transformation Policy
Our resources on A stronger digital industrial Europe - Digital Transformation as its FOCUS
06 Mar 2024 resource
DIGITALEUROPE’s response to the Joint European Supervisory Authorities’ public consultation on the second batch of policy mandates under DORA
28 Feb 2024 resource
Elevating EU innovation through strategic investments and collaboration
20 Feb 2024 Position Paper
DIGITALEUROPE Executive Council for Health’s recommendations for EU digital health policy (2024-29)
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