20 Feb 2019

An innovative and sustainable Europe that brings benefits to society at large and invests in future generations

1. Build a framework for a sustainable Europe that leverages the potential of digital technologies

To transform the European economy and generate new and sustainable competitive advantages for Europe, the European Union is transitioning to a low-carbon, more resource-efficient, circular economy. This transition is not only an opportunity for businesses and citizens, it is also a necessity from an environmental, economic and social perspective to move towards a more productive, higher added value and more sustainable economy. The digital industry strongly supports this transition and has already taken several steps to advance it (e.g. digital technologies enable driverless and connected cars as well as car-sharing services that contribute to reducing emissions from transport; in the energy sector, digital technologies improve the efficiency of distribution grids and utility operations). To truly leverage the benefits of this transition, Europe should continue to build a framework for a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient Europe that leverages the potential of digital technologies as key enablers for sustainable development.


Invest in a truly circular single market and accelerate the deployment of digital solutions

To make sure that valuable materials can be recovered, and to share responsibility in addressing electronic waste, the ICT sector has actively invested in establishing successful waste collection schemes and collaborating with recyclers throughout all EU Member States. DIGITALEUROPE members have substantial experience in establishing different circular business models that promote the return, remanufacturing, refurbishment, repair, reuse or upgradeability of products.

Digital technologies are also important enablers for a circular economy. Powerful information sharing tools (built upon digital technologies) are key to boosting efficient circular use of resources, be it materials, product sharing or second product life. The sharing economy is also one of the pillars of environmental solutions and relies on the existence of collaborative platforms.

We believe there are opportunities for the EU to further encourage the transition to a circular economy by creating a truly circular single market and developing strategies that accelerate the development and deployment of digital technologies. Concretely we ask policymakers to:

  • Create conditions for a cross-border flow of used products and e-waste to match supply and demand regarding recycling, repair and reuse while protecting against illegal practices.
  • Stimulate innovation for material efficiency improvement by supporting agreement of effective product design standards, EU-wide guidelines for green products and services, and cross-sectional collaboration platforms.
  • Foster healthy global value chains for the circular economy and green growth by protecting intellectual property of all actors involved and taking into account different needs of producers, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), materials suppliers, parts suppliers, recyclers and dismantlers.

By 2025, 15% of all material used in the European economy should be reused

Promote the use of digital technologies as enabler for sustainable development

The EU has played a leading role in the process that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the coming years it will be essential for the EU institutions, national governments, the private sector and civil society to show continued leadership in their implementation. Achieving the SDGs is a shared responsibility and the digital technology sector is committed to playing its part by being a leader, enabler, facilitator and trusted advisor. To support the achievement of the SDGs, we ask for:

  • Promotion of digital technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and broadband as a means to enable the SDGs; adaption of the policy framework to leverage the potential of tech in driving progress.
  • Promotion of digital technology to identify and address risks and promote sustainable development in supply chains.
  • A balanced approach to environmental and supply chain regulation for the digital technology industry that reduces burden, at the same time maintaining and enhancing environmental and social protection while allowing the deployment of digital technology to address the SDG challenges.
  • Promotion of public-private partnerships and collaboration such as the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM responsibleminerals.eu) that brings together governments, supply chain actors, civil society and other relevant stakeholders.


Push forward the EU decarbonisation agenda through digitalisation

The digital transformation of industry in Europe is leading to significant opportunities to increase reliability, productivity but also to increase energy efficiency and support the move towards a sustainable, low-carbon economy. Energy efficiency of the digital sector goes beyond existing product policy.

Over the years, significant energy savings in ICT equipment have been achieved through product-specific ecodesign and energy labelling measures. However, with fast-moving innovation in the sector, and increased interdependence and complexity of connected products, there are limitations to what the ecodesign framework can deliver in terms of contributing to long-term energy savings and decarbonisation.

Digital technologies, data and analytics are key enablers for the EU to move towards a smarter, more connected and efficient economy. DIGITALEUROPE therefore calls for a holistic approach:

  • Set benchmarks instead of over-regulating product groups and to introduce incentives for additional investments in product or system energy efficiency improvements.
  • Support innovative connected system power management and dematerialisation technologies that will bring real energy and materials savings to end-consumers.

An important potential benefit of the digital transformation of the energy sector is a reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. By enabling clean energy systems that rely on low-carbon energy sources and are highly efficient in using energy, digital innovations in the energy sector can speed decarbonisation.

We need policymakers to put together the right framework to ensure digital technologies are being deployed to accelerate decarbonisation in key sectors of the EU economy. For that, we specifically call on policymakers to:

  • Adopt a digital manufacturing strategy prioritising sustainability and decarbonisation in key industrial sectors of the EU economy.
  • Ensure environment and climate rationales are being included in all impact assessments about future digital regulation.

For example: Based on a distributed, secure, and decentralised infrastructure, Blockchain is already accelerating the energy transition. Combined with micro grids that enable the construction of autonomous energy communities, they facilitate the creation of the local “peer-to-peer” markets needed to develop renewable energies. That is core to the development of prosumers – active energy users who both consume and produce local energy; the critical step toward a bottom-up decarbonisation of the energy system. The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) to create a more flexible, dynamic and sustainable energy future is being crafted by the convergence of four main mega trends – smart technology to drive real energy sustainability; new business models to drive customer centricity; connectivity and convergence to enable valuable data capture and drive innovation and efficiency; and innovating to zero to create the vision. The future is about digital energy and it is all about integration: That means the integration of an increasingly complex and diverse range of generating assets as the global energy mix diversifies, and the integration and deployment of advanced IT and digital solutions to drive more efficient use of resources.

By 2025, Europe should have saved 26 billion tonnes of CO2 by digitizing resource-intensive sectors

Case studies

Read our members’ case studies on digital sustainability

2. Boost digital infrastructure to enhance connectivity

Citizens and businesses rely more and more on fast internet for accessing, consuming and sharing content and information. With this growing need for high capacity broadband connections, which are key for both economic development and social inclusion, an appropriate and solid regulatory framework is also needed in order to create economies of scale, to facilitate investment, and to stimulate timely deployment of new fixed and wireless networks. It is also important to have such a forward-looking framework to realise the benefits to society by having an accessible and reliable internet infrastructure. New, faster 5G connections, internet access in rural areas, and networks for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications depend on an efficient and coordinated regulatory approach to spectrum management as well as the roll-out of next-generation broadband.


Stimulate investment in digital infrastructure

Connectivity, fixed and wireless, is the backbone of the digitalised economy and society. It is an essential prerequisite for business and companies in order to reach wider markets and upgrade their services. However, Europe is still facing an investment gap in connectivity compared to other parts of the world, leading to lacking and diverging network availability between and within Member States. We call on European leaders to work towards increased, more thorough public-private investment in digital infrastructure. More concretely, we ask European leaders to:

  • Improve the regulatory environment to make it more investment-conducive, to unleash private investments in network upgrades.
  • Fund broadband and connectivity projects under the Multiannual Financial Framework, with easier access for local authorities to avoid under-utilisation of public funds.
  • Enhance market investment by a harmonised and forward-looking implementation of the Electronic Communications Code and accompanying Guidelines (from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)), for instance on co-investment and broadband mapping. This should be aligned with a review of the state aid guidelines to ensure Europe can match the 2025 connectivity and gigabit society goals.
  • Put into practice the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive to facilitate network deployment.


Ensure a 5G-ready spectrum and connectivity environment

This requires reliable, robust and next-generation network coverage and connectivity across Europe. Lack of spectrum availability, or strong divergences between countries, however cause delays, fragmentation and reduce economies of scale for the development and deployment of digital infrastructure. EU Member States, the European Commission, and related agencies and bodies, should continue to strive for a harmonised framework on spectrum. Concretely we call upon European leaders to:

  • Make spectrum available for services, including 5G, in a timely and coordinated manner (such as the 5G Action Plan and 5G Pioneer bands).
  • Ensure a consistent and collaborative approach to licence durations, access and usage conditions, and reduction of deployment burdens (such as streamlined ‘small cells’ and wireless equipment deployment rules).
  • Maximise investments in 5G and create incentives for market actors to achieve scale of operation and invest with confidence.
Case studies

Read our members’ case studies on connectivity & 5G

3. Enhance innovation and the adoption of emerging technologies (AI, IoT, etc.)

Innovative digital technologies can provide Europe’s people with competitive jobs, better health and better public services. However, in order to reap the potential of these technologies and to position Europe as a global leader, access to capital and strategic investments in innovation are crucial. Europe can only lead if it invests in European technology adoption and the creation of innovative eco-systems enhancing innovation in areas like AI, IoT, 5G. Whilst the European Commission’s proposal for the “Digital Europe investment programme” is a good first step in the right direction, much more funding is needed in order to truly enhance innovation and to invest in the future.

By 2025, European countries should be spending 3% of their GDP on Research & Innovation

Make the industry a key advisor for the implementation of Horizon Europe

The ICT industry has a lot to offer European research — from giving access to other researchers to specific markets, industry networks and high-end infrastructures, to providing additional technical resources. The European framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, allows the industry to exchange new ideas for state-of-the-art research, apply them to address societal challenges, build platforms and establish networks of talented people. To reap the potential for Horizon Europe to really deliver on its promises towards innovation for future growth, we call on the European Commission to:

  • Ensure that the implementation of Horizon Europe is done in concertation with the ICT industry, particularly regarding the implementation of pillar 2: “Societal challenges and industry competitiveness”. This means that implementation issues, set either in the Commission’s Strategic Planning process or in the Specific Programme decision, should be discussed with industry stakeholders at every stage of the implementation process.


Pave the way for the next Digital Europe programme

The brand-new ‘Digital Europe’ funding programme launched by the European Commission will be critical in bridging the gap between the Horizon Europe programme (research) and the Connecting Europe Facility (physical ICT infrastructures), through investment in IT capacities to be used for research, and participation in large-scale deployment, diffusion and uptake of key digital technologies. Given the importance of the proposed Digital Europe programme and to secure its success, we call on the European Commission to:

  • Ensure that the implementation of the proposed Digital Europe programme is well-thought out and based on consultation and exchanges with the ICT industry.
  • Start working on the next edition of the Digital Europe programme, with a much more ambitious scope of activities and a significantly higher budget, to cover all the ICT fields that are currently part of the research programme Horizon Europe.

By 2025, 10% of Research & Innovation spending should be targeted at ICT technologies

Case studies

Read our members’ case studies on artificial intelligence

4. Accelerate the digital transformation for the manufacturing sector

Europe has a good chance to be a world leader in Digital Manufacturing.

Europe currently has the highest concentration of robots increasing quality and delivering products efficiently.  It is also an industry that uses innovative and clean technology that will greatly improve the sustainable transformation of the manufacturing sector. Digital has the potential to drastically reduce the material and energy waste from its production processes and to produce equipment that will lead to the decarbonisation of European industries. The sector will be a driver for the Internet of Things, every product will be connected devices create benefits in areas from healthcare to transportation systems.

Europe needs to develop a strong cross sectorial eco-system driving innovation in Digital manufacturing, support digital tools that will enhance the industrial processes for sustainability and carbon neutrality, develop a strong 5G infrastructure and strive for a mission-based harmonised regulatory framework that decreases the time of deployment to European and global markets market.

According to Eurostat and the World Economic Forum there has been 1.5m net new jobs in the EU’s manufacturing sector since 2013 and an increase of 2.7% in labour productivity per annum since 2009 – higher than the US and Korea.

Manufacturing is central to Europe’s economy contributing to 36m jobs where every new job creating 1.5 to 2 jobs in other sectors.  Globally, 87% of manufacturers plan to adopt machine learning by 2022 however, only 11% of European manufacturers make use of big data analytics.

While automation is set to cause job losses it is foreseen that it will also create 58 million more jobs than it will displace. To ensure job losses are minimised will require reskilling. In some case (13%), reskilling would take less than a month. But for 12% of employees, reskilling could take more than a year.

By 2025, 30% of European manufacturing industries should leverage big data analytics

We therefore call upon leaders to:

Define a clear action plan involving all stakeholders on reskilling and upskilling its workforce to embrace digital production processes

The digital transformation of European industries will require reskilling and upskilling the workforce to be integrated into the process of automation. It has become clear that robotics and automation cannot function without human involvement and oversight. This will require accelerating an action plan involving industry, trade unions, institutes, NGOs, governments from all member states to be involved in developing and leveraging public funds to reskill the work force and ensure workers are not excluded as the industry transforms achieving full employment. The area of a workforce with digital skills is mission critical for the EU’s growth and to mitigate any impact on job losses caused by the digital transformation. The EU and governments should collaborate with our industry to deliver an assessment on the skills gap in each Member State and define solutions.


Drive mission-based digital innovation policies focused on Digital Manufacturing

The importance of the growth of Europe’s manufacturing sector should be encouraged through the right regulation. We encourage EU policymakers to think of its manufacturing sector first before developing rules that could prove more burdensome to European companies – especially smaller to medium sized companies.

The sector is responsible for innovation and is crucial to enable digitalization – the sector in the EU is building robotics and digital machines. Tough regulation will outsource production to other areas of the globe, where the usage of AI/Data in development, innovation and production is less regulated. Therefore, some key principles:

  • Regulation that will boost the EU’s capabilities in manufacturing the tools and hardware (sensors, connectivity, semi-conductors, automation, robotics, 5G etc.) that enable the digitalization for all other actors. Without its own strong digital manufacturing sector, the EU would be dependent on technology-imports from other countries.
  • Recognize that the EU has leading global companies in industrial AI, automation and applied robotics. EU funding, the application of state aid rules and important projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs) should help to secure this position.
  • EU regulation has always to differentiate between the scope and area where it applies. Good intentioned regulation for key technologies in one area (consumer protection), should not limit other areas from applying those key technologies in different contexts.


Create an agreement for the free flow of data

Data is critical for economic growth of the manufacturing sector. It will feed into the development of important innovation in new technologies such as AI algorithms and new digital services.  We therefore encourage Member States to work with our sector to develop a compatible and interconnected infrastructure for data exchanges through a secure pan-European architecture system.
As European manufacturers are now international by nature, we must continuously drive the agenda of free flow of data at a global level.


Deliver the promised funding levels of the Digital and Horizon Europe Programmes

The European Commission has been successful with its industry days and launched a bold proposal for boosting the infrastructure and deployment capabilities earmarking funds for skills, high-performance computing, innovation hubs and boosting the adoption of AI technologies. This needs to be a top priority for the EU and all Member States. Both funding mechanisms are key in to stimulate the creation of local economic actors and tomorrow’s unicorns.


Accelerate sustainability through industrial technology

Technology is rapidly maturing and advancing to reduce waste, material usage and energy needs. The role of Member State governments is crucial in developing programmes necessary for the success of the manufacturing sector in this field.

The European manufacturing sector can reinforce its leadership position by combining digital and clean technologies. Typically, a digital twin can ensure process & products sustainability by tracking its life cycle from the design to the recycling stages. Key examples of such EU measures include the adoption and creation of waste management systems, accelerating research and design of less carbon-intensive materials to help reduce energy consumption and reducing the exploitation of raw materials. Industry and governments should devise common methodologies and standards to measure these benefits.

Case studies

Read our members’ case studies on digital manufacturing

For more information, please contact:
Yann Finger
Director for Operations & Intelligence
Kivanç Akil
Associate Director for Events & Executive Coordination
Our resources on A STRONGER DIGITAL EUROPE – our call to action towards 2025
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