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Data-Driven Economy

02 July 2014
by eub2 -- last modified 02 July 2014

With data collection and exploitation on the increase, the European Commission has responded to industry and grass-roots demands by calling on national governments to wake-up to this “big data” revolution.


What is big data?

"Big data" is large amounts of data produced very quickly by many different sources. It can 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.

The Commission says big data presents great opportunities: it can help us develop new creative products and services, for example apps on mobile phones or business intelligence products for companies.

But big data is also challenging: today's datasets are so huge and complex to process that they require new ideas, tools and infrastructures. It needs also the right legal framework, systems and technical solution in place to ensure that individual privacy is respected and that data is used for good

The Commission will use the full range of policy and legal tools, and invest in research and innovation for Europe to make the most of the data-driven economy.

1. Finding and investing in big data ideas

The Commission will invite the data and research communities, (from the health, energy, environment, social sciences and official statistics sectors) to come up with big data lighthouse initiatives.

The Commission is looking for game-shifting ideas in personalised medicine, tracking food from farm to fork; integrated transport and logistics; and others areas which would improve daily life, Europe's competitiveness and our public services. The aim is to make the most of EU investment in strategically important sectors and to attract the public and private support needed.

In parallel, the Commission is getting ready to launch a multi-million euro Public Private Partnership on big data with industry towards the end of this year. Similar PPPs in supercomputing, robotics, 5G and photonics are already transforming research and innovation in those sectors (see MEMO/13/1159). Researchers, academic institutions, investors and representatives of the EU data economy, including not only the large software firms who work with data but also the increasing number of companies whose sectors are data-intensive, such as the health, retail, banking, insurance and manufacturing sectors all presented proposals for a strategic research agenda at the end of June.

2. Infrastructure for a data-driven economy

Researchers, businesses, the public and private sector need access to high-speed broadband, processing power and services to handle billions of bytes of big data, for the data revolution to take hold. The Commission will:

  • work with Member States to create a network of data processing facilities in particular for SMEs, academic, research organisations and the public sector;
  • invest in the GÉANT network for the research and education community and further extend it to non-EU and emerging countries so that big data processing is increasingly globalised;
  • establish supercomputing centres of excellence to tackle scientific, industrial or societal challenges through the PPP on High Performance Computing;
  • invest in the technological foundations of a big data mobile internet through the 5G PPP and drive forward regulatory change through the connected continent package to encourage private and public sector investment in broadband.

3. Develop the building blocks of big data

The rapid growth of a data-driven economy will also depend on easy access to raw information, skilled data-experts and support for companies taking their first steps in big data. In the coming months the Commission will:

  • issue guidelines on standard licences, datasets and charging for the re-use of documents, to help Member States make the most of the re-use of public data;
  • make it easier to get hold of information through a one-stop-shop to open data across the EU, supported by the Connecting Europe Facility;
  • map standards in big data areas like health, transport, environment, retail, manufacturing, financial services – to support data interoperability across sectors;
  • create an open data incubator, within Horizon 2020 to help SMEs set up supply chains, get access to cloud computing and to legal advice. Further support, investment advice and funding for SMEs and young companies is available through the Commission's Startup Europe programme for web and tech entrepreneurs;
  • design a European network of centres of excellence to increase the number of skilled data professionals in Europe. In parallel the Commission will support the development of training schemes and curricula for data librarians, e-infrastructure operators and other new roles which will support researchers, professors and students in the data driven economy;
  • more data on data. A new data market monitoring tool will measure and map Europe's data economy.

4. Trust and security

The data driven economy will only become a reality if business and individuals have access to flexible cloud computing and have confidence that their data is secure:

  • the EU data protection reform package - currently being discussed by Member States - is the regulatory backbone for the data driven economy. When implemented, the rules will build a single, modern, strong, consistent and comprehensive data protection framework which will enhance legal certainty and strengthen individuals' trust and confidence in the digital environment.
  • building on these EU rules, the Commission will partner with Member States and stakeholders to ensure that businesses receive guidance on data anonymisation and pseudonymisation, personal data risk analysis, and tools and initiatives to enhance consumer awareness. It will also invest into the search for related technical solutions that are privacy-enhancing 'by design';
  • follow up the report of the Trusted Cloud Europe and consult on future policy options (legislative and co-regulatory) by 2015;
  • produce guidelines on good practices for secure data storage, to help prevent cyber-attacks;
  • launch a consultation and set up an expert group on "data ownership" and liability of data provision, in particular for data gathered through the Internet of Things;
  • consult on the concept of user-controlled cloud-based technologies for storage and use of personal data.

Communication on data-driven innovation

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