MARKET | Jan 9, 2018

The EU after 2020 and the central importance of data

The 9th Framework Program is ready to take on the challenges of the data revolution

Promoting industrial competitiveness, innovation and technological leadership are the goals of European policies post-Horizon 2020, presented in a paper which contributes to the discussion aimed at drafting of the 9th framework program (FP9).

In a landscape where change moves fast and profoundly transforms industries and societies, one must identify and analyze the challenges posed by the Digital Transformation which must be at the center of policies in the coming years. To that end, 4 key ingredients have been identified: political vision in the medium-long term aimed toward teaching and research; promoting coordination, simplification and    openness; identifying the EU territory’s unique characteristics so as to avoid trying to (unsuccessfully) reproduce good practices born in entirely different regions and contexts (Silicon Valley for example); experimentation, i.e. applying design thinking to the policies to be enacted.

In addition to the basic ingredients, the paper identified 7 challenges corresponding to 7 big opportunities to be seized for industry transformation. Among these, the second refers to the great importance which the culture of data will hold.

Data revolution and non-R&D intangible assets

What the policy document describes as a “data revolution” is no more than a portrait of the new business and societal conditions in which data has gained a central role. A revolution that offers new opportunities for innovation and which, creating an economy based on knowledge, has greater socio-economic potential.

However, the availability of data in volumes which are always growing and produced with increasingly rapid speed requires a policy for protection of information as well as the correct management and storage of data aimed at improving the use of said information.

To better take advantage of data coming from diverse and ever changing sources one needs to develop evaluation metrics capable of understanding changes in real-time and to adapt one’s activities accordingly. To focus only on the quantitative aspect of data would be an error given that monitoring the qualitative aspects is fundamental.

The majority of practical experiments in industry transformation, according to the paper, come from the United States, but one cannot use these as the sole basis for development of European policies. There is a need for more experimentation in our own regional context which can support the development of innovative activities. This would allow for a better alignment between EU industry policies and socio-economic goals.

Beyond data: the other six challenges

Obviously data is not the only challenge identified for industries post-2020. One of the first cited in the paper is updating and improving all industries, not just those tied to the IT sector but also the more “traditional” ones for which the Digital Transformation represents a great opportunity. In addition, there is the need to continuously revise policies being applied, taking into account the fact that innovation is by its very nature dynamic, and the importance of considering (and studying) the concept of dynamic efficiency which allows a company to reduce cost curves, improving products over time through experimenting with new products and processes. The focus on internalization and cooperation between businesses is important, as is a greater capacity for dialogue and debate. And last but not least is the challenge tied to new professional roles which necessitate the ability to identify which new skills workers will require.

In conclusion, what occurs in the EU when discussing innovation must take into account the central role of data which will have an increasing capacity to act as a driving force. And not just for industries.