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All the “Building Blocks” of the European Commission’s Data Strategy

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The European Chips Act, a full set of measures to ensure the security of supply, resilience, and technological leadership in semiconductor technologies and applications at the EU level, was approved on February 8th by the European Commission. The brand-new proposal for a Data Act, which should be the final “building block” of the European Union’s so-called “Data Strategy”, has been unveiled on February 23rd.

Our century’s economy is entirely based on digital technologies. The exceptions to this rule are very few: even the most traditional activities, such as food production and distribution, are supported and facilitated through technology and data exchange.

Semiconductor chips are the essential building blocks of many contemporary industrial products. They are a vital part of our modern digital economy, from smartphones to home appliances, vehicles, and healthcare devices. Nonetheless, Europe’s global market share of semiconductor production is less than 10%, making some Member States heavily dependent on imports to carry on industrial production. Moreover, the digital transformation’s current acceleration is opening up new opportunities by significantly increasing the demand for semiconductors. Over one trillion chips were manufactured worldwide in 2020 alone.

Taking the words of the Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen, the multiannual, large-scale investment plan is meant to make “Europe an industrial leader in this strategic branch. With the European Chips Act, we are putting out the investments and the strategy. But the key to our success lies in Europe’s innovators, our world-class researchers, in the people who have made our continent prosper through the decades”.

Chip shortages have marred several relevant areas of the EU’s industrial production, such as the strategic automotive sector. In such an age of uncertainty, the struggle for self-sufficiency must be considered crucial for the future of the whole European bloc. The EU Chips Act aims to leverage some of the Union’s strengths, such as its World-class research and development level, and address its supply-chain vulnerabilities.

The Chips Act should combine investments from the Union, the Member States and private sources to secure more than 11 billion for research and innovation. Interaction with the Digital Europe and the Horizon Europe programmes should help multiply the figure to reach around 40 billion in total. President von der Leyen’s declared objective is to double European semiconductor production by 2030. To achieve the ambitious target, the European Commission seeks to balance specific exceptions to state aid rules while avoiding a “subsidy race” that could raise internal competition issues.

The upcoming Data Act will also be crucial to ensure fairer rules for the digital ecosystem and to open opportunities of data-driven innovation within the boundaries of the Commission’s data strategy. Taking the words of Margrethe Vestager, The Commission’s Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, “We want to give consumers and companies even more control over what can be done with their data, clarifying who can access data and on what terms. This is a key Digital Principle that will contribute to creating a solid and fair data-driven economy and guide the Digital transformation by 2030”.

The EU Chips Act and Data Act are a substantial part of the effort to build a new “European Way” to AI and digital in contrast to the Chinese approach that privileges public control over technological development and the American way, which support deregulation, thus favouring innovation by large multinationals.

If you are interested in this topic, you may join us for the upcoming virtual event “Towards a Digital Ecosystem of Trust: Ethical, Legal and Societal Implications“, scheduled for March 9th. This open event, organised in collaboration with the SoBigData++ Consortium and moderated by Re-Imagine Europa’s Research and Media Director Luca De Biase, will convene many European experts on this specific topic.

You can easily register to the event by following this link and filling the form.

Places are limited, so hurry up and follow the registration link. You might also be willing to pay attention to the activities of Re-Imagine Europa’s Task Force on “Democracy in a Digital Society”, working since 2019 under the guidance of Professor Manuel Castells. The Task Force aims to find innovative solutions for a digital environment that helps protect citizen rights and stimulate the public debate by building a common ground from which every discussion can be started.

Re-Imagine Europa’s social media channels (LinkedIn & Twitter) and the homepage of Re-Imagine Europa’s Democracy area are other useful links to keep you posted on the latest news regarding the relationship between democracy and digital technologies in the EU and beyond. Follow us!