EU: EC wants industrial data to help them compete with US and China

Europe needs to help its companies do more with their vast output of industrial data to help them stave off competition from the US and China, according to the EU commissioner charged with overseeing the digital economy.

Thierry Breton told the Financial Times he was preparing plans to help EU companies to better capitalize on the electronic information they generate, in the latest sign of concern in Brussels over how far the bloc’s companies lag their rivals.

The proposals include common rules to ease intra-EU transfers in what would amount to a single market for data, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans. “I will make sure we will not miss the new wave of industrial data,” Mr Breton said in an interview.

“The most important thing is to evaluate how we create data . . . and how we will be able to use this data.” The initiative comes as Europe looks to build tech groups that can compete with Silicon Valley.

Mr Breton said the potential for Europe to gain ownership of its industrial data was enormous and noted that most was in the hands of a few companies. “I don’t blame anyone, I just say it will have to change,” said Mr Breton, who last month became the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market. 

Some of the world’s largest manufacturers are European, but there are concerns that companies are failing to make the most of data generated — everything from companies exploiting information generated by smart energy meters to more efficient access to data in the logistics and automotive sectors. 

“In the world today companies are dealing with something like 35 zettabytes,” Mr Breton said. One zettabyte is equal to 1tn gigabytes. He added, “Companies are producing more and more data: transportation, hospitals, patients, cars, planes. At the end of the mandate [of the commission in 2024] the planet will [have] 175 zettabytes of data.”

Full Content: Financial Times

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