Seizing Europe's Data Innovation Opportunity

The Center for Data Innovation held a thoughtful discussion on the potential of data and the impact of the Digital Single Market strategy and new technologies on European innovation.

Catriona Meehan, the Alliance Director of EU policy, shared the second panel with Victor Negrescu MEP (S&D), Beatrice Covassi, European Commission, Lenard Koschwitz, Allied for Startups, Damir Tomicic, Axinom Group, Philippe Van Impe, European Data Innovation Hub.

Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister of Development Cooperation and Digital Agenda intervened in the discussion by stating that rather than new regulation, Europe needs to increase user trust when it comes to data. In fact, he said “the good side of data is not mentioned enough, just the dangers; we must emphasise to the general public the potential of data innovation to do good, as well as ensuring transparency, so as to generate trust”.

The panelists discussed widely the potential of data and opportunities for Europe to increase productivity and competitiveness, with special focus on the relevance of data for small digital entrepreneurs and their businesses.

Victor Negrescu MEP emphasised the need to boost investments in ICT and create partnerships in order to improve the exploitation of data across Europe. He made the point that “It’s not only about data, it’s the capacity to understand data – that’s the next big thing. To be able to use it, interpret it, to know how you can transform information into something that is useful to your business”.

Beatrice Covassi, Deputy Head for the Data Value Chain Unit at the European Commission, emphasised the importance of encouraging risk taking in innovation. Ms Covassi explained that “beyond the regulatory landscape, we need to make playgrounds where startups and SMEs can experiment safely and test these applications that can then be exported in the market”. The key to this is the completion of the Digital Single Market, so that if a startup has a successful application, they can scale it up within Europe’.

Catriona Meehan, Alliance Director of EU Policy and Government Relations, in regard to the importance of data for app developers said, “Developers want to use data to make their products better and improve performance and user experience; they put a lot of effort into aligning their products to consumers’ needs and preferences. We want to make sure that the environment is conducive to that so that startups and developers aren’t being held back by over-prescriptive data regulation and outdated laws”

The consensus throughout the event was that in some areas, such as building smart cities and adoption of open data policies, European nations are in the vanguard; nonetheless, much work is still needed to improve understanding of the capacity of the data revolution, and it is imperative that policy makers create a regulatory environment that is conducive to data innovation going forward.