Europe can win global battle for industrial data

17 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

PARIS: Europe may have lost the battle to create digital champions capable of taking on US and Chinese companies harvesting personal data, but it can win the war of industrial data, Europe’s industry policy chief said on Saturday.

Vast troves of data from how fast we drive our cars to how much time a robot needs to churn out products in factories have yet to be fully exploited, said Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner in charge of the EU single market, report agencies.

Alarmed by the dominance of US and Chinese tech companies such as Google, Amazon or Huawei, the EU is leaving behind the “laissez-faire” attitude of the early 2000s and ratcheting up regulatory pressure to protect its businesses.

The new approach will be on display on Wednesday when Breton unveils the bloc’s new data and artificial intelligence strategy.

“We’re entering a new phase. The battle for industrial data starts now, and the main battlefield will be Europe,” Breton, a former French finance minister, told Reuters in an interview.

Breton said the EU had a unique opportunity to win the next phase of the digital revolution centred on the harvesting, management and analysis of data from industrial fields such as factories, transport, energy and healthcare.

“Europe is the world’s top industrial continent. The United States have lost much of their industrial know-how in the last phase of globalisation. They have to gradually rebuild it. China has added-value handicaps it is correcting,” Breton said.

“But the bulk of the industrial value chain, from large groups to SMEs, is based in Europe today. That’s why all eyes are on Europe right now,” he added.

Breton, a former CEO of French IT giant Atos and telecoms group Orange, said the European Commission will unveil a three-pronged approach on Wednesday, consisting of strict rules, investing in infrastructure and unrolling a sector-specific approach.

Reuters exclusively reported on Jan 29 a 25-page draft document outlining the measures to create a single market in data, that could still be tweaked ahead of the Feb 19 presentation.