Standardisation in the Digital Single Market – before and after 2020
Standardization issues in the new technological environment are of increasing relevance for Europe. “Media 21” Foundation presents excerpts from the latest European documents compiled by the information society expert dipl.eng Anelia Dimova, Bulgaria.
- The process of European Standardisation
The objective that European standardisation pursues is to agree on a set of common specifications and/or procedures that respond to the needs of business and meet consumers’ expectations. By removing technical barriers and strengthening the competitiveness of European companies, European standardisation can be considered a key instrument for the consolidation of a digital single market, creating conditions for economic growth and progress. Standards represent a part of the knowledge economy that underpins European industry and society. They facilitate innovation and promote the wide adoption of new technologies, providing a bridge between research and innovation (R&I) and the market.
Back in 2018 the Commission has presented an assessmet of the state-of-play, the remaining barriers and the opportunities necessary to be in place for a fully functioning single market. The Commission has set out a shared vision for European standardisation in its Joint Initiative on Standardisation (the “Joint Initiative”), supported by a broad range of stakeholders and all Member States.
The aim of the Joint Initiative is to ensure the Union’s sustained efforts to modernise the European standardisation system so as to maintain its attractiveness and to keep pace with digitisation so as to respond in a timely way to market and users’ needs. The digital transformation of the economy creates a need to accelerate the transformation of European standardisation in order to make it fit for current and future challenges within areas such as the Internet of Things, big data, advanced manufacturing, robotics, 3D printing, blockchain technologies and artificial intelligence. Specific actions of the Joint Initiative are dedicated to raising awareness initiatives.
To promote a stronger involvement of co-legislators in the process of priority-setting for European standardisation, the Commission organised in 2018 an inter-institutional dialogue. The dialogue included high-level representatives of European Union institutions, standardisation organisations, businesses (including small and medium-sized enterprises) and other relevant stakeholders, such as consumers, workers and environmental organisations. It focused on priority issues relevant to the process of developing harmonised standards. Discussions revealed the need to further enhance legal certainty to ensure that the Union legislative framework for standardisation is interpreted uniformly in light of the Standardisation Regulation, the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and its guidance documents. Further to this the Commission will continue to rely on the scientific input of the Joint Research Centre and, at the same time, will reinforce its liaison with the technical committees in charge of developing standards through the recently introduced system of expert consultants. The goal of the joint activities will be to improve the quality of the process and to ensure that the references to harmonised standards are published as quickly as possible in the Official Journal.
- R&I and Standardisation – Framework Programmes , Horizon 2020 Programme
The contribution of Standardisation to R&I Framework Programmes (FP) of the European Union dates back to the early nineties under FP4 (the Standards, Measurement and Testing Subprogram (SMT)) and FP5. In later Framework Programmes, Standardisation became a horizontal support tool relevant across all research areas.
The strong focus of Horizon 2020 on innovation confirmed standardisation to be an interesting factor in the R&I topics descriptions, the project proposals and the funded projects.
From the first Horizon 2020 call in 2014, many topics or call introductions are asking
for specific Standardisation requirements. However, this fact is highly non-homogenous. As a discouraging consequence, many topics having great potential for using standardisation as an impact enhancer yet have little or no requirements or recommendations about integrating it within the projects.
In the European Commission’s “In-depth interim evaluation of Horizon 2020” (SWD(2017)220 final, p. 100), standardisation, interoperability and norms are seen as feeding into the “Reinforcement of Framework Conditions for R&I. However, as analysed in the evaluation, R&I projects usually take into account existing standards but do not yet make enough use of the standardisation system as a means to disseminate their results and to facilitate the exploitation of their innovations.
The new EC Communication on FP9 ‘Horizon Europe’ (COM(2018) 435, Article 2) recognizes standardisation as a tool for supporting the exploitation of R&I results.
According to the Proposal on establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the completion of the Digital Single Market and the growing opportunities from the convergence of digital and physical technologies requires a substantial investment in main digital research and innovation activities. This should ensure that Europe remains at the forefront of global research and innovation in the digital field.
- Raising awareness on Horizon Europe standardisation aspects
The awareness of national and European stakeholders and public authorities should be raised on some aspects related to standardisation that shall be strengthened in the planning and development of the 9th Framework Programme. Considering existing standards and contributing to new quality standardisation in R&I projects is a path to increase their dissemination and exploitation opportunities and maximise their impact.
Standardisation is still unknown –or at least misunderstood– by a majority of the researchers and innovation stakeholders, confusing it with pre-standardisation research (which can develop an “internal standard”).
Despite the communication and education efforts being developed by the standards organisations, it is worth remembering that the most powerful instruments for R&I in Europe are the framework programmes. As stated “the Commission will provide dedicated support to dissemination, exploitation and knowledge diffusion and put more emphasis on promoting the exploitation of R&I results” (COM(2018) 435).
Among the recommendations to be taken on board are the following:
- Consider the standardisation system as a part of the European innovation landscape and thus promote its collaboration with the European Innovation Council.
- Include consideration and contribution to standardisation among the evaluation criteria and offer suitable information to evaluators.
- Include the initiation of new standardisation activities and/or the publication of new standards as a criterion for assessing the performance and results of projects. Among the foreseen ‘impact pathways’ societal impact and economic impact are closely related to the benefits of standardisation.
- Policy missions shall always consider standardisation as part and parcel of their planning and evaluation criteria.
- The National Contact Points network should constantly raise awareness on this subject.
- Collaboration with the national standardisation bodies and with CEN and CENELEC should be strengthened
- European Commission documents;
- Spanish Position Paper: Strengthening the role of Standardisation supporting Research and Innovation in the 9th framework programme ‘Horizon Europe’,https://www.une.org/normalizacion_documentos/UNE-Position-Paper-Horizon-Europe.pdf.