Under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the 2015 edition of the 'European Data Forum' is being held in Luxembourg on 16 and 17 November 2015. This annual meeting of industry, research, public authorities and community initiatives, devoted to the challenges relating to Big Data and the data economy aims to respond to the question of 'how to use data integration in a European Digital Single Market?'.
Marc Hansen, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, opened the second day of the conference with the European Commissioner for Digital Economy, Günther Oettinger.
'As a presidency, Luxembourg fully recognises the importance of research and innovation as key growth drivers making an important contribution to the creation of jobs', Marc Hansen stressed by way of introduction. 'We have to acknowledge the fact that resources and infrastructures of all kinds, both physical and virtual, play a crucial role within the research and innovation landscape', continued the Secretary of State in reference to Big Data, data economy and cloud computing. In his eyes, the issue is how to use existing infrastructures in a more efficient way and which new infrastructures might be needed in the future. Marc Hansen further stated that it is necessary to evaluate which resources are required in Europe for industry to be competitive at the international level.
The Secretary of State presented the investments made by Luxembourg in communication networks and data centres, as well as research on High-Performance Computing (HPC). In his view, 'Europe has a unique opportunity to act now and invest in the development and deployment of HPC technology, Big Data and applications to ensure the competitiveness of its research and industries on a global level. Luxembourg intends to contribute to this effort through excellence in services and HPC applications, as well as research. The initiative is part of the Commission's HPC strategy, according to Marc Hansen.
The government has thus taken the initiative to launch an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on applications using HPC and Big Data. For Marc Hansen, this project will bring Europe closer to its objectives, namely 'to ensure European industrial sovereignty on key HPC technologies, to support the development of new usages of HPC by the industry and to guarantee access to world-class HPC facilities for both public and private research'. Given the investment required to develop this project which will be built around technology, infrastructure and large-scale applications, Luxembourg intends to use European co-financing and partner with Italy and France in this process that could also include Spain.
For Günther Oettinger, the challenge is to manage to turn today's digital opportunities into a strategic advantage for European companies
'We are in the middle of a true revolution — the fourth industrial revolution.', observed Günther Oettinger in his opening remarks. The digital revolution which is at work is based on interconnection and communication, on an 'internet of things' whose major potential was highlighted by the Commissioner.
In this revolution that some call 'Industry 4.0', data analysis is the technology to master, and Günther Oettinger is of the opinion that 'our challenge is to ensure that all industrial sectors make the best use of new technologies and manage their transition towards digitised products and processes'. In his eyes, the challenge is to turn the digital opportunities of today a strategic advantage for European businesses.
'What is needed above all today is the creation of "value chains" based on data', because that is one of the keys to keeping Europe competitive, affirmed Günther Oettinger who refers to 'maximum exploitation of the information contained in the data for the benefit of businesses and consumers'.
Günther Oettinger explained that to achieve this, it is first necessary to facilitate access to digital infrastructure, both for industry, especially SMEs, and for research centres. Second, the Commissioner called for access to good quality data. In this context, he stressed the importance of open data that could be reused. Third, we need a regulatory approach to support the emerging data economy, indicated Günther Oettinger, stressing the importance of ensuring the legal certainty necessary for the development of data flows. Fourth, the Commissioner stressed that we need a skilled workforce able to contribute to and benefit from the digital transformation. Finally, we need to catalyse and manage the transformation process, Günther Oettinger concluded, taking the view that there is a need to support new ecosystems and a new mindset.