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Speech by Commissioner Thierry Breton at Hannover Messe Digital Days

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 15 juli 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join this edition of Hannover Messe and I would like to congratulate the organisers for making it happen - digitally.

I have been asked to speak about the “new normal” and industrial transformation.

First of all, I would like to say that I absolutely don't believe in “normal”… all my life I have been anticipating and managing challenges and the best way to be prepared is to consider that there is never a normal day ahead of us!

So I'm not here in front of you to speak about a so-called “new normal”, especially while the virus is still with us, but rather to assess where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.

First of all, let's remind ourselves: Europe is the world's #1 INDUSTRIAL CONTINENT - it's important to keep this in mind and be collectively proud of our achievements.

But of course we need to be realistic, without naivety: The coronavirus crisis will accelerate major trends at work on our planet. It confronts us with our overreliance on others in critical areas - both geopolitically and economically. It invites us to take a fresh look at Europe's place in the world.

And let me tell you how I see things: in the face of growing tensions between the United States and China, Europe will not be a mere bystander, let alone a battleground.

It is time to take our destiny into our own hands.

This also means identifying and investing in the digital technologies that will underpin our sovereignty and our industrial future.

To me, it is clear where we need to place our efforts: In the global race for technological power, Europe will lead if we seize the opportunities of data, microelectronics and connectivity.

This year's edition of Hannover Messe takes place under the German Presidency of the EU, which has - rightly - set the goal of strengthening Europe as an innovative centre for a digitally sovereign economy and society.

Sovereignty - or what others call resilience or strategic autonomy - is not about isolating ourselves. It is about Europe defending its strategic interests. Being assertive of our values. Firm in our ambitions. Confident of our means.

It's about making sure that anyone who invests, operates and bids in Europe respects our rules and values.

It's about protecting our companies against predatory and sometimes politically motivated foreign acquisitions.

It's about diversifying and reducing our economic and industrial dependencies.

And it's about developing the right technological projects that can lead to European alternatives in key strategic technologies.

Data, microelectronics and connectivity have a clear European interest objective and scale. They will act as enablers for other technological developments, support our industry's competitive edge, and help us build an effective European cyber shield.

Today I am calling for a concerted effort to boost Europe's capabilities in these key technologies.

Let me start with the European data economy, which is a pillar of our new industrial strategy.

Our society is generating a huge wave of industrial and public data. We are talking about 33 zettabytes of data produced in the world in 2018, which is expected to increase to a mind-blowing volume of 175 zettabytes in 2025.

Data will transform the way we produce, consume and live.

Take the mobility sector for instance. Modern vehicles generate around 25 gigabytes of data every hour. Autonomous cars will generate terabytes of data that can be used for innovative mobility-related services and for repair and maintenance. Innovation in this area requires that car data are shared, in a secure and well-framed way.

Europe has everything it takes to lead the ‘big data' race, to the benefit of European businesses, their employees and the consumers.

The winners of yesterday might not be the winners of tomorrow when it comes to industrial data. Because the platforms we know - mainly built on a B2C model - are not ready to meet the technical, security and service requirements required by industry or public authorities.

Contrary to what some may want to make us believe, Europe is not lagging behind technologically in this field. But we need to act fast, as our competitors are moving quickly in order to capture the value of the European industrial market.

To be ahead of the curve, we need to develop suitable European infrastructures allowing the storage, the use, and the creation of data-based applications or Artificial Intelligence services. I consider this as a major issue of Europe's digital sovereignty.

That is why the Commission plans to launch a European Alliance for Industrial Data and Clouds in order to develop European alternatives and put ourselves at the top of the race in the data economy. These efforts could be co-funded between Member States, industry and the EU, with the EU possibly investing up to €2 billion.

This Alliance would be a natural development and evolution of national initiatives such as the Franco-German initiative GaiaX - a sort of GaiaEU, with a public pillar for common platforms for services of general interest, and a European industrial alliance around cloud to edge platforms.

The second priority that I would place at the heart of our digital sovereignty is about rebuilding Europe's capacity to produce high-quality microelectronics.

These components, commonly known as processors or microprocessors, chips or sensors, are at the start of most of the key and strategic value chains such as connected cars, phones, Internet of Things, high performance computers, edge computers, defence, Artificial Intelligence.

We need to be clear: without an autonomous European capacity on microelectronics, there will be no European digital sovereignty.

Today Europe accounts for less than 10% of global production - up from 6% five years ago thanks to the EU ECSEL initiative, which has been instrumental to reverse this trend. This is proof that when we get organised in Europe, with a clear aim, we can make a real difference.

But putting a halt to a decrease is not enough. Now we must invest massively, with the objective to produce in Europe high performance processors (with a 2 to 3nm of feature size) and reach 20% of the world capacity in value.

Europe has all the skills, know-how and machinery to develop its own industrial value chain. It has three R&D Centres recognised worldwide, companies able to upscale their capacity. And it is the world producer of the machine used to produce the chips globally.

So it is now a matter of political will and upscaling our collective investment. This is why I will explore the idea of launching a European alliance on microelectronics. This would have a R&D pillar and a production pillar, with an initial combined public and private investment of €20 billion to €30 billion. This is of paramount importance for our European digital sovereignty.

Finally, this crisis has shown how much connectivity infrastructure is critical for supporting Europe´s digital economy and its recovery. The networks have managed to cope with the increased demand, but this does not mean that there is room for complacency.

My ambition is clear: Better, faster and more widespread Internet coverage by 2025 (1 gigabit per second download, 100% of the population).

To achieve that, we need a rapid and safe deployment of 5G connectivity.

To do so, it is important that Member States assign the new spectrum bands for 5G as quickly as possible, and with conditions that favour investment.

And of course we have to protect our infrastructure. The 5G Security Toolbox which we presented in January equips EU Member States, telecoms operators and users with the tools to build and protect a European infrastructure with the highest security standards. The Toolbox provides clear guidance on what constitutes a security risk and what to do to mitigate the risk. It is vital that we collectively implement the Toolbox. Our collective cyber security is non-negotiable.

Of course, we already need to look beyond 5G. I am talking about starting to prepare for 6G of course, but not only. The next paradigm shift is about linking connectivity with space to provide high-speed connectivity everywhere in Europe.

A global race towards secured satellite communication infrastructures is taking place. Here again, we can place Europe as a leader.

If we work on an ambitious project of connectivity by satellites, within 5 to 7 years we could have an autonomous European infrastructure, complementing fibre networks and new 5G deployment.

Integrating quantum encryption, this infrastructure would remove zones with no broadband access in Europe (so-called dead zones) and provide connectivity everywhere - including governmental or industry-critical secured communication.

Let me take the opportunity to say that making our connectivity ambitions a reality presupposes more innovation and significant investment, and tapping into the full potential of the telecoms sector, which still has a lot to give - including more innovative services - with the Single Market as a springboard.

The current fragmentation in Europe with suboptimised business models based on national markets and high costs for national spectrum licenses is holding back our collective potential compared to other continents.

It is time to encourage consolidation, all while preserving fair and necessary competition for the benefit of our consumers, and to create a true internal market for telecommunications services.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Data, microelectronics and connectivity are the cornerstones of our digital sovereignty.

They will act as enablers for many other critical digital technologies we need to invest in, such as artificial intelligence, supercomputers (including hybrid and quantum computers) and microprocessors.

And of course they will be crucial pillars for building an effective European cyber shield.

If we are to move forward on these initiatives, we need the appropriate means in the EU budget and significant resources for the recovery plan so that we can collectively invest in the future.

Later this week, the European Council will discuss the Recovery Plan that the Commission presented in May. It is historic both in its volume and in its architecture. It offers us the opportunity to leverage this recovery into a transformative process. It's an opportunity we can't miss.

I thank the German Presidency, and of course my friend Peter Altmaier, for their leadership in setting the right direction of travel by putting digital sovereignty at the heart of their Presidency programme.

I look forward to continuing to work with Germany, all other Member States, the European Parliament, industry, scientists and civil society, in making this ambition happen.

The real industrial revolution is starting now - provided we make the right investments in key digital technologies.

Thank you.

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