Recognising the growing importance of data for the prosperous development of the European economy and society, the European Commission adopted in 2014 its first communication ‘Towards a thriving data-driven economy’ which defined some of its key features, namely: availability of datasets, the necessary infrastructure and skills to enable data sharing and reuse, trust between parties, suitable cyber-security measures, and the development of common standards for technologies and data interoperability. Back then, data was seen as the ‘new oil’ of the digital economy.

Throughout the last years, the European Commission has been putting in place a strong policy and legal framework to boost the data economy in line with the European values, including, but not limited to, the General Data Protection Regulation, the Regulation on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data, or the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’. Alongside this communication, the Commission adopted in 2018 a Staff Working Document to provide guidance on sharing private sector data in the European data economy which built partially on findings from everis’ study on data sharing between companies in Europe. Back in 2017, our study concluded that many companies seemed to be missing business opportunities because presumably they were not reusing data from other companies, but especially due to the lack of sufficient investment in accessing real-time and/or positioning/localisation data from other businesses.

Most recently, in February 2020, the European Commission adopted the strategy for data, which entails an ambitious set of legal, policy and investment initiatives to boost further the data economy until 2025. This strategy sets out clear messages regarding the benefits of data sharing and reuse between companies and governments, i.e. G2B, B2B, B2G and G2G. In this spirit, data is no longer perceived as ‘oil’, but rather as a renewable resource with unlimited potential.

At the heart of the Commission’s data strategy is the creation of common European data spaces in nine sectors of the economy and society: industrial, green deal, mobility, health, financial, energy, agriculture, public administration and skills. The data spaces will benefit businesses, citizens, the civil society and the public sector by fostering the creation of new products and services through data sharing and reuse. The European data spaces will be developed in different moments in time. For instance, the legislative proposal for a European Health Data Space is expected to be adopted in the fourth quarter of 2021. To support this law-making process, an impact assessment has just started (and everis, building on its expertise and experience in digital health, will actively contribute to the study supporting the impact assessment led by ICF). A public consultation is also running from 3 May until 26 July 2021 to hear the views of stakeholders on this matter. The European Health Data Space will promote better access to healthcare data by citizens, healthcare providers, researchers and policy-makers. This data space will not only improve healthcare quality and delivery, but also allow for evidence-based policy-making and advancing research and innovation in the field of health.

To ensure the right level of protection and law enforcement to boost the data economy, and in line with the data strategy, several legislative initiatives are being prepared. The proposal for a Data Governance Act (issued in November 2020) will aim to: 

  1. Regulate the conditions for reusing certain categories of public sector data within the EU; 
  2. Define the requirements applicable to data sharing services
  3. Establish a ‘register of recognised data altruism organisations’ to encourage the voluntary sharing of data for the common good;
  4. Create the European Data Innovation Board.

Most recently, the Commission published an inception impact assessment for the Data Act, which aims to increase and ensure fair data sharing and reuse in B2B and B2G contexts.

Data has a strong potential for both the private and the public sector. It can lead to developing new business models, products and services, improving productivity and internal efficiency, contributing to competitiveness, but also to serve the society as a whole through data-driven policy-making and research with real impact on the lives of women and men (better healthcare, combatting climate change, or faster responses to pandemics). To maximise its use, it is crucial to establish human-centric, forward-looking and transformative policies, but also a robust legal framework that protects citizens and businesses according to the European values.