Enter the Data Economy

Time for the EU to build a thriving data ecosystem



The data revolution will completely transform ways of doing business worldwide, profoundly changing how value is created. If Europe embraces this revolution, it can boost global competitiveness, spur job creation and drastically improve the ability of businesses and public services to meet the evolving needs and desires of increasingly demanding consumers and enterprises.

According to recent research, even limited use of big data analytics solutions by the top 100 EU manufacturers could boost EU economic growth by an additional 1.9% by 2020.[1]

However, our new paper, published today on our website, finds that parts of Europe are struggling to keep up with the digital transition and risk missing out on these major benefits, as market players are reluctant or simply unable to embrace the opportunities provided by big data.

To build a thriving data economy, Europe needs to dispel perceived uncertainties and overcome fragmented national environments. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)[2], which regulates the processing and use of personal data in the EU, represents a first fundamental milestone to creating a data-friendly environment where citizens and companies feel confident that their privacy preferences are protected, while also safeguarding economic interests and innovation.

However, because personal data represents one part of valuable business data, companies are now looking towards the EU to also ensure a level playing field and legal certainty with regard to the use of non-personal data so that they can securely unleash the full potential of the digital economy and stay on par with rapidly advancing competitors in Asia and the United States.

Europe must urgently take the lead on setting regulatory standards to ensure that they meet Europeans’ needs and preferences. Top priority must be given to freeing up the flow of data within the single market and with the rest of the world, to tackling digital protectionism, promoting open data and transparency, increasing competition in the data value chain through enhanced interoperability and portability, and implementing clear liability rules.

Europe also needs a more proactive and far-sighted data strategy that focuses on stimulating public and private investments in digital technologies and in the fast-growing data analytics market (see Figure) and on building up Europeans’ data skills, while also providing technical and financial support to companies, including through revised state aid rules.

The EU has what it takes to build itself into the world’s safest and most competitive data economy. The time for action is now.

Worldwide big data technology and services market growth forecast (Source: International Data Corporation Research, 2013, 2014, 2015)

Read more in our paper: Enter the Data Economy — EU policies for a thriving data ecosystem.


[1] European Commission, The EU Data Protection Reform and Big Data: Factsheet, March 2016.

[2] Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation), OJ 2016/L 119/1, 27 April 2016.