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#DigitalServicesAct, #DigitalMarketsAct - Time for our democracy to catch up with technology, says Margrethe Vestager at EESC plenary

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The European Commission's forthcoming initiatives to regulate digital services and markets will ensure that providers take responsibility for the services they offer and that digital giants do not impose their own rules on Europe's markets, said Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager.

The European Commission's Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, expected to be released shortly, will help European democracy catch up with the last twenty years of digital development, defining how digital services should be provided and digital markets work, said Vestager yesterday (3 December) to the European Economic and Social Committee's plenary during a debate on A Europe fit for the digital age.

EESC President Christa Schweng stressed that the digital transition has become more important than ever as one of the two building blocks of Europe's recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, together with the green transition.

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The EESC president quoted a recent study which estimated that by 2030 the cumulative additional GDP contribution of new digital technologies could amount to EUR 2.2 trillion in the EU – the equivalent of Spain's and the Netherlands's combined GDP for 2019.

Schweng said: "We need a European, human-centred approach to digitalization. Without the trust of the citizens and businesses we will not be able to seize the opportunities offered by digitalisation. To that end, it's important to build a genuine European Dataspace where our data is protected and privacy and self-determination are ensured. We also need to build EU technological sovereignty while maintaining global digital trade."

Vestager outlined the key elements of the Commission's digital strategy, its focus on leveraging private investment, its reliance on flagship initiatives (on digital skills, digital public services and cybersecurity) and the building and deploying of digital capacities.

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"Now the Digital Services Act will make sure that digital service providers take responsibility and are accountable for the services they provide and that trust can be rebuilt," said Vestager. "Illegal online content and products which do not live up to the rules that we have for physical products are the problem. Both should be fixed, and should be fixed on a European scale."

"The Digital Markets Act", she went on to remark, "will say to giant companies: you are more than welcome to do business in Europe, you are more than welcome to be successful, but there is a list of do's and don'ts when you reach that gatekeeper position in order for fair competition to be there and serve consumers in the best possible manner. The fundamental point here is that the market should serve us as consumers and that we want technology that we can truly trust."

Stefano Mallia, president of the EESC Employers' Group, said: "European employers strongly support the key goal of restoring Europe's digital sovereignty. It is our firm view that investing in digitalisation is the best way for the EU and its member states to come out of the current economic hardship, support the recovery and create new jobs."

He voiced the business community's backing for the Commission's goal of over €20 billion annual investment in AI over the next decade, and quoted a newly published McKinsey study showing that, although just a quarter of businesses globally are reporting bottom-line impact from the use of AI, that impact seems to be coming mainly from the generation of new revenue rather than cost reduction – a finding worth exploring in talks between the Commission, the business community and trade unions.

Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC Workers' Group, said: "As workers' representatives, we are convinced that digitalisation is an opportunity beyond the current pandemic to have better jobs and working conditions. However, clear and fair rules are needed to prevent digital platforms from circumventing legislation and creating a smartphone version of 19th century capitalism. To ensure that we can fully profit from the enormous potential of digitalisation, we must fully involve the social partners through a clear framework with workers' information, consultation and participation rights enshrined at all levels."

He also said that finding fair and effective ways of taxing the digital economy was a fundamental blueprint to ensure proper redistribution of wealth as new technologies developed and robotisation spread.

Seamus Boland, president of the EESC Diversity Europe Group, stressed that the pandemic had both revealed and precipitated the digitalisation of our lives and at the same time brought to the fore the plight of people who did not know how to use the technology.

"Digitalization must be completed in a way that is fair and that brings everybody with it," he said.  "It is my firm belief that Europe will successfully manage the transformation into the digital age if we build on our strengths and on our values. All eyes are on Europe to lead that way, so that EU regulations become the global standard. So it is not just about making 'Europe fit for the digital age', it is also about making the 'digital age fit for Europe and the world'."

Digital economy

Commission proposes a Path to the Digital Decade to deliver the EU's digital transformation by 2030

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On 15 September, the Commission proposed a Path to the Digital Decade, a concrete plan to achieve the digital transformation of our society and economy by 2030. The proposed Path to the Digital Decade will translate the EUʼs digital ambitions for 2030 into a concrete delivery mechanism. It will set up a governance framework based on an annual cooperation mechanism with Member States to reach the 2030 Digital Decade targets at Union level in the areas of digital skills, digital infrastructures, digitalisation of businesses and public services. It also aims to identify and implement large-scale digital projects involving the Commission and the Member States. The pandemic highlighted the central role that digital technology plays in building a sustainable and prosperous future. In particular, the crisis exposed a divide between digitally apt businesses and those yet to adopt digital solutions, and highlighted the gap between well-connected urban, rural and remote areas. Digitalisation offers many new opportunities on the European marketplace, where more than 500,000 vacancies for cybersecurity and data experts remained unfilled in 2020. In line with European values, the Path to the Digital Decade should reinforce our digital leadership and promote human centred and sustainable digital policies empowering citizens and businesses. More information is available in this press release, Q&A and factsheet. President von der Leyen's State of the Union Address is also available online.

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Digital economy

Digital euro: Commission welcomes the launch of the digital euro project by the ECB

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The Commission welcomes the decision taken by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) to launch the digital euro project and start its investigation phase. This phase will look at various design options, user requirements and at how financial intermediaries could provide services building on a digital euro. The digital euro, a digital form of central bank money, would offer greater choice to consumers and businesses in situations where physical cash cannot be used. It would support a well-integrated payments sector to respond to new payment needs in Europe.

Taking into account digitalisation, rapid changes in the payments landscape and the emergence of crypto-assets, the digital euro would be a complement to cash, which should remain widely available and useable. It would support a number of policy objectives set out in the Commission's wider digital finance and retail payments strategies including the digitalisation of the European economy, increase the international role of the euro and support the EU's open strategic autonomy. Based on the technical co-operation with the ECB initiated in January, the Commission will continue to work closely with the ECB and the EU institutions throughout the investigation phase in analysing and testing the various design options in view of policy objectives.

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Digital economy

New digital resource launched to support health, social care and industry innovation

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Achieving Innovation is a new resource developed by Life Sciences Hub Wales to inform and guide those working across industry, health and social care innovation. It summarises key research, provides critical insights and delivers fresh perspectives from cross-sector thought leaders.

This new digital resource reviews the wealth of knowledge available about innovation in health and social care to equip those who need it with the most relevant and important information. Life Sciences Hub Wales has worked closely with contributors spanning health, industry, academia and social care providing input.

Innovation is perceived by many stakeholders as essential for catalysing system-wide change and making a difference to patients and people. A recent survey commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales for Beaufort Research found that 97% of health and social care regarded innovation as being very important, alongside 91% of industry.

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However, barriers can make innovation more difficult, including a lack of common language, resources, and cross-sector engagement. Life Sciences Hub Wales has created the Achieving Innovation resource to help address these challenges, identifying evidence-based solutions and answers to help navigate the innovation ecosystem and futureproof our health and social care systems.

The resource is set to be regularly updated with new material, and launches with a:

Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO of Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “This new resource can play a key role in helping stakeholders of all backgrounds navigate the health and social care ecosystems in Wales and beyond. Innovators hold the key to large-scale transformation of health, care and wellbeing in Wales and this resource will support them in achieving this.”

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Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Innovation plays a critical role in supporting our health and social care sectors in Wales to deliver new ideas and technologies in partnership with industry. I welcome Life Sciences Hub Wales new ‘Achieving Innovation’ resource as a key tool for innovators who are working to overcome real challenges and grasp exciting new opportunities. When we established and funded Life Science Hub Wales, innovation was at the heart of its ethos - this ethos has played a key role in our recovery and response to the impact of COVID-19.”

Dr. Chris Subbe, Acute, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Consultant at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Senior Clinical Lecturer at Bangor University, said: “I was delighted to contribute to the Achieving Innovation resource by exploring the importance of making innovation an everyday habit.

In this time of exceptional pressures on our ability to provide quality care we need to find ways to develop talent and ideas from wherever they come. This new resource should empower multidisciplinary innovators from industry and healthcare backgrounds with the information, context and language required.”

Darren Hughes, Director of Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “We welcome the new Achieving Innovation resource from Life Sciences Hub Wales, as we have seen the impact of innovation and service transformation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The resource supports a deeper understanding of innovation and complements our multi-agency report prepared by Swansea University, The NHS Wales COVID-19 Innovation and Transformation Study Report, which draws from a vast evidence-base of staff experiences from across NHS Wales, examining why and how they innovated and looking at practical recommendations to further this agenda.

“As we embark on recovery, it’s imperative that we capitalize on opportunity to improve service delivery, efficiency, patient outcomes, staff wellbeing, and encourage a culture of learning and sharing best practice across organisational boundaries.”

The resource comes at an exciting time for innovation in Wales, with the launch of the Intensive Learning Academies earlier in 2021. The first of their kind in the world, these world-leading academies are delivering innovation-focussed taught courses, research and bespoke consultancy services, with Life Sciences Hub Wales supporting relevant partners.

If you would like to explore the Achieving Innovation resource, click here

About Life Sciences Hub Wales

Life Sciences Hub Wales aims to make Wales the place of choice for health, care and wellbeing innovation. We help to advance innovation and create meaningful collaboration between industry, health, social care, government, and research organisations.

We want to help transform both the health and economic wellbeing of the nation:

  • Accelerating the development and adoption of innovative solutions that support the health and social care needs of Wales, and;
  • partnering with industry to advance economic improvement across the life sciences sector and drive business growth and jobs in Wales.

We do this by working closely with health and social care colleagues to understand the challenges and pressures an organization may face. Once identified, we then work with industry to help source and support the development of innovative solutions to respond to these challenges with agility.

Our team provides bespoke advice, signposting and support to accelerate all innovation journeys, whether supporting a clinician with a bright idea or a multinational life sciences organisation.

Life Sciences Hub Wales helps to catalyse system-wide change by convening and orchestrating a cross-sector innovation ecosystem. These connections enable us to create valuable networking and matchmaking opportunities.

To find out more, click here.

About the Achieving Innovation resource

The resource launches with:

  • Eight Insights for Achieving Innovation- article collating key insights and themes from across the resource.
  • Directory summarizing support and organisations available in Wales.
  • A narrative review of innovation evidence and literature.
  • A policy review of the Welsh government’s approach to innovation.
  • Blogs authored by leaders from across health, industry and social care focussing on innovation.
  • Podcasts where thought leaders discuss the challenges and opportunities of innovation.

Survey Reference:

A recent survey commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales for Beaufort Research found that 97% of health and social care regarded innovation as being very important, alongside 91% of industry.”

Beaufort Research were commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales to conduct an anonymous survey into cross-sector stakeholder perceptions around the organisation and the wider life sciences sector in early 2021. This was undertaken to help inform Life Sciences Hub Wales’ future strategic direction.

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