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EU-US Trade and Technology Council: Commission launches consultation platform for stakeholder's involvement to shape transatlantic co-operation

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The Commission has launched an online consultation platform on the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), allowing stakeholders to share their views and provide common proposals on the work ahead.Following their first meeting in Pittsburgh last month, representatives of the European Union and the United States agreed on the importance of and commitment to consulting closely with diversestakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic on their co-ordinated approaches to key global technology, economic, and trade issues.

It is in this context that the Commission has set up a one-stop-shop on its online “Futurium” platform, to collect input from all interested parties relating to the TTC. Businesses, think tanks, labour, non-profit and environmental organisations, academics, and other parties that form the civil society at large are invited to contribute, as essential actors to successful EU-US cooperation. The platform is open to everyone after a simple registration. It allows interested parties to have their voice heard in the work of the ten specific TTC Working Groups. Via this website, they can not only feed in their views, but also receive important information and updates on the progress of the different working groups. More information is available in the press release here.

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Computer technology

Europe must work together to stay at forefront of high-tech - Merkel

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European countries must work together on next-generation chip manufacturing, Angela Merkel said, drawing on her 16 years of experience in the highest office to warn that no European country could stay at the forefront of high-tech on its own, write Andreas Rinke and Thomas Escritt.

The outgoing German chancellor told Reuters in an interview that the costs of moving to the next level in areas from chip development to cloud and quantum computing and battery production meant that the private sector would need state support.

Merkel herself conducted fundamental research in quantum chemistry in East Germany before entering politics after German reunification in 1990. She pointed to Korea, Taiwan and U.S. President Joe Biden's stimulus package as examples of what was possible.

"The state will have to play a significant role. South Korea and Taiwan go to show that competitive chip production in the 3- or 2-nanometer range, for example, is essentially impossible without state subsidies," she said.

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The global economy's current struggle to restore supply chains snapped by resource shortages and the coronavirus pandemic further highlights the need to ensure that Europe has its own production facilities in key areas, she said.

But she also lamented the failure of German companies to capitalise on an outstanding research base.

In particular, she said she was "shocked" at German companies' lack of interest in quantum computing, even though Germany was a world leader in research in a field that could make computers faster and more powerful than ever before.

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She said her government had made steps towards improving Germany's innovation and start-up cultures, pointing to a German-led project to create a secure and efficient cloud data infrastructure for Europe, named Gaia-X.

"But in the long term it cannot be the state that drives new developments," the European Union's longest-serving leader said.

Germany's sprawling, decentralised government structure could also be a hindrance to innovation.

Merkel said the presence of an ethics council and data protection officer in each of the 16 federal states put a heavy burden on firms in life sciences, for instance, where Germany had fallen behind.

It was, however, at the leading edge of research in areas such as quantum physics, climate research, physics, chemistry and robotics, she said.

Not that the same could be said for Merkel's own use of home technology.

"I’m happy enough when I can set up a delayed start on my washing machine, but beyond that, to be honest, I have neither the time nor the inclination to have my whole home remote-controlled," she said.

"Maybe I’ll develop an interest when I have more time in the near future."

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Digital economy

First calls for proposals under the Digital Europe Programme are launched in digital tech and European Digital Innovation Hubs

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The Commission has announced the first set of calls for proposals under the Digital Europe Programme. This follows the adoption of the work programmes allocating nearly €2 billion for investments aimed to advance on the digital transition. The calls are open to businesses, organizations, and public administrations from the EU member states, as well as entities from other countries associated to the Digital Europe Programme.

These grants will be targeted towards an investment of over €415 million in cloud to edge infrastructure, data spaces, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum communication infrastructure, in advancing people's digital skills, and projects that promote a safer internet, fight child sexual abuse, and disinformation, until the end of 2022. The first call for proposals is also opening for the set-up and deployment of the European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) network. These hubs will support private companies, including SMEs and start-ups, and the public sector in their digital transformation.  More information as regards applying for grants under this set of calls for proposals is available online. Further calls will be published in early 2022.

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Digital technology

Commission to be sole enforcer of tech rules, EU countries agree

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Representatives from EU countries have agreed that the European Commission will be the sole enforcer of new tech rules, with a limited role for national antitrust watchdogs instead of the wider powers sought for them, officials said on Monday (8 November), writes Foo Yun Chee.

EU ministers will formally ratify the agreement on 25 November as part of the bloc's common position ahead of negotiations with EU lawmakers and the Commission on the draft rules known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) before they can become law.

The DMA, proposed by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager last year, aim to curb the powers of Alphabet (GOOGL.O) unit Google, Facebook (FB.O), Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) with a list of dos and don'ts.

German and French antitrust watchdogs and their counterparts in the other 25 EU countries in a joint letter in June argued for a bigger role in enforcing the DMA and cited their expertise in digital cases. Read more.

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"The Commission is the sole authority empowered to enforce this Regulation," said an EU document agreed by a working group of the EU Council and seen by Reuters.

"In order to support the Commission, member states may empower competent authorities enforcing competition rules to conduct investigative measures into possible infringements of obligations for gatekeepers," the document said.

It said the EU executive shall have full discretion to decide whether to open an investigation.

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