The European Commission launched the new European data strategy in February 2020. The Strategy, together with the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, is the first pillar of the new digital strategy of the Commission. It focuses on the need to put people first in developing technology, as well as on the need to defend and promote European values and rights in how we design, make and deploy technology in the real economy.
Based on the feedback from its members, SEMI Europe submitted its comments to the Commission to be considered in the implementation of the new data strategy. In its paper, SEMI Europe highlighted that data processing is increasingly taking place close to the user and at the edge. This continuous transformation is enabled by the deeper penetration of microelectronics in smart objects and by sensing, communicating, storing and processing data that altogether drive Edge AI to the next level. Europe, as a world leader in embedded electronics, MEMS, sensors and imagers, holds a unique position in Edge AI and, therefore, maintains a competitive advantage in the global data landscape.
SEMI Europe has made the following policy recommendations pertaining to Europe’s data strategy for the consideration of the Commission, the Parliament and the Council:
I. Make Edge AI the central pillar of the new European strategy for data
Edge AI is the concept of computing data directly where it is generated thanks to IoT sensors placed in smart objects. The future of most AI applications will require to recognize patterns instantly, such as people or vehicles in fully autonomous transportation systems that rely on terabytes of data coming from HD cameras, radars, lidars and other high-speed sensors. Such data is required to be processed instantly, making edge computing a must-have feature for most AI applications. In this light, building on Europe’s leadership and strategic position in the global electronics supply chain, Edge AI should be the backbone of Europe’s new data strategy, including the High Impact Project with a total funding in the order of €4-6 billion. The suggested nine common European data spaces, in particular manufacturing (industrial), mobility, health, energy and agriculture, are the most suitable areas to be realized by Edge AI. The European data spaces should be complemented with a strong effort in setting-up a technology-centric European initiative to expedite the creation of hardware to generate AI at the edge.
II. Invest in collaborative research and innovation to advance Europe’s leadership in data
Europe’s public-private partnerships and R&D instruments such as Horizon 2020 and ECSEL Joint Undertaking have realized unprecedented collaboration opportunities that no single European country can match on its own. Moving forward, one of the EU’s top priorities is to enhance Europe’s position as a world leader in data innovation. To maintains its key position in the digital economy, Europe needs to invest in novel and advanced materials, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, microchips, MEMS, sensors and imagers that enable IoT, supercomputing, rapid data processing at the edge and hyper-connectivity at low power – all in a safe, healthy and environmentally friendly way. Building on the success of Europe’s globally admired public-private partnerships, the upcoming Horizon Europe and Digital Europe Programmes as well as the Key Digital Technologies Institutionalized Partnership should play the pivotal role in positioning Europe as the center of Edge AI and data-driven innovation by pooling resources across the electronics value chain and capitalizing on Europe’s strengths. In order to achieve this, a high level of investment is needed not only in the creation of common European data spaces but also in the development of the underlying hardware technology.
III. Protect intellectual property rights, trade secrets and investment made in data
The Commission, as part of the common European industrial (manufacturing) data space, plans to address issues related to the usage rights on co-generated industrial data as part of a wider Data Act in 2021. As of today, B2B contracts in the manufacturing industry play the main role in deciding to what extent and under which conditions industrial data can be shared, while protecting intellectual property rights, trade secrets and investment made in industrial data. Preserving confidential information and protection against unauthorized data access, therefore, should be considered as a key element of common European data spaces and the foreseen Data Act. While the use and exchange of data will increase the performance of the European industrial base, platform users and operators need legal certainty and guidelines on possible issues concerning competition law in cooperation and data sharing. To this end, working with relevant industry representatives and key manufacturers to understand current industrial data sharing practices and taking the industry input into account in the making of common data spaces and the Data Act is highly recommended.
IV. Enable free flow of cross-border industrial data and eliminate forced localization measures in third countries
Over the past decade, the question of cross-border non-personal data flows has become a concern for policymakers and businesses. Enabling the free flow of cross-border industrial data, eliminating forced localization measures and customs duties on electronic transmissions is essential to fully capture emerging business opportunities of data economy. SEMI Europe supports the Commission’s ambitions to play a leading role in international cooperation and accelerate cross-border data flows in a manner fully complying with EU law and based on data protection, security and fair and trustworthy market practices. SEMI Europe encourages the EU to work with its key trade partners bilaterally in North America and Asia and at the WTO level to promote cross-border industrial data flows.
V. Increase awareness of industry-led standards that facilitate smart manufacturing and data innovation
One of the key issues data producers and users face is the lack of interoperability that impedes the combination of data from different suppliers. This is particularly the case in the microelectronics industry where the supply chain is extremely complex and spanning globally. The application of international standards and compatible protocols for gathering and processing data from different sources is key to boost data-driven innovations and to enable data interoperability. Industry-driven international standards, as voluntary technical agreements across the supply chain, are best positioned to improve data reliability. SEMI Europe appreciates the Commission’s efforts to underpin interoperability requirements and standards within and across sectors, while considering the need for sectoral authorities and organizations to specify requirements. As a good practice, SEMI Europe would like to bring to the attention of the Commission the SEMI Standards Programme, supported by more than 5,000 volunteers from the global semiconductor manufacturing supply chain.
VI. Develop digital skills sought after in high-value manufacturing sectors
Europe’s world-class education and research capabilities help supply the industry with skilled workforce. Yet the blistering pace of technology innovation calls for rapidly evolving skills sets. The deepening penetration of electronics in smart verticals is giving rise to a new set of skills that blend production technologies, software and data analytics. This trend has led to talent shortages at Europe’s microelectronics industry and left the sector, particularly manufacturing SMEs, fighting to diversify its workforce and strengthen its talent pipeline. As a result, data scientists and engineers with the skills sets to advance microelectronics-based systems that underpin emerging technologies, including IoT, AI and autonomous transportation systems, are needed more than ever and should be the key goal of the EU’s Data Strategy.
SEMI Europe welcomes the Commission’s focus on data literacy and urges the EU and Member States to invest in reskilling and upskilling in high-growth sectors to develop a workforce with a hybrid skill set that is up to the challenge of digitalization. To that end, data literacy and digital skills should be the key objectives of the related programmes and initiatives of the EU, including the upcoming Digital Europe Programme’s advanced digital skills pillar and the newly announced Pact for Skills. Through the development of digital skills in high-value manufacturing sectors, Europe will position itself efficiently as a global leader in harnessing the potential of big data.
Europe has a great opportunity in AI and big data to boost its competitiveness and technological leadership. The new data strategy indicates Europe’s willingness to move forward to capture the huge potential ahead in the rapidly emerging AI and data technologies. SEMI Europe would welcome the opportunity to discuss the policy recommendations with the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. The microelectronics sector is a key enabler and remains ready to work together with all interested stakeholders to develop new avenues of growth to maintain Europe’s technological leadership.
Click here to download SEMI Europe’s full comments on the new Data Strategy for Europe.
Emir Demircan is director, Advocacy and Public Policy, at SEMI Europe.