More interoperability needed to boost the European ICT industry's competitiveness

A strong priority for interoperability on all fronts is necessary to increase the competitiveness of the European information and communication industries. A report, adopted yesterday by the European Commission's Task Force on ICT competitiveness and uptake, recommends a strong focus on developing digital and entrepreneurial skills, strengthening the internal market, reducing patent costs, and the promotion of lead markets through public procurement as well. The ICT Task Force is one of several Commission actions undertaken to create a more favourable EU business environment under the Growth and Jobs initiative. The Commission will follow up the ICT Task Force's recommendations in 2007 with proposals for specific actions, such as designing a long-term eSkills strategy and promoting interoperability.

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industrial Policy, said: "The Task Force has delivered a clear picture of where effort should be concentrated to boost the competitiveness of the ICT sector, which is the backbone of innovation and growth. Giving a priority to interoperability is of the greatest importance to make the sector more viable in the long term and to be of service to the entire European business world. In particular, SMEs will profit from an enhanced uptake of ICTs."

Viviane Reding, Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, said: "A dynamic ICT sector and greater use of ICT by businesses and society at large are key to improving the overall European economy. I am glad to see the Task Force's recommendations endorse the good work already taking place to promote ICT uptake and to create a single regulatory environment for the digital economy under our i2010 initiative."

The ICT Task Force was launched on 6 June 2006. Yesterday's meeting concluded a five-month debate resulting in the following principal recommendations:

  • ICT uptake: As ICT investment is a strong driver of economic efficiency and productivity growth, the Task Force calls for structural reforms for a more flexible production environment, continued investment in next-generation networks and services and online public services, as well as creating a charter of consumer rights in the digital environment.
  • Growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship: Train entrepreneurial skills, raise firms' awareness of the benefits of ICTs, and improve access to finance.
  • A single regulatory environment: Deliver a regulatory environment that facilitates convergence and an inclusive information society, foster the creation of an internal market for knowledge-intensive services, and review copyright levies.
  • Intellectual property: Given the diversity of IPR models in the ICT sector, wide consultation should take place before changing EU legislation. Also, limit criminalisation for IPR infringement to wilful counterfeiting of trademarks, copyright infringement and design piracy. Promote the adoption of the London Protocol, and reduce patent costs.
  • Innovation, investment and finance in ICT research to face globalisation: Exchange best innovation practices, stimulate research through tax credit schemes, support collaborative research via European Technology Platforms and Joint Technology Initiatives, support the development of lead markets through public procurement, secure a level playing-field for the European semiconductor industry, create a venture capital-friendly environment, and further reform of State Aid policy.
  • Standards and interoperability: As industry is primarily responsible for technical interoperability support for Commission efforts to address legal and semantic interoperability, promote effective conformance systems, and develop procurement policies that promote interoperability (see IP/06/1403).
  • Skills and employability: As growing e-skills gaps limit innovation and ICT uptake increase investment in teachers' professional development and teacher support mechanisms, increase collaboration between industry, governments, employers and education institutions, and continue efforts in incorporating entrepreneurship into educational curricula.

These recommendations will better prioritise EU action and reinforce existing activities under i2010, including the ICT part of the EU's framework programme for research. The soon-to-be-launched ICT policy support programme within the Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme will also stimulate innovation and competitiveness through the wider uptake of ICTs by citizens, governments and SMEs, responsible for most for Europe's innovation.

For further information download the full report from http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/taskforce.htm

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