The information and communication technology (ICT) sector is a key contributor to growth in the EU. The new Task Force – launched by the European Commission – will tackle barriers to competition and the competitiveness of the ICT sector. The meeting kicks off a 5-month debate on challenges to ICT producers and users, in particular on the challenges and opportunities created by the convergence of digital networks, content and devices. It will identify major obstacles for competitiveness of Europe’s ICT industry and for the completion of the internal market for this sector. The Task Force will recommend possible policy responses. It will deliver its report to the Commission by the end of the year. The ICT Task Force is composed of high-level representatives of the ICT industry and of civil society. This is one of several Commission initiatives that aim to help create a more favourable environment for business in the EU.
Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industrial policy, said: “This Task Force should provide us with new ideas and coherent recommendations to promote the competitiveness of the Europe’s ICT industry. This is an important element of our new industrial policy.”
Viviane Reding, the Information Society and Media Commissioner, stressed: “The ICT industry is crucial to Europe‘s economic recovery, and a strategic, market-oriented co-operation of the EU institutions with the private sector is the key to its successful development. With the ICT Task Force, we want to ensure that Europe’s ICT industry keeps its leading role in the world. Jointly, we will focus our work on facilitating cross-border competition in Europe, on removing barriers for a true internal market for online content services, and on combining more effectively public and private research efforts to spur ICT investment.”
The ICT Task Force will address the following topics:
This working group will identify potential reasons for the divergence with leading regions. Topics to be covered will include the adaptability of enterprises to changing technologies, the impact of the ICT uptake on the workforce, the adequacy of ICT education for Europe’s workforce, and the importance of standards and ICT interoperability.
IPR for competitiveness and innovation
This working group will assess the contributions that Intellectual Property makes to Europe’s economies; to study the link between IP, R&D and innovation; to explore the scope, causes and impact of piracy; the importance of standards and ICT interoperability
Innovation in R&D, manufacturing and services
This working group will consider three distinct elements of innovation: R&D, manufacturing and services (i.e. turning the result of R&D into value-added products and services). More specifically, in the R&D space, the group will consider issues such as how to prioritize R&D in line with Lisbon and i2010 targets.
SMEs and entrepreneurship
This working group will seek to identify the optimal business environment for ICT/SME success. Issues to be addressed will include entrepreneurial capacity, e-skills, access to finances, start-up and innovation support, the role of patents, the vertical and horizontal clustering within industries and between larger and smaller companies, cooperation with academia and necessary improvements to the regulatory environment, all as they relate to SMEs.
Skills and employability
This working group will focus on three closely inter-related issues in this context:
(1) how best to interest future generations in the process of technology innovation;
(2) how to apply ICTs to transform the way these generations learn and work (i.e. how they obtain, manage and share knowledge); and
(3) how to create an environment that attracts and retains the highly-skilled.
Achieving a truly single market
This working group will consider how to promote ICT innovation in Europe’s internal market. Recommendations will be made with the aim of making the European market more attractive for competitors, for enhancing effective competition and for developing further incentives to encourage ICT companies.
The ICT sector contributes 5.3% of EU‘s GDP and 3.6% of its jobs. It also accounts for 20% of economy-wide labour productivity growth. Despite the burst of the Internet bubble in 2001, the ICT sector continues to achieve above-average growth and is still the EU’s most innovative and research-intensive sector, accounting for 25% of the total EU research effort in the business sector.
The setting up of the Task Force was announced in the Communication on Industrial Policy from October 2005 (see IP/05/1225), which aims to address the competitiveness of the EU manufacturing sector and to create a more favourable business environment.
The recommendations by the ICT Task Force areas will reinforce the activities undertaken under the umbrella of the i2010 initiative – a European Information Society for Growth and Employment, launched by the Commission in July 2005 (see IP/05/643).
The Task Force is co-chaired by Heinz Zourek, the Director-General for DG Enterprise & Industry, and Fabio Colasanti, the Director-General for DG Information Society & Media.
Task Force membership reflects a balance between industry and civil society. The Commission in addition invites all interested parties to take part in the debate via online contributions.