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ICT standardisation

ICT (information and communication technologies) standards play an essential role in achieving interoperability of new technologies and can bring significant benefits to both industry and consumers. They help ICT markets remain open and allow consumers the widest choice of products.

What is the EU's role in ICT standardisation?

Standardisation is an essential component of industrial competiveness. Regulation 1025/2012 on European standardisation sets the legal framework in which the actors in standardisation (the European Commission, European standardisation organisations, industry, SMEs and societal stakeholders) operate.

In the last decades, many of the most commonly used ICT technical specifications are produced by forums and consortiums that have become leading ICT standards development bodies. Article 13 of the Regulation allows the Commission to identify ICT technical specifications to be eligible for referencing in public procurement. This allows public authorities to make use of the full range of specifications when buying IT hardware, software and services, allowing for more competition in the field and reducing the risk of lock-in to proprietary systems.

The Commission financially supports the work of the 3 European standardisation organisations

EU-funded research and innovation projects also make their results available to the standardisation work of several standards-setting organisations.

The Communication on ICT Standardisation Priorities

The digitisation of the global economy and society affects all sectors. It is at the heart of the EU’s political agenda and is necessary if we are to maintain our competitiveness. Having common ICT standards is one of the measures needed to ensure that European industries are at the forefront of developing and exploiting ICT technologies: they ensure interoperability and guarantee that such technologies work smoothly and reliably together. This will become increasingly important as in the future, many more devices will be connected to each other - ranging from cars and transportation systems, to appliances and eHealth systems.

With the Communication on ICT Standardisation Priorities the Commission proposes to focus standard-setting resources and communities on 5 priority areas: 5G, Internet of Things, cloud computing, cybersecurity and data technologies because they are essential for wider EU competitiveness. Action in these areas can accelerate digitisation and have an immediate impact on competitiveness in domains such as eHealth, intelligent transport systems and connected/automated vehicles, smart homes and cities, and advanced manufacturing.

The Communication encourages the take up of the right ICT standards as one of the deliverables of the Digital Single Market Strategy adopted in 2015. However, priority setting alone does not suffice. Success depends on a high-level commitment to standardisation from a broad stakeholder base. This includes industry, standard-setting organisations and the research community.

This Communication will build on and complement the European Multi-stakeholders Platform, the ICT Rolling Plan on ICT Standardisation and the Annual Union Work Programme for European Standardisation as delivery mechanisms for standards and standardisation deliverables

The European Multi Stakeholder Platform on ICT Standardisation

A European Multi Stakeholder Platform on ICT Standardisation has been set up to advise the Commission on matters relating to the implementation of ICT standardisation policy, including priority-setting in support of legislation and policies, and the identification of specifications developed by global ICT standards development organisations.

The platform also advises on the elaboration and implementation of the Rolling Plan on ICT standardisation (see below).

Members of the platform include representatives of EU and EFTA countries, European and international standard developing bodies, organisations active in Europe in the field of ICT standardisation development, and organisations representing industry, SMEs, consumers and societal stakeholders.

To support the Commission’s commitment to 'help Europe's industry lead the twin transitions towards climate neutrality and digital leadership', a multi stakeholder platform study group on circular economy was formed in 2020. The group authored an exhaustive report on standardisation activities (on-going or needed) relevant to the circular economy that served as a basis for a new circular economy chapter for the Rolling Plan 2021.

The Rolling plan for ICT standardisation

The rolling plan for ICT standardisation takes a unique look at standardisation activities in the field of ICT by linking them to EU legislation and policies. The 2023 edition includes two new chapters focused on novel technologies where standardisation is increasingly important, namely Metaverse and Quantum Technologies. A new chapter on Pandemic preparedness is also included, building on the former COVID-19 chapter and extending its scope. Additionally, the former chapter on education, digital skills and digital learning has been split into two, one focusing on digital skills and the other one on digital learning.  

There are also chapters that have undergone substantial modifications, highlighting among others the new section 'Local Digital Twins' on the Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities chapter, the updates on the Cybersecurity chapter, and the updated actions in the Digitalising European Industry chapter. The chapter on 5G now explicitly looks forward to the transition towards 6G and references the European partnership on ‘Smart Networks and Services beyond 5G and towards 6G’ under the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme started in 2021.

Moreover, new legislative acts and proposals such as the Data Act, Digital Services Act (DSA), Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Cyber Resilience Act (CRA) have been referenced in the rolling plan.

Complete list of rolling plans