Building a European data economy

Building a European data economy is part of the Digital Single Market strategy. The initiative aims at enabling the best possible use of the potential of digital data to benefit the economy and society. In this initiative, the Commission intends to unlock the re-use potential of different types of data and its free flow across borders to achieve a European digital single market.

General need for action

Digital data is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, job creation and societal progress in general.

The value of the EU data economy was more than €285 billion in 2015, representing over 1.94% of the EU GDP. Due to a year-on-year growth rate of 5.03 %, this value increased to €300 billion representing 1.99 % of the GDP in 2016. If favourable policy and legislative conditions are put in place in time and investments in ICT are encouraged, the value of the European data economy may increase to €739 billion by 2020, representing 4% of the overall EU GDP.

As foreseen in the mid-term review of the Digital Single Market strategy, the Commission intends to support the creation of a common European data space — a seamless digital area with the scale to enable the development of new products and services based on data. Data should be available for re-use as much as possible, as a key source of innovation and growth. The measures announced in the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’ cover different type of data and therefore have different levels of intensity:

These initiatives are linked to the Commission proposal for a Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data in the EU (13 September 2017), that will ensure, once adopted, that no barriers such as data localisation restrictions will impede the development of the European data economy.

Facing the challenge

Promoting the re-use of public and publicly funded data

In the EU, the public sector is one of the most data-intensive sectors. Thus it holds vast amounts of data, known as Public Sector Information (PSI) which, depending on national access regimes, may be open. The re-use of these data can contribute to the growth of the European economy, the development of artificial intelligence or the fight against societal challenges.

The re-use of these data is governed by the Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information. The European Commission aims to encourage access to and re-use of public and publicly funded data through the review of this Directive. To support this review, a public consultation was carried out in the second half of 2017.

On the basis of the conclusions of the consultation, the European Commission has published a proposal for a revision of the PSI Directiveto contribute with more public and publicly funded data to the creation of a common data space in the EU. The proposal seeks to:

  • Stimulate the publishing of dynamic data and the uptake of application programming interfaces (APIs);
  • Limit the exceptions that allow public bodies to charge for the re-use of their data more than the marginal costs of dissemination;
  • Expand the scope of the Directive to:
    • certain data held by public undertakings in the utilities and transport sectors and
    • research data resulting from public funding;
  • Strengthen the transparency requirements for public–private agreements involving public sector information, avoiding exclusive arrangements.

Additionally, the Commission further develops Open Access policy by updating the 2012 Recommendation to Member States on access to and preservation of scientific information. It advises Member States on how to develop open access policies. This Recommendation has been reviewed to better reflect developments in areas such as research data management, or incentive schemes and reward systems for researchers. It also reflects ongoing developments of the European Open Science Cloud, and takes into account the increased capacity of data analytics.

Assessing the need for further action on access to and re-use of private sector data

In the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’, the Commission defines a series of key principles to be considered so as to make data sharing a success for all parties involved, in Business‑to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Government (B2G) situations. 

The Commission aims to:

  • to ensure fair and competitive markets for Internet of Things (IoT) objects and for products and services that rely on non-personal machine-generated data created by such objects. The Commission suggests a number of draft principles for companies to consider when drafting relevant contracts;
  • to assist public bodies in accessing and re-using private sector data, to guide policy decisions or improve public services. It considers that the respect of the principles contained in the Communication would support the supply of private sector data under preferential conditions.

The Commission will continue to discuss with stakeholders and assess whether these principles and possible codes of conduct in B2B and B2G data-sharing arrangements are sufficient to achieve the goals intended and take appropriate action if needed.

Removing data localisation restrictions: the free flow of data

Free flow of data means the freedom to process and store data in an electronic format anywhere within the EU. This is necessary for the development and use of innovative data technologies and services. Thus, the proposal for a Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data will lay the foundations of the common European data space. This Regulation introduces the principle of the free flow of non-personal data across borders into EU law, thereby establishing the free movement of non-personal data as the General Data Protection Regulation does for personal data.

In addition to the free flow of non-personal data in the EU, the measures announced in the Communication ‘Towards a common European data space’ will unleash the full power of the EU’s data economy, boost the competitiveness of European businesses and further modernise public services.

Useful links

Proposal for a revision of the Directive on the re-use of public sector information

Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information

Communication and Staff Working Document

Proposal for a Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data


  • Press release and MEMO (Q&A) on the 2018 Data Package ‘Towards a common European data space’

Visual material

  • Factsheet on the proposal for a revised PSI Directive
  • Factsheet on the free flow of non-personal data
  • Factsheet on building a European data economy

Public consultations

  • Synopsis Report of the public consultation on the review of the PSI Directive
  • Synopsis report of the public consultation on ‘Building the European data economy’


AArticle Source:

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No GA727816.

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