Envisioning a European Platform Economy

Studies show that digitisation is the key to growth in European industry. But digitisation comes with many challenges. And the complications of a global pandemic and trade wars between the US and China make an even stronger case for a secure, stable European industry. The partners of the Joint Institute for Innovation Policy (JIIP), including TNO, recently published a paper exploring this complex topic and offering the most viable solutions.

Advice for the future

JIIP is a joint venture of four renowned European Research and Technology Organisations, including TNO. The venture’s work provides evidence-based research and intelligence to support policymaking, with a focus on research and innovation policy.

Recently, TNO (the Netherlands), Joanneum Research (Austria), Tecnalia (Spain), and VTT Technical Research Centre (Finland) united in JIIP published 'Policy Solutions for an Effective Platform Economy: The Battle that Europe Cannot Afford to Lose'. The paper outlines the current and future challenges that European industry is facing. It indicates that Digital Industrial B2B platforms are a critical infrastructure that enable competitiveness of the European Industry, since they connect ecosystems of buyers and suppliers. They can therefore create strong network effects and enable European businesses to become stronger business players.

Sign of the times

Geopolitical and societal disruptions bring the underlying challenges and opportunities of digitisation into clear view. Some geopolitical experts indicate that Europe must become self-supporting in critical supply chains and strive for production sovereignty. That includes re-shoring production capacity and employment for vital sectors, like medicine. Other experts indicate that a global spreading of production and risks is a better solution than re-shoring.

Addressing the challenges

Many SMEs and European sectors, especially traditional ones like construction, struggle with digitisation. And the EU’s high value-add industry is facing strong competition from the US, China, and other countries. Disruptions, such as trade wars or the current pandemic, seem only to sharpen the need to address the challenges and capitalise on global growth potential.

TNO and and the other RTOs involved indicate that digital industrial B2B platforms will be key to achieving flexible, adaptive and more cost-effective European industries to embrace that growth potential.

The B2B connection

The US and China already dominate both the B2C and social media digital domains. However, the paper shows that Europe is well positioned to capitalise on the B2B platform market, and lays out a structure for embracing business opportunities that digital industrial B2B platforms offer. It is a way for Europe to shape the digital industrial B2B platform landscape, while also adopting and respecting European values in this domain.

Suggestions for solutions

TNO and the other RTOs involved developed a list of suggested courses of action to secure Europe’s position as a B2B platform leader. These include:

  • investment in development of underlying key enabling technologies, such as AI, nanotechnology and the quantum internet;
  • development of a European cloud platform (e.g. Gaia-X) to maintain European digital sovereignty;
  • stimulation of data agglomeration into big data via decentralised governance of platform ownership;
  • establishment of a Policy Support Facility to monitor digital industrial B2B platforms and experimentation with underlying technologies;
  • utilisation of digital B2B platforms to enable supply chain robustness; and
  • provision of digital skills development.

The paper outlines the benefits of each of these recommendations, and the actions necessary to realise them.

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  • Innovation policy
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