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Johannes Bahrke, European Commission Coordinating Spokesperson for Digital Economy, Research and Innovation spoke to Open Access Government about the next generation of microchips and industrial cloud/edge computing technologies

In July 2021, the European Commission heralded two new Industrial Alliances: the Alliance for Processors and Semiconductor technologies, and the European Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud. The alliances bring together businesses, Member State representatives, academia, users plus research and technology organisations. Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, explained the remarkable opportunity these both present in Europe:

“Cloud and edge technologies present a tremendous economic potential for citizens, businesses and public administrations, for example in terms of increased competitiveness and meeting industry-specific needs. Microchips are at the heart of every device we use nowadays. From our mobile phones to our passports, these small components bring a wealth of opportunities for technological advancements. Supporting innovation in these critical sectors is therefore crucial and can help Europe leap ahead together with like-minded partners.” (1)

More recently, Johannes Bahrke, European Commission Coordinating Spokesperson for Digital Economy, Research and Innovation spoke to Open Access Government to describe how these two alliances will advance the next generation of microchips and industrial cloud/edge computing technologies. But will these both provide the EU with the capabilities needed to strengthen its critical digital infrastructures, products and services?

We also learn from Johannes about the extent to which Cloud and edge technologies present tremendous economic potential for citizens, businesses and public administrations, for example, in terms of increased competitiveness and meeting industry-specific needs. Johannes also enlightens us about how microchips are at the heart of every device we use today and why supporting innovation in these critical sectors is crucial and can help Europe leap ahead together with like-minded partners.

Tell us how the new Industrial Alliances: the Alliance for Processors and Semiconductor technologies, and the European Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud will advance the next generation of microchips and industrial cloud/edge computing technologies.

Europe can play a leading role on the world stage when it comes to technology. Europe’s digital sovereignty rests on three pillars: computing power, control by Europeans over their data, and secure connectivity. To this end, Europe’s capability to design and produce the world’s most powerful processors must be increased, innovative European cloud solutions that guarantee data safety need to be created, and governments, firms and citizens need to have access to high-speed and secure broadband networks.

Pursuing this model of open strategic autonomy is important to develop technologies that meet Europe’s requirements and principles (e.g. technologies that are human-centric, privacy-preserving, non-discriminatory), are more resilient and reach our ambitious emission targets. We need to continue reaping the benefits of free and fair trade with well-functioning and sustainable global value chains, but avoid critical and excessive dependencies on key inputs and technologies. To this end, the Commission launched on 19th July 2021 two new alliances, the Alliance on Processors and Semiconductor technologies, and the Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud.

Will these both provide the EU with the capabilities needed to strengthen its critical digital infrastructures, products and services?

The Alliance on Processors and Semiconductor technologies will help ensure Europe’s industry seizes the opportunities brought about by the strong demand for powerful chips and microprocessors due to the digital transformation. Thereby, it contributes to meeting the objective set in the EU’s digital targets for the current decade, to reach at least 20% of world production in value in cutting-edge and sustainable semiconductors in Europe by 2030.

The Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud will strengthen Europe’s position on cloud and edge technologies and serve the specific needs of EU businesses and the public sector. The Alliance will foster the development and deployment of trusted and secure European next-generation cloud and edge services, benefitting cloud users that need to process sensitive data. Personal health data of patients across the EU is an example of such data. By bringing together relevant industrial players from across Europe, the Alliance will also help to strengthen the EU’s industrial capacities in disruptive cloud and edge technologies which are at the centre of the EU’s Digital Decade and investment programmes.

To what extent do Cloud and edge technologies present tremendous economic potential for citizens, businesses and public administrations, for example, in terms of increased competitiveness and meeting industry-specific needs?

The digital transformation of the EU economy depends on the availability and uptake of secure, energy-efficient, affordable and high-quality data processing capacities, such as those offered by cloud infrastructures and services, both in data centres and at the edge. Europe has an unprecedented market opportunity to meet the demand for the next generation of cloud infrastructure, made of more distributed forms of computing and intelligence, including edge computing. This is why the Digital Decade has set an ambitious target of deploying 10,000 climate-neutral highly secure edge nodes by 2030 that should be deployed in the EU and distributed in a way that guarantees access to data with low latency. The availability of secure and trusted data processing capacities, in turn, spur the digital transformation and cloud adoption of businesses that should reach 75% by 2030.

Tell us how microchips are at the heart of every device we use nowadays and also why supporting innovation in these critical sectors is crucial and can help Europe leap ahead together with like-minded partners. Semiconductors and processors are strategic assets for key industrial value chains in digital and beyond. With the digital transformation, new markets for the chip industry are emerging such as highly automated cars, cloud, IoT, connectivity (5G/6G), space/defence, computing capacities and supercomputers. European industry needs to position itself to seize these opportunities.

President von der Leyen announced a new European Chips Act in her 2021 State of the Union address: “the aim is to jointly create a state-of-the-art European chip ecosystem, including production. That ensures our security of supply and will develop new markets for ground-breaking European tech. (…) This is also a matter of tech sovereignty”, the President said. From the political declaration by the Member States on a European Initiative on processors and semiconductor technologies 2020 to the European Alliance launched in July 2021 and the creation of a possible second IPCEI, the entire European toolbox is being mobilised to achieve a coherent European vision and strategy.

Sustainable battery production in Europe

In other comment from the European Commission, you may like to read our interview with European Commission Spokesperson for Internal Market, Defence Industry, Space, Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, Sonya Gospodinova. In this in-depth interview, Sonya tells us what we need to know about sustainable battery production in Europe, here.

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