On November 25th, 2020, the European Commission (EC), the executive body of the European Union (EU), presented its first regulation proposal: the EU ‘Data Governance Act’ to foster data-sharing mechanisms across the EU. If the proposal will get the approval of both the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the two legislative branches of the bloc, it will become the first piece of legislation that underpins a real European data strategy.

The EU policy envisions the creation of a single market for the handling of data, where both public and private organisations can share and make use of trustworthy information. More specifically, the EC regulation wants to make sure of the full exploitation of the data that is generated within the EU and that nonetheless is not used widely due to national (Member States) data protection regulations of intellectual property, or sensitive information.

Moreover, to concretely facilitate information sharing, the EC will launch several ‘data spaces’ (with a total investment of €2 billion), which will include health, environment, energy, agriculture, mobility, finance, manufacturing, public administration, and skills. These, as argued by the Commission, will guarantee an improved flow of information amongst EU Member States.

With this premise, particular attention needs to be put on universities, which must take an increasingly predominant role as knowledge generators within our societies. Universities indeed have the potential to be the leaders of innovation in our cities through their research activities, and by further connecting their research to local issues.

In addition, the EU has also created an economically favourable environment both for universities and businesses to cooperate. Firstly, the EC has recently launched its ‘Recovery plan for Europe’, which, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will allow unprecedented investments of over € 1.8 trillion in the EU for the years to come. Interesting to notice that the Commission and its Member States have agreed to invest a substantial part of this capital in research for innovation – which will be mostly directed to universities – and for climate and digital transition – which will be mostly aimed at businesses.

Secondly, the EU has also agreed on a plan to make its economy greener and more sustainable, namely the EU Green Deal, that entails another package of over € 100 billion for the period 2021-2027, mainly intended for the industry and those businesses that want to undergo a transition to environmentally-friendly technologies. 

Photo by Min An from Pexels

It is needless to say, that the EU has put a solid basis for universities and city stakeholders to cooperate, both through the regulation proposal of a ‘Data Governance Act’ to create a single market for data and the EC’s investments in research, digital and green transition for the European economy. This will give the opportunity both to businesses and universities to gain momentum in their activities, and cooperation between the two can lead to unprecedented outcomes. Now, it is up to them to live up to the challenge of making our cities greener, more liveable, and technological, and to take advantage of the favourable legal and economic environment. Times could not be better!

Authored by: Mario Ceccarelli

Edited by: Jose Villagran Polo

Key resources:

Wray, Sarah. “What does the EU’s Data Governance Act mean for smart cities?” Cities Today, December 4, 2020. https://cities-today.com/what-does-the-eus-data-governance-act-mean-for-smart-cities/

European Commission. “Recovery Plan for Europe” Key Documents, November 11, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/recovery-plan-europe_en#background

European Commission. “A European Green Deal” Key Documents, December 11, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en

Featured photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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