Speaker at Quo vadis, European Standardization

Speaker at Quo vadis, European Standardization

2022-02-21 review of event

Quo vadis, European standardization?

With the EU standardization strategy published on 2.2.22, the EU Commission aims to support the European Union's technological sovereignty, bring innovations to market faster and ensure that European and international standards are in line with the EU's strategic interests and values.

Johannes Koch
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More than 950 participants accepted the invitation of DIN and DKE on 14.02.22 to learn about the objectives and measures of the strategy at a virtual event. Moderated by Sibylle Gabler, Head of Government Relations at DIN e.V., and Johannes Koch, Head of Standardization Policy and Cooperation at DKE, Germany's role in implementation was discussed with representatives from politics and industry.

Using the EU standardization system as a lever

Kerstin Jorna, Director General of the European Commission's Directorate General for the Internal Market (DG GROW), began her keynote speech on the presentation of the standardization strategy with the words "we have a really great system". The European standardization system, she said, is leading in international comparison and has many advantages, including a broad stakeholder participation of more than 100,000 experts from all over Europe, as well as its harmonizing function, in which one European Standard replaces 34 national standards - "the heart of the Single Market". However, with far-reaching goals in view of the green and digital transformation as well as geopolitical challenges, the question must be asked whether this system can still be improved.

The EU standardization strategy therefore aims, among other things, to accelerate the standardization process in order to bring technologies to market more quickly, to ensure broad stakeholder participation, including from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and civil society, to prioritize standardization work and coordinate it internationally, and to attract new experts to participate in standardization. To achieve these goals, coordination within the Commission and at EU ministerial level needs to be improved. To this end, the Standardization Strategy announces the establishment of an EU Excellence Hub for standards within the Commission as well as the appointment of a Chief Standardization Officer. In addition to the provision of 11 million euros for prioritized standardization projects ("urgency standards"), such as for the transport of hydrogen, standardization must be taken into account when spending research funds.

Darstellung einer europäischen Flagge und einem Kompass in Vordergrund
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Standards and specifications for a strong Europe

In 2022 the European Commission has published its European Standardization Strategy.

This strategy is intended to make the European standardization system agile, efficient and future-proof. In this way, the EU Commission wants to strengthen European industry in global competition and bring innovations to market more quickly. In addition, the aim is to ensure that European and international standards are in line with the strategic interests and values of the EU.

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Keep European values in the standardization of key technologies

In the first panel, Gwenole Cozigou, Director of Ecosystem III in DG GROW at the European Commission, Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of the European Parliament, Dr. Daniela Brönstrup, Head of the Digital and Innovation Policy Department at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK), and DIN President Dr. Ulrich Stoll discussed how the EU standardization strategy can help key technologies from Europe to become world leaders with the help of European values.

The panellists welcomed the strategy and the political importance that the EU Commission is herewith assigning to European standardization. "It has brought the preoccupation with standardization to the right strategic level," said Dr. Stoll. In order to strengthen Europe's position in the international competition for key technologies, more efficiency and assertiveness are needed. Common needs for future standards must be identified at an early stage. According to Dr. Stoll and Dr. Brönstrup, one instrument for identifying these is the development of standardization roadmaps, which represent through the involvement of a broad variety of stakeholders the existing standardization landscape in convergent topics and allow to identify concrete standardization needs.

Mr. Cozigou pointed out that other players have become more active internationally. European stakeholders would therefore have to jointly define goals and set priorities. This, he said, is a task of the High-Level Forum, which will address standardization annually at ministerial level. This political recognition should help to avoid losing influence in international standardization and to protect European values. The European values to be upheld are primarily "inclusion, liberal democracy and sustainability," said MEP Bütikofer. Dr. Brönstrup added: "The standardization system also conveys our democratic values. [...] We have a consensus-based, a democratic, a transparent system, and we should put that to the front."

All panellists agreed that the key to an international consideration of European values was an understanding of the strategic importance of standardization and more coordination. The latter must take place within the EU, but also with international partners, for example within the framework of the German G7 Council Presidency, the EU-US Trade and Technology Council talks (TTC) and with Japan. At the same time, European experts must be supported in getting involved in international standardization, e.g. through training and further education, but also financially. Experts are available, but money and time budgets are extremely short, according to Dr. Stoll. Couzigou also believes that the member states have a responsibility in this matter. Moreover, Dr. Brönstrup also sees the business community as key: "Standardization must be recognized as a strategic issue at the top of the companies". This message has already reached the top of the German Ministry of Economics, explained Bütikofer. Minister Robert Habeck had reported him "that he is very interested in it because he knows the strategic importance of standardization."

According to Commission representative Cozigou, the EU standardization strategy now needs to be implemented together. Some criteria for its successful implementation will be the number of European experts in international standardization, European-led initiatives, the application of international standards in the EU, and the percentage of international standards that are co-drafted by European experts.

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Importance of standardization: benefits and advantages

Standards are of considerable benefit - this is true at national, European and international level. For consumers and users as well as for industry, science and the state. Standards and specifications ensure safety and pave the way for innovative technologies.

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For a resilient, green, digital EU single market

In the second panel, Sophie Müller, Deputy Head of Unit of the Standards Policy in DG GRO at the, European Commission, Dr. Thomas Zielke, Head of the Unit for National and International Standardization and Patent Policy at the BMWK, Stefan Dräger, Chairman of the Executive Board of Drägerwerk AG, and DKE President Roland Bent discussed how the standardization system can be used effectively to contribute to the green and digital transformation and the resilience of the Single Market.

Mrs. Müller began the discussion by emphasizing the great importance of standardization for the European Green Deal and the Digital Decade: "We have seen that implementation will not be possible without standards," said Mrs. Müller. The early collaboration with the standardization community and the member states is necessary, also because standards are part of the business case for important investments. Standards are often essential in determining whether a technology will be further developed and rolled out, the Commission representative explained, pointing out that standardization work often did not start early enough in the past.

Dr. Zielke emphasized that standards accelerate the green and digital transformation (twin transition), because "standards are a pacemaker and thus a competitive factor" for Europe and Germany. They have a unifying effect and can mediate between individual countries. The technical solutions in standards would maintain Germany's competitiveness and role as a technological pacesetter.

Following on from this, Mr. Bent explained that the importance of standardization in the implementation of the Twin Transition is greater than it seems at first glance. The global economy must undergo a transformation, and so must for example the hydrogen sector. The energy supply must be guaranteed from renewable energies. To fulfill climate neutrality, we are heading for an "All Electric Society." This would include automation and digitization, and at the same time connect all sectors in our society and economy, which requires international standards that create interoperability between the system and the sectors. For Mr. Bent, the market-driven nature of standardization ensures that standards reflect the state of the art and that it is constantly developed further. Therefore, this market-driven nature must be maintained at all costs.

According to Mrs. Müller, technical rule-making via common specifications, hence bypassing the standardization organizations, and which is currently being discussed as part of the creation and revision of several European harmonization laws, should only be considered in extreme emergencies and only as a transitional solution. Rather, working on common solutions for the system is the preferred way to go. Mrs. Müller reinforces that no pure top-down approach is intended. Instead, the strategy with its various elements is to be seen as a "declaration of love" to the European standardization system, as well as a commitment to the national delegation principle and the stakeholder-driven approach. The Commission will rely on the "New Approach" and standards in its legislative projects. Through the High Level Forum and the Excellence Hub, standardization priorities will be jointly developed and initiated.

Mr. Dräger urged that the problems with the intended faster development of harmonized standards should not be seen solely with the standardization organizations. The coordination process after their adoption in the relevant body, including evaluation by Harmonized Standard Consultants (HAS Consultants) and listing of the reference in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), are lengthy and difficult, he claimed. In his opinion, the standardization strategy is not addressing these challenges.

The panellists agreed that the goal must remain to acquire new experts for standardization work in order to develop high-quality standards. Dr. Zielke suggested that the Member States should be more involved in the further process so that the different economic structures, from which the experts in Europe come, could be taken into account. There are still some questions that need to be answered during the implementation of the strategy, such as standardization support and which standardization topics are not covered.

Implementation and international outlook

The discussions were summed up by Michael Teigeler, Managing Director of DKE, and Christoph Winterhalter, Chairman of the Board of DIN e. V. Both welcomed the fact that standardization is receiving the appropriate political attention in the context of geopolitical competition, and emphasized their fundamental support as German members in CEN, CENELEC and ETSI respectively for the implementation of the EU standardization strategy. It offers "the right initial approaches to add a necessary strategic component for Europe's competitiveness, technological sovereignty and ecological ambitions to the business-driven European standardization process", explained Winterhalter.

Mr. Teigeler noted the close cooperation between the EU Commission and standardization as being of utmost importance: "The public-private partnership must continue to be actively practiced,". He added that standardization is also prepared to talk about faster solutions to innovation issues. "It is important that standardization maintains relevance and that technical rules are not developed via an Excellence Hub in the context of Common Specifications". Rather a discussion should be stimulated to combine the technical know-how of an Excellence Hub with that of technical standardization experts to then develop standards in the bodies of CEN, CENELEC and ETSI.

Winterhalter pointed out that identifying priorities jointly in standardization has always been recommended by the standardization organizations.  He emphasizes: "We very much welcome the fact that the Commission is intensifying its own opportunities to use standardization as a transfer instrument for research results, as well as contributing to education and building competences". The aim is to jointly identify and prioritize opportunities and challenges, and to shape international rules of the game via European-style standards.

In its London Declaration, the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and its members committed to supporting the achievement of the United Nations' sustainability goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. This should ensure that new and revised standards consider the latest climate science. The declaration has been also signed by CEN, CENELEC and IEC. "This will be a tour de force and will not be possible without broad support from politics and industry," Winterhalter said. "From there, it is essential to also sensitize the decision-maker level about the strategic importance of standardization and to get them around the table."

In Germany, DIN and DKE have already created initial structures for analyzing the contribution of standardization to topics such as Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, resource efficiency and the circular economy together with industry, and for developing recommendations for action via standardization roadmaps and standardization maps. In this way, Europe's economy can not only actively shape the green and digital transformation in terms of the implementation of the European standardization strategy through strong participation of European experts in prioritized standardization activities, but also benefit from it in the long term.

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