European Data Economy: Between Competition and Regulation

Data and its economic impact permeates all sectors of the economy. The data economy is not a new sector, but more like a challenge for all firms to compete and innovate as part of a new wave of economic value creation.

With data playing an increasingly important role across all sectors of the economy, the results of this report point European policymakers to promote the development and adoption of unified reference architectures. These architectures constitute a technology-neutral and cross-sectoral approach that will enable companies small and large to compete and to innovate—unlocking the economic potential of data capture in an increasingly digitized world.

Data access appears to be less of a hindrance to a thriving data economy due to the net increase in capabilities in data capture, elevation, and analysis. What does prove difficult for firms is discovering existing datasets and establishing their suitability for achieving their economic objectives. Reference architectures can facilitate this process as they provide a framework to locate potential providers of relevant datasets and carry sufficient additional information (metadata) about datasets to enable firms to understand whether a particular dataset, or parts of it, fits their purpose.

Whether third-party data access is suitable to solve a specific business task in the first place ought to be a decision at the discretion of the economic actors involved. As our report underscores, data captured in one context with a specific purpose may not be fit for another context or another purpose. Consequently, a firm has to evaluate case-by-case whether first-party data capture, third-party data access, or a mixed approach is the best solution. This evaluation will naturally depend on whether there is any other firm capturing data suitable for the task that is willing to negotiate conditions for third-party access to this data. Unified data architectures may also lower the barriers for a firm capturing suitable data to engage in negotiations, since its adoption will lower the costs of making the data ready for a successful exchange. Such architectures may further integrate licensing provisions ensuring that data, once exchanged, is not used beyond the agreed purpose. It can also bring in functions that improve the discoverability of potential data providers.

The study is available in English as well as in German for download.

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