This week, many of the most dynamic companies around the globe will descend on northern Germany for Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair. These firms will showcase the cutting-edge technologies behind a new generation of digital factories, smart grids, industrial robots, and advanced materials manufacturing. Yet Hannover Messe is not only about exhibiting products and doing business deals. It is also an opportunity for leaders in government, industry, and the NGO community to discuss critical public policy issues at the intersection of industry and technology.
ITI’s President and CEO Dean Garfield, Director of Global Policy Ashley Friedman and I are in Hannover this week to ensure that the global tech sector is a part of that discussion.
To advance the conversation on these issues, ITI (in collaboration with DIGITALEUROPE and Factory) will host a roundtable discussion at Hannover Messe this Tuesday among key policymakers, business executives, and other thought leaders on forging common approaches to these shared challenges. We are delighted that European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger will headline our discussion, along with Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews and U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Emerson, as well as other senior leaders from industry and government on both sides of the Atlantic.
The rapid, relentless digitization of industry presents a pressing set of policy challenges. Some of these are new flavors of existing challenges. We are coming to see, for example, that privacy and data protection issues may be as relevant in the context of virtual factories and digital supply chains as they are for social media platforms and search engines. Other challenges, however, are new. Companies and governments have a shared interest, for instance, in ensuring that entrepreneurs and small businesses can participate, and that workers have the skills to succeed, in an increasingly digitized economy.
Europe’s current digital agenda provides the perfect frame for this discussion. Under Commissioner Oettinger’s leadership, the European Commission last week issued its Communication on “Digitising European Industry,” a key component of its ambitious Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. The Communication lays out the Commission’s vision for a core part of Europe’s digital future, including the paths it proposes to take in the areas of cross-border data flows, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and standards, among others.
At the same time, the Communication affirms that the goals of enhancing digitization and innovation should be supportive of deeper interaction and integration with businesses and consumers outside of Europe. It notes, importantly, that “[e]mbracing digital technologies will help companies to grow beyond the EU internal market and make the EU an even more attractive location for global investments . . . The openness of the European market should be maintained and developed further in the digital sphere.”
The global tech sector strongly supports the spirit of openness reflected in the Communication, and we welcome the bold steps that the EU is taking to promote innovation and reduce regulatory fragmentation. At the same time, we recognize that technological change raises important public policy considerations for governments, including in the areas of privacy, security, and economic competitiveness. We look forward to working with Commissioner Oettinger, Secretary Pritzker, and government colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic to advance these interests in a way that enables innovation, empowers entrepreneurs, and enhances growth and opportunity, across the Atlantic and around the world.
We’re hopeful that Hannover Messe will be a key part of that journey.