The Commission has adopted three work programmes for the Digital Europe Programme, outlining the objectives and specific topic areas that will receive a total of €1.98 billion in funding. This first set of work programmes includes strategic investments that will be instrumental in realising the Commission’s goals in making this Europe’s Digital Decade. The Digital Europe Programme aims to bolster Europe’s technological sovereignty and bring digital solutions to market for the benefit of citizens, public administrations, and businesses.
The main work programme, worth €1.38 billion, will focus on investment in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and data spaces, quantum communication infrastructure, advanced digital skills, and the wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society, until the end of 2022. Alongside this main work programme, the Commission published two specific work programmes: the first one focuses on funding in the area of cybersecurity, with a budget of €269 million until the end of 2022; and the second one focuses on the set-up and operation of the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs, with a budget of €329 million, until the end of 2023.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “With the Digital Europe Programme, we are building secure and sustainable digital infrastructures. We are also enabling businesses gain better access to data or use solutions powered by artificial intelligence. The programme also invests to ensure that Europeans can get the right skills to actively participate in the labour market. The aim is that everyone in Europe – citizens, businesses and administrations – can benefit from market-ready technological solutions.”
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, said: “This is Europe’s Digital Decade. By 2030, data, cloud, edge and quantum computing will drive industrial and societal innovation, creating new business models. The €2 billion investment announced today enables European companies – of all sizes and notably startups – to seize opportunities in fast-growing markets. It will also empower European citizens with the skills needed to thrive in a safe digital environment. This strengthens our technological sovereignty.”
The main work programme for the Digital Europe Programme will include investments, such as:
- Deployment of common data spaces (e.g. data spaces for manufacturing, mobility and finance) that will facilitate cross-border data sharing for businesses, including small and medium size businesses (SMEs) and start-ups, and the public sector, as well as the deployment of a federated cloud-to-edge infrastructure and services, i.e. a backbone of digital solutions that will ensure secure data flows;
- Building of testing and experimentation facilities for AI-based solutions in order to boost the use of trusted AI (including use by SMEs and start-ups) to respond to key societal challenges, including climate change and sustainable healthcare (e.g. deploying AI testing facilities for health and smart cities and communities);
- Deployment of a secure quantum communication infrastructure for the EU (EuroQCI) that will offer high resilience against cyber-attacks;
- Set-up and delivery of master courses in key advanced digital technologies to boost digital skills in Europe, including actions such as the Digital Crash Courses for SMEs, as announced in the 2020 Skills Agenda and SME strategy;
- Set-up, operations and evolving and continuous maintenance of digital services supporting cross border interoperability of solutions in support of the public administrations (e.g. European Digital Identity).
The work programme on cybersecurity will see investments in building up advanced cybersecurity equipment, tools and data infrastructures. It will fund the development and best use of knowledge and skills related to cybersecurity, promote sharing of best practices and ensure wide deployment of state–of-the-art cybersecurity solutions across the European economy.
In order to help fulfil its objectives, the Digital Europe Programme will deploy a network of European Digital Innovation Hubs offering access to technology testing and support the digital transformation of private and public organisations all across Europe, including government at national, regional or local level, as appropriate. The European Digital Innovation Hubs will be an important tool in EU policies, in particular the industrial policy and the policy for small and medium businesses and start-ups, to support companies and the public sector in the twin green and digital transitions.
The first calls for the Digital Europe Programme will be published by the end of November, and more calls will be published in 2022. The work programmes will be implemented mainly through grants and procurement. A few actions, such as the topics under the Destination Earth initiative will be implemented through indirect management, with partner organisations procuring for the necessary developments.
The Digital Europe Programme is the first funding programme of the EU focused on bringing digital technology to businesses and citizens. With a planned total budget of €7.5 billion (in current prices) over 7 years, it will accelerate the economic recovery and shape the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy, bringing benefits in particular to small and medium-sized businesses. The Digital Europe Programme will be implemented by means of multiannual work programmes.
The Digital Europe Programme will complement investments under other EU programmes, such as the Horizon Europe, EU4Health, InvestEU, the Connecting Europe Facility, as well as investments under the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The Regulation establishing the Digital Europe Programme was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 11 May 2021, entered into force on the same day, and has applied retroactively since 1 January 2021.
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