“SMEs participation is key for a successful and inclusive European Standardisation System that promotes EU values”: the SBS ICT Forum 2022

  • On 29 September, the SBS ICT Forum on “Digital Sovereignty” brought together high-level policymakers, standardisation experts, and tech businesses to discuss the role of digital sovereignty in strengthening and supporting a vibrant SME ecosystem.

  • The goal of the annual forum is to bring together policymakers, experts, and SMEs to discuss ongoing ICT standardisation activities that are relevant to SMEs.

  • Over 100 participants who engaged actively throughout the webinar made it a highly successful online event.

The 2022 edition of the SBS ICT Forum closed with a clear conclusion: increasing SME engagement in standardisation is the way forward to ensure a vibrant SME ecosystem that boosts Europe’s digital sovereignty.

The annual SBS ICT Forum, held on 29 September by DIGITAL SME and Small Business Standards (SBS), consisted of two high-level panel sessions which saw a fruitful and energised exchange of ideas between a wide array of stakeholders. The event included a keynote speech from Gwenole Cozigou (Director for Industrial Transformation and Advanced Value Chains in DG GROW), Emilio Davila Gonzalez (Head of Sector ICT Standardisation in DG CONNECT) and several members of DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group AI and Task Force Data, as well as representatives of the European Standardisation Organisations (ETSI and CEN-CENELEC).

Panelists discussed digital sovereignty from the perspective of strategic autonomy, where European values are promoted through a fair and transparent standardisation framework. In his speech, Gwenole Cozigou spoke of the importance of standardisation to solidify the European approach to AI:

We need our EU values to be respected and reflected in our standards. We do not want standards in AI to be used for mass surveillance and we want to maintain our digital infrastructure secure. Achieving technological sovereignty is difficult but it can be reached if European organisations take a key role. It is important that societal stakeholders are also involved in standardisation processes in new and emerging technological domains to defend their interests and rights, and ensure inclusiveness. Thus, we strongly advocate for SMEs to be involved in the standardisation processes.

The need to allocate resources to allow increased SME participation in standardisation is well acknowledged by the European Commission, as reflected once more in Cozigou’s speech:

Committing to standardisation needs resources. We cannot expect SMEs to be involved in standardisation while they are struggling to survive given the supply chain crisis and rising energy prices. We work with associations [such as SBS and the European DIGITAL SME Alliance] to support SMEs.

SMEs are already providing innovative solutions that contribute to the European Commission’s vision for the Twin Transitions (digital transformation and green transition). While big companies protect business models and collude, SMEs bring innovation to the market. For that, the legal framework and standardisation will protect SMEs from risks and provide certainty, promoting even more innovation among them. In that respect, European legislation can lead the way in redesigning supply chains, where the focus on European values and production is prominent.

DIGITAL SME and SBS will continue to promote SME participation in ICT standardisation, in AI and all other applicable sectors.