The world has significantly changed since the last version of the European standardisation legislation. In the meanwhile new challenges have appeared requiring the standardisation system to broaden its scope and to be more efficient.
The rapid shortening of innovation cycles and the convergence of technologies across the boundaries of the three European standardisation organisations are a particular challenge. If not able to adapt, the European standardisation system risks becoming irrelevant with companies turning instead to other instruments (as could be seen in the ICT sector) or worse could start to work as a brake on innovation. A dynamic standardisation system is also a pre-condition for the EU to maintain and further reinforce its impact on the setting of standards at global level, where other countries are increasingly seeking to set the rules. Being a first mover on international standardisation gives a competitive advantage that European innovative industries must exploit. In this line it is fundamental to better integrate standardisation within R&D enabling a deeper and faster exploitation of the results whenever possible.
In fields other than "New Approach", European standardisation has not yet fully played the role which it deserves. From an innovation point of view some sectors could benefit from standardisation to reach the market. Services is one area where standards are underexploited.
Europe does not yet reap the maximum benefit from interoperability. Weaknesses in standard-setting, amongst others, prevent digital services and devices used by Europeans from working together as well as they should. The Digital Agenda can only take off if different parts and applications are interoperable and based on standards and open platforms. The lack of formal status of specifications developed by fora and consortia that are widely accepted by all stakeholders prevents Member States from using them for public procurement.
There are profound inequalities between standardisation stakeholders in terms of access to information and technical expertise. For example, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and non-commercial stakeholders rarely have the capacity to take an active part in standardisation work. Despite the consensual mode of establishment of standards, there are risks that standards development may be biased in some cases by an over-representation of specific vested interests.
The main objective is to update European standardisation legislation and policy to face present and future challenges and to better support innovation.
In the short term the goal is to modernise standard setting (making it faster and more inclusive), to extend the use of standardisation as a policy tool to new areas, to arm the Commission with the tools to anticipate standardisation's needs, to enable further integrate standardisation on EU innovation policies.
In a longer term perspective, the initiative should ensure that the standardisation system is able to adapt to the quickly evolving environment and to contribute to Europe’s strategic internal and external objectives (relating, among others, to innovation and technological development).
Through the regulation presented in the standardisation package:
- Extension of the Directive to services
- Simplification and more efficient process for mandates and formal objections
- Member States should support participation of SMEs and non commercial stakeholders
- Financing of ESOs based on performance criteria (quality, speed...)
Through the implementation of the policies announced in the communication attached to the standardisation package:
- Integration of standardisation in the Innovation Partnership proposal
- Creation of annual work programmes for standardisation
- Integration of standardisation in current and future EU and Member States financing programmes for research and innovation
- Peer review by ESOs and NSB to monitor the participation of stakeholders
- Foster the use of fast track deliverables in support of implementation of R&D results