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Modelling the European data economy

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A model for businesses coveting a share of the EU data economy

As much as we’ve heard about Big Data and the revolution it embodies, the so-called EU data economy is still in its infancy. To those willing to jump in, the EuDEco project provides recommendations based, among others, on the analysis of the key activities and resources of more than 200 EU data economy actors.

Digital Economy

Back when the EuDEco (Modelling the European data economy) project was kicked off in February 2015, Big Data was already used intensively. Mainly large companies but also government bodies and research institutions were actively collecting and using data. But this didn’t quite make for a data market, as data sharing and reuse wasn’t substantial enough. “Data sharing and reuse, particularly across borders and with participation of small and medium-sized companies, was still very limited in 2015, and to some extent it still is. There are many reasons for that, including skills gaps, lack of trust and lack of interoperability,” says Dr Daniel Bachlechner of Fraunhofer’s Institute for Systems and Innovation Research. To help businesses catch up, Dr Bachlechner and other members of the EuDEco consortium developed a model of the EU data economy by using a largely qualitative, community-focused approach. They enabled all those interested in or affected by the data economy to engage in a discourse while acting as a facilitator, in turn gaining insight into how the data economy was perceived and drawing inspiration from these insights to provide these actors with actionable recommendations that actually met their requirements. Business models were among the aspects studied within the scope of the project. “We analysed the key activities and resources of more than 200 EU data economy actors, investigated previous work on business models, and finally outlined five business model archetypes that are widespread in the data economy,” Dr Bachlechner explains. The five archetypes cover business models for actors dealing with data acquisition, data manipulation, data exploitation, technology provision and consultation. Besides the key activities and resources that were used to define the archetypes, business model elements including value propositions, cost structures and revenue streams were also studied. “We looked at similarities and differences between actors, and went into more details for specific actors. Many of the insights we gained have influenced our recommendations,” says Dr Bachlechner. Industry feedback was largely positive. Actors in the EU data economy who actively helped develop the EuDEco model said that it was extremely valuable for them to get external assessments of their activities as well as concrete advice on what steps they should take. Several of these actors stressed that they would like to pursue the collaboration, according to Dr Bachlechner. A much needed political push For the EU data economy to really take off, however, further political measures will be needed in order to realise the single digital market and address pressing matters such as skills gaps, lack of trust and lack of interoperability. “Policy makers need to understand the relationships between different elements of the data economy and be able to assess or even predict the consequences of certain measures they take,” says Dr Bachlechner. The EuDEco observatory should be very useful in this regard, as it makes trends related to the data economy, along with differences between individual countries, highly visible. It helps identify good practices and allows for comparing individual Member States or the EU as a whole with other countries in the world. “The EU must learn quickly from the world’s leaders but at the same time make sure that European values are preserved,” stresses Dr Bachlechner. The EuDEco project was completed at the end of January 2018. Recently, the EuDEco consortium was extended and submitted a proposal for a new project focusing explicitly on skills gaps, lack of trust and lack of interoperability in the context of the EU data economy. The objective: providing actors, and particularly SMEs, with the support they need to overcome these challenges quickly and pragmatically. Such support will include matchmaking between companies and service providers, insights into the data economy, and assistance with taking action in line with established good practices. Some of the EuDEco results will also be further developed.


EuDEco, Big Data, data economy, data market, business model, interoperability, skills, trust

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