€ 9.2 billion of funding for 2021-2027
Is going to be approved, the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), i.e. the 7-year long-term budget established by the European Union. It is essentially an investment plan for the implementation of policies in favour of EU citizens, in different areas such as employment, climate change, social rights, security and even digital challenges, which we will focus on in this article.
For each of these categories there will be spending budgets, priorities and targets. This funding corresponds to about 93% of the total EU budget and benefits individual citizens, businesses, cities, regions, universities.
The priorities and objectives of the MFF also refer to another important policy document, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development signed in September 2015 by the governments of the 193 UN member countries. The agenda incorporates 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognizes that our times, despite being marked by major social and environmental challenges, are a time of great opportunity thanks to the spread of mass media and information and global interconnection that allow us to accelerate progress, bridge the digital divide and develop knowledge-based societies, as well as scientific and technological discoveries in areas as diverse as medicine and energy.
In this context, one of the strategic investments of this MFF is the DIGITAL EUROPE programme, which prioritizes Digital Transformation as the key to boosting Europe’s growth. This investment programme aims to give the right and fair support to the framework created by the adoption of the Digital Single Market Strategy in order to make the most of the many new opportunities offered by digital transformation.
The Digital Single Market Strategy was adopted on 6 May 2015 and is one of the European Commission’s 10 policy priorities. It consists of three main objectives:
Improving access to digital goods and services
Ensuring consumers and businesses better access to online goods and services across Europe, for example by removing barriers to cross-border e-commerce and access to online content while increasing consumer protection.
An environment in which digital networks and services can thrive
Creating the right environment for digital networks and services by providing high-speed, secure and reliable infrastructure and services supported by the right regulatory conditions. Key concerns include IT security, data protection/privacy and fairness and transparency of online platforms.
Digital as an engine for growth
Maximise the growth potential of Europe’s digital economy so that every European citizen can fully enjoy its benefits, in particular by strengthening the digital skills essential for an inclusive digital society.
The budget for this new programme will be €9.2 billion, which will fund 5 main areas:
Supercomputing, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security and Advanced Digital Skills, and promoting the wider use of digital technologies across the economy and society.
2.7 billion will be allocated to Supercomputing, a high-performance computer capable of processing huge amounts of data.
The new Digital Europe programme will aim to strengthen the EU’s high-performance computing and data processing capacities to ensure their use both in areas of public interest such as health, environment and safety, and by industry, in particular SMEs.
Innovations based on artificial intelligence will have a profound impact both on digital services and in traditional industry, but will also contribute to improving people’s daily lives, of course by building an appropriate ethical and legal framework.
1.9 billion will be allocated to Artificial Intelligence with the aim of building and strengthening its use by businesses and public administrations, facilitating and securing access to and storage of big data and algorithms, strengthening and supporting existing structures working in AI and encouraging their cooperation.
As we have repeatedly written in our articles, cyber attacks are constantly increasing and thanks to new technologies they are becoming more and more sophisticated and spreading more and more easily. Cyber attacks can aim at the theft of sensitive data, theft of money, they can target companies as well as individuals, but they can also affect the democratic institutions themselves. In recent months, for example, we have also seen a significant increase in attacks in the health and education sectors.
It is therefore necessary, indeed essential, to invest in IT security, also to ensure the proper functioning and confidence of the Digital Single Market strategy.
The EU has already started this process by adopting a wide range of cyber security measures, including the first European legislation on cyber security (NIS).
The Digital Europe programme’s 2 billion investments will aim to support the purchase of advanced equipment, tools and infrastructure to ensure cyber security, to support the sharing of knowledge, good practices and cybersecurity skills, to ensure widespread deployment of the latest cyber security solutions and to strengthen capacities within Member States and the private sector for a common high level of network and information system security across the Union.
Advanced digital skills
The Digital Europe programme will support with 700 million euros the short and long term training of qualified people able to use the new technologies. Specifically, it will support the short-term training of specific categories such as entrepreneurs, small business managers and the workforce, the design and delivery of long-term training courses for students, IT professionals and internships and internships for students, young entrepreneurs and graduates.
Ensuring the wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society
The Digital Europe programme will ensure the digitisation of public administrations and public services and their EUwide interoperability, and facilitate access to technology and know-how for all businesses, notably SMEs
Before concluding, we would like to highlight, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, that the different programmes financed by the European Union are interconnected. In fact, although this funding is specific to these 5 areas, digital transformation is also at the heart of other objectives and programmes, such as:
Connecting Europe Facility: to develop digital infrastructures, including high-speed coverage.
Smart Europe: where we find the European Regional Development and Cohesion Funds that will support the digital transformation of the economy at regional level and create regional networks and systems to promote sustainable transport, smart energy networks and smart cities. Horizon Europe: the new research and innovation programme where we will see synergies with areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, high performance computing and Big Data analysis (just think about the processing of millions of research data)
InvestEU Fund: especially in digital infrastructures, digital transformation of small businesses, research on digital technologies and support to the social economy to benefit from digital transformation.
European Social Fund+ (ESF+): which will help equip citizens with basic skills adapted to the new digital world.
In the hope that the MFF will be approved, we would like to emphasize once again that this funding has a fundamental objective: to create a real impact in our society, and it is important to make this clear when structuring a project and applying for funding if it is to be delivered.
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