The role of standarts in promoting innovation

27 October 2010 Author: EIFonline

Standards are part of the equation to promote innovation. Think of the open standards of the Internet (HTML, HTTP) that allowed people to start building web based businesses.

In the digital world such standards provide for connectivity and interoperability and enable critical mass effects in product and service markets, which allow in turn for trusted environments that both business and end-users need in order to contribute to the innovation dynamic/virtuous circle. The EIF breakfast on 27 October looked at the road ahead in ICT standardisation and innovation.

The number of different standards over the years has grown exponentially (think CEN, ISO and others). Now that the Internet is becoming more mature we must acknowledge that global integration will continue and that more digital natives will come into the job market. We are constantly trying to develop smarter and more intelligent solutions. Within areas like 'IT for green' and 'green for IT' for example we are creating physical structures that are overlaid with digital intelligence. This is how we monitor water supply, traffic systems and smart grids. This has all become possible because of standards.

What is needed to maintain and improve such innovations is a standards interoperability roadmap.We need to be able to use all the standards that are available for efficient integration purposes. Today we see ICT and IT standards from fora and consortiums that are not available in Europe in public procurement procedures because they do not meet certain criteria. It will be vital to draft such criteria together with the public sector to stimulate the use of such standards in public procurement.

Standards in ICT have a higher speed of innovation than other sectors. We see new ICT products daily and they can reach a worldwide audience in a very short time. Think of how Wikipedia became serious competition for the producers of proprietary software products on the market for electronic encyclopedia. Openness is at the core of this change. Crowd sourcing and co-creation have now become normal business processes. This means that we must adapt to this new environment of openness and that a new equilibrium needs to be found in how to deal with it. If we want to enable citizens to be able to innovate in the future, we need to be more open and collaborative and plan for the integration of technologies.

Industry has to work on a clear commitment of industry openness, taking leadership and supporting software interoperability by looking where it is best applicable and by looking at best practices. The EU is looking to change legislation on standards as quickly as possible to facilitate this process of making better use of existing standards and to support openness.


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