Thought leader: CEN and CENELEC: Standards can help seize potential of digital economy

Standards have a key role to play in supporting the EU's digital single market, writes Elena Santiago Cid.

By Elena Santiago Cid

Elena Santiago Cid is director general of CEN and CENELEC

19 Oct 2015

Standardisation plays a vital role in supporting the development and uptake of digital technologies. Common examples of widely-used standards include USB connectors and wireless internet protocols. 

The benefits of standardisation include increased interoperability and connectivity, helping create a level playing field that allows small and medium sized businesses to compete with much larger companies, while also providing consumers with greater choice. Increasingly, digital technologies are being embedded into everyday products and services, from home heating systems and refrigerators to healthcare appliances and transport. 

This is why, at both the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), ICT has become an integral part of our standardisation activities across the wide range of sectors that we cover. 


Our aim is to promote and facilitate an integrated 'whole system' approach to the connected world, delivering benefits both for Europe's economy and for our society.

The European Commission's digital single market strategy recognises that interoperability and standardisation are crucial elements in boosting the EU's competitiveness and in maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. 

In CEN and CENELEC, we are convinced that the inclusiveness of our structures contributes to the effectiveness of our system. 

All of our European standards and specifications are developed with the involvement of experts from business, consumers, regulators, academia, the research and innovation community and other stakeholders. 

Moreover, these standards and specifications are voluntary and can be revised when necessary to take account of technological innovations.

Our organisations are already involved in supporting a wide range of standardisation activities relevant to the digital economy. 

Many of these activities relate to topics mentioned in the Commission's rolling plan for ICT standardisation, such as cybersecurity and ePrivacy, eHealth, eAccessibility, eSkills and eLearning, eProcurement and eInvoicing, smart grids and metering, smart and sustainable cities, smart household appliances, Intelligent Transport Systems, the Internet of Things and machine to machine (M2M) communication.

When it comes to standardisation in support of the digital single market, Europe needs a coherent and consistent system, which is accessible and easy to identify for businesses of all sizes. 

In CEN and CENELEC we have more than 40 years' experience of bringing together experts from across Europe to produce consensus-based standards that meet market needs. 

Each European standard is adopted and published by our national members in 33 countries, who must also withdraw any conflicting national standards. Having the same standard for the whole of Europe is crucial to the success of the single market, and many of our standards are also identical to worldwide standards.

In CEN and CENELEC, we believe that a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of industrial sectors that heavily contribute to Europe's economic growth, should be involved in setting priorities for ICT-related standardisation activities. 

They must also lead the development of market-driven standards in support of the digital single market, which will boost the competitiveness of Europe's economy. 

We will maintain our close cooperation with the European Commission, as well as the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in order to coordinate our efforts and ensure a consistent approach towards standardisation across all ICT-related areas.


Read the most recent articles written by Elena Santiago Cid - Setting standards for Europe's recovery

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