Monday, 1 August 2016

Interesting news about the Rhine-Neckar region

Today I received the latest newsletter from the metropolitan region Rhine-Neckar, i.e. the area of and around Heidelberg-Mannheim-Ludwigshafen. What is very interesting is the introduction giving some facts about the region:
"Rhein-Neckar ist ein Innovationsmotor in Deutschland: 15,5 Prozent der Beschäftigten sind in Hightech-Branchen tätig. Im Vergleich der elf deutschen Metropolregionen bedeutet dies Rang zwei hinter Stuttgart. 3,9 Prozent aller Beschäftigten arbeiten in der Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft – Rang vier hinter München, Berlin und Hamburg. Mit 16,1 Promotionen je 1.000 Studierenden führt Rhein-Neckar das Feld der elf Metropolregionen an."
 The main facts in English:
  • 15.5% of all employees are working in high-tech which makes the region second in Germany after Stuttgart;
  • 3.9% are working in cultural and creative business - place four after Munich, Berlin, Hamburg;
  • 16.1 PhDs per 1000 students - place number 1 in Germany
The full newsletter (in German) is available on the metropolitan region's website.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Digital SummerSchool 2016 - again a superb programme

One of my personal pet projects is supporting the coordination of the Digital SummerSchool with its offerings of child summer camp courses combining the development of IT technologies with sports and fun.

This is going on in the Rhine-Neckar region in its 8th year this year. And again we have a fantastic programme - and for the first time also a great, stand-alone website.

Check out the Digital SummerSchool on the web.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Presentation at CEN-CENELEC Workshop "European Standards Supporting the Digital Transformation"

Wednesday last week I had the honour of giving a keynote speech on behalf of BusinessEurope at a workshop on European Standards Supporting the Digital Transformation organised by CEN-CENELEC.

First of all a big congratulations to the organisers -- this workshop was extremely well organised and very inspiring.

In my presentation I tried to outline the basic strategic red-lines for industry when it comes to standardisation for the digital transformation. You can view the slide deck here:



The key message may be summarised as global - global - global. In addition, it is important to have clear understanding about which kind of standardisation deliverables we are talking. And we need to be aware that it will not be one single standards body delivering the standards that are needed but cooperation will be critical - including with global fora/consortia which contribute some of the most relevant global ICT specifications.



Sunday, 19 June 2016

RAMI everwhere....

I contributed to the DIN SPEC RAMI 4.0 - Reference Architecture Model Industrie 4.0. And isn't it funny that even for the French national football team RAMI 4 plays a leading role....






Picture sources: 
http://bc02.rp-online.de/polopoly_fs/france-s-defender-adil-rami-and-1.6040151.1465592562!httpImage/2199720511.jpg_gen/derivatives/d950x950/2199720511.jpg
http://www.francenationalshop.com/pic/2016soccer_jerseys/nation/france/2016nation_france_182.jpg

Thursday, 16 June 2016

On how to manage best in a multi-dimensional world


I sit in many committees, you could say I spend a good deal of my working life in committees. Whenever someone starts a sentence with “I am confused...” you can in 99.5% be sure that this is not a real confusion but that there is politics going on. People don't like something and they claim to be confused by the mere existence of what they dislike.
Imagine you have in your house a washing machine and a tumble drier. I would bet, unless you are totally drunk, it is clear to you what to use the washing machine for, and what the tumble drier. Are you confused by the two machines which might look similar? No, you aren't.
Imagine you have a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom. Does it confuse you what to do in which room? No, it doesn't. And would you consider it an improvement having just one, single room instead? No, you wouldn't.
Ok, if you are completely new to something and have, for instance, different tools for doing things, you might at first feel confused. But is that real confusion or is it just the lack of familiarity with the tools, the typical learning curve which you face as a novice user in any new area you enter. And what's the remedy to this – you make yourself familiar with the tools and start learning how to use them. That is essential behaviour; in essence that is how mankind has evolved from stone age to the present times.
In other words: thank God that the homo erectus was not confused...
I also like things simple. Don't make things more complicated than they need to be. Strive for simplicity – do as much as necessary but as simple as possible. That's a perfect motto in life – including work. And be consistent. Don't talk about apples when you mean pears.
But consistency does not mean reduce everything to one – in order to avoid confusion or whatever. Singularity is not a value. On the contrary, it may be a curse.
If all you have is a sledge hammer, you may be able to fix small nails to the wall – but is that intelligent? Is that future proof? No, it isn't.
Now what's actually my point, you may wonder. I currently hear a lot of talking about the need for a single strategy. E.g. a single strategy for standardisation in Europe. And a single planning tool. But can you really have a single strategy for responding to all challenges, for addressing all complexities in an appropriate and effective way? I don't believe that.
The world is multi-dimensional – and so are the issues we want to address. One size doesn't fit all. What you want to be is coherent. Things need to be able to work together. But you don't want to have just one single strategy for everything, one single instrument for getting things done. And different areas have different complexities which require different experts to be involved, consulted, etc.
Your strategy needs to be to be well set up for managing well in this multi-dimensional world. But for sure you need different strategic approaches for different issues and objectives; you need different tools for effectively making progress; and you need to have the respective different experts available to support your strategies.
If you want to reduce all that to a single strategy, a single tool, a single group of experts you are at risk to ignore realities and and you are ready to reduce everything into an inflexible environment which lacks all dynamics to properly understand the complexities and to properly react to them, let alone taking leadership on them.
I have done a good deal of work on open innovation and on openness versus proprietary. The conclusion is that there is no either / or. There is no open or proprietary. It is always “and”. And those players play best who have found the proper balance between all the different options and approaches. That is the right strategy: Learn to play the claviature well, build your strategies accordingly so that you are in a good position to always strive for finding the right balance which brings most value to you.
A leviathan or single moloch will not help you on the long run. It is anti-Enlightenment, anti-innovation. Acknowledging the multi-dimensional world as it is, being set up to properly address the different dimensions, and bringing things into balance is the much more promising way.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New European Commission Communication: European Standards for the 21st Century


The European Commission published today its Communication on “EUROPEAN STANDARDS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ” - COM(2016) 358. It is publicly available on the Commission web site. And it comes with a Staff Working paper - SWD(2016) 186 final.

As indicated by the title, the Communication sets out a vision for a strengthening and reinvigoration of the public private partnership on European standardisation. This takes into account the high emphasis policy makers in Europe are giving to standards and standardisation for promoting open infrastructures and for avoiding lock-in and silos in technology. Moreover, standardisation plays a key role for market access in Europe and for meeting regulatory requirements – preferably by the use of international standards that are adopted as European Standards and are listed in support of EU regulations under the New Legislative Framework (New Approach).

More precisely, the Communication introduces the Agreement developed in the context of the Joint Initiative on Standardisation (JIS) which will be signed in Amsterdam the week after next and which will kick-off a number of concrete actions to further improve the European standardisation system, its processes and the awareness around it:
"… a Joint Initiative on Standardisation, bringing together public and private institutions and organisations in a collaborative dialogue process. The shared objective is to promote a European standardisation hub with global impact, where standards are developed in a timely, open, transparent and inclusive manner, to support and promote innovation for all and to increase competitiveness of European companies in increasingly global value chains." (p. 3)
I took a first reading of the Communication and am happy to share some initial reactions. Before listing them it is worth mentioning that this Communication puts itself into a network with the other documents recently issued by the Commission, in particular with the Communication on ICT standardisation priorities (see my recent blogpost on that).

So below please find some initial thoughts:

  • I like the stress on standards being voluntary and industry driven. This is at the core of the European standardisation system and is working extremely well. This also includes the mechanisms of the New Legislative Framework and the access to the harmonised European market under the presumption of conformity where regulatory requirements may be met by standards. I would like to add that it is important to have expertise from industry who is the main contributor to standardisation, not to overstress resources, to avoid duplication of efforts and to rely on bottom-up processes for standardisation.
  • I stumbled a bit at the sentence on page 2: “While standards are developed by a standards organisation, the market may also simply adopt the technical specifications developed by one company or by bodies active in the field, i.e. professional organisations. ” I am wondering for what reason this was added. In my opinion adopting a technical specification developed by one company is not really adopting a standard. I know that sometimes people use the term proprietary standard which I find a contradiction in itself. I would propose proprietary technology, instead. And this should not be confused with a specification developed by a professional organisation, e.g. the association of electrical engineers or something like that, because the latter does have openness and plurality while proprietary technology is proprietary technology.
  • I like chapter 1 – Standards matter... It highlights the right aspects and show he spectrum of where standardisation plays a role and needs to be considered. Regarding the economic impact of standards to enable jobs and growth I am a bit less optimistic. I don't think that standards are as such a guarantee for jobs and growth. They are just one possible factor that may support growth and innovation – provided that all goes right and the standard meets a market need and gets widely adopted.
  • Figure 1 (at the end of chapter 2) is interesting proposing a visualisation of the European Standardisation Value Chain. I would like to discuss that and understand better. But it is certainly a great visualisation of the thinking around creating new dynamics for European standardisation.
  • ICT standards – chapter 3: I like the section. It correctly expresses the benefit of ICT standards in considering openness and interoperability: “Encouraging open standards is of particular importance for the Commission. Open and cross-cutting ecosystems for standard development should be preferred to proprietary solutions, purely national approaches and standards that limit interoperability. ” (p. 9) It is worth noting that such ecosystems include global standards bodies – often referred to as fora and consortia – as they are of highest importance and provide many of the most innovative and widely used global ICT standards.
  • Services standards – chapter 3: I want to read the accompanying staff working paper first before going into details. Services standards deserve a number of blog entries. There is a very fine dividing line between services standards and management systems standards. Therefore, a clear market need and the impact on those who need to implement the respective standards needs to be considered.

To conclude for today, I think the Communication nicely promotes standardisation and takes a powerful and fresh approach to reinvigorating the potential of standards and standardisation. The Joint Initiative will leave room to really fill all this with content and further new and fresh ideas and further drive the momentum. I am looking forward to all of that.

Full link to European Commission website: Click here.  

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Some Reflections on the European Commissions package on the Standardisation Priorities, Cloud, Digitisation of Industry and the EIF.


In mid April the European Commission presented a package of Communications outlining its activities for further driving the Digital Single Market and the Digitisation. The package consists of four Communications: on priority setting for ICT standards, Cloud, digitisation of industry and on eGovernment and the European Interoperability Framework. They can be found on the Commission website.
The reception of these documents over the last weeks is rather broad, from enthusiastic welcomes of European leadership in key technology areas including standardisation to highly critical reactions including concerns that the Commission wants to eliminate open source and creates an environment that is unfriendly to innovation. The truth, as ever so often, is probably somewhere in the middle.
In my opinion the package, above all, puts the right focus on standardisation and adoption of new technologies for Europe. Especially the Communication on standardisation priorities identifies the key future technology areas as priorities: 5G, Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and cyber security. And the Communication rightly stresses that these areas are foundational for other policy priorities, as well, like smart energy, advanced manufacturing, eHealth, or Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).
This Communication on standardisation priorities was well prepared by the Commission by gathering broad stakeholder input before with some specific advice given by the ICT Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) and in a public consultation. Especially the first has been a great process of collaboration between policy makers and all stakeholders and can count as yet another example of the fruitful work that is done with the MSP.
All areas that have been identified as key priorities are largely non-regulated, market driven. Therefore the actions and activities are mainly industrial policy related, not regulation. It is the Commission's intention to set the right framework and to facilitate the uptake of new technologies for promoting a lead role of Europe within the global standardisation environment and for competitiveness on global markets.
Regarding the ICT sector more specifically the Commission should be applauded for recognising the importance of global standards development organisations (global SDOs – often referred to as “fora/consortia”). Many of the most successful and widely implemented ICT standards are developed for market use in these global SDOs like OASIS, W3C, IETF, IEEE or Ecma International and thus outside of the formally recognised international (ISO, IEC, ITU) or European Standards Organisations (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI – typically referred to as ESO). It is indeed paramount that the global SDOs and their deliverables are taken into account and are available for referencing in public procurement and in policy making in Europe. These are horizontal standards that form a basis for almost each and every new technology, and in fact they have actually been the enablers for these new technologies, making new systems and technology integration possible at all. This also shows once again how wise the European legislator was to allow for a formal identification of such global standards in Europe via the processes established and implemented with Regulation 1025/2012, Articles 13 and 14, and with the advisory role given to the MSP in this process.
The Communication moreover points at the right direction of leveraging the different available tools to implement priority setting and reach concrete actions: “The priorities selected will complement other standardisation instruments used to implement European standardisation policy. In addition to the planned Joint Initiative on European standardisation, th ese are the Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation, and the Annual Union Work Programme. ” (COM(2016) 176 , Chapter 3.1, p. 6). In fact, new standardisation activities may not be needed much because the basic technology standard enabling the new technologies are available already and a lot of activities are already going on globally in different organisations. Well knowing about these activities the Commission also rightly puts some focus on facilitating dialogue and bringing different stakeholders players together which is clearly the right approach.
There are two major concerns I have heard being mentioned: One is that this Communication aims for too much political involvement into standardisation. I strongly agree that standardisation needs to be market driven and that policy makers should be careful not to duplicate efforts with standardisation requests and not to drive standardisation where there is no market need. But I would not interpret the Communication on standardisation priorities to be going into such a direction of increased interference of policy makers into technical standardisation in a way that goes against the market needs. Perhaps standardisation is slightly over-rated regarding its actual contribution to innovation and growth. Yet, over all, the Communication, in my opinion, takes a balanced approach towards leveraging standards and standardisation in support of policy objectives and of promoting the broad uptake of new, emerging and innovative technologies that are critical for the future of European economies and societies.
Another concerned I often heard is that the Communication on standardisation priorities is anti-open source. This claim is mainly based on the statement made in chapter 3.2 (4) of the Communication: “ICT standardisation requires a balanced IPR policy, based on FRAND licensing terms.” Indeed, this paragraph can be (mis)understood in a way that the Commission excludes Royalty free licensing models that are so important for Open Source communities being able to implement and make us of standards. People who know about the context of current debates around IPR policies, however, will well read this sentence and the entire paragraph against the discussions about possible improvements and clarifications around FRAND-based IPR policies. Yet, the Communication may well be criticised for not recognising the relevance and increasing importance of Open Source in the context of standardisation at all.
To sum up, I would take away the following aspects from the Communications as a basis for further work:
  1. There are key technology areas where it is important for Europe to take a leading role and to promote the uptake of new technologies as a basis for future innovation and growth.
  2. Standardisation plays an important role for these technologies. This is largely in the non-regulated domain with voluntary, industry-driven standards.
  3. Most of the standards are available already and have, in fact, been the enablers for the new technologies to evolve and to become possible at all.
  4. Global standards bodies, so called fora/consortia, have key impact on global standardisation and it is important to have the respective standards available for use in Europe.
  5. Governments can have some role in facilitating dialogue and bringing different stakeholders together in order to improve collaboration and avoid duplication of efforts.
That's my handful of take aways. Would you have the same?