Tear Down the Silos

It is largely understood that with the arrival of new technologies on European soil, such as AI, blockchain, e-mobility and e-health the European Commission will need to tap fresh knowledge and expertise from industry, academics and scientific bodies in order to be properly prepared when drafting policy.

However, it takes more than that in order to tackle the technology tsunami.

One technology may affect different policy areas. New technologies become progressively more horizontal and interdisciplinary. They require EU policy makers with different backgrounds and competences to sit down, reflect and come up with one piece of EU legislation that covers the technology entirely. EU policy makers already do this, and they do so more than in the past. To give one example: the policy area of smart buildings is dealt with by officials in the Commission’s Directorates for Energy, Communications Networks & Technologies as well as for Internal Market and Industry.

The arrival of AI, blockchain, e-mobility and e-health in Europe will require the political structure of EU policy making to change fundamentally. How much more coordination between European Commission Directorates is required to keep up with the increased pace of new technologies being rolled out over the continent ?

More coordination between them is a first step. More fundamentally, a sectoral approach translated into the EU structures would be more than welcome.

Why? Because technology does not think in silos. One single technology poses so many challenges in so many policy areas. Therefore the classic divisions between Energy, Digital Single Market or Mobility have become obsolete and require an update.

To return to  the example of smart buildings: if smart buildings were to be dealt with by a Directorate for the “Built Environment,” such a Directorate would ideally encompass policy makers specialized in energy, construction and digital. Where they previously had to deal with the  Directorates for Energy, Communications Networks & Technologies and Industry, they would now all work together in one single Directorate. Such an approach would significantly increase policy making efficiency. It would avoid time lost in coordinating different activities and thinking, and all policy makers dealing with the same sector resort under the single political responsibility of one Commissioner.  In addition, stakeholders outside the policy making process would also benefit from such approach as they would have a one-stop-shop access to their “own” Directorate dealing with their issues.

The increased coordination efforts between different Directorates have been much appreciated by all actors working in and with new technologies. What is needed now is a ground-breaking structural change at the policy making level that tears down the silos and allows policy making at sectoral level, to the benefit of policy makers, stakeholders active in Brussels, and eventually, the European consumer.

Author

Frédéric Aertsens

Senior Consultant

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