Europe’s digital single market ambitions are vital to competitiveness among UK technology firms and startups, and will help companies across Europe grow and thrive, according to the government.
Alesha De-freitas, head of digital single market at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), said that the European Commission’s goal to create a single regulatory and legislative framework across Europe, to manage areas like data protection and spectrum use, is in the interest of UK businesses that wish to be competitive at a European and global level.
“A lot of our coherence comes from a single level of direction from the prime minister, and he’s very clear that this is an area that the UK should be leading on, that this is fundamental to UK competitiveness, and fundamental to EU competitiveness,” she said, speaking at a TechUK event attended by V3.
“We want the best companies around the world to be able to compete to offer their services in the EU, and we want European companies to be able to compete across the globe, and we don’t want anything that would stop that exchange from happening.
“We are very keen that regulation is not used to shield companies from more popular competitors, so where new sectors and innovation are coming up we should be embracing that change and not trying to protect incumbents in the market through regulations or other means.”
A framework for the digital single market is expected to be in place by 2017, and De-freitas said it is important to enable new innovative digital companies, such as Uber, to thrive despite having business models that are difficult to define for regulatory purposes.
“Let’s not try and pigeon-hole companies down into one single thing. Let’s actually think about how we can support this proliferation of different experiences and services for consumers,” she said.
“We need to make it easier for these companies, which maybe are not as confident at deploying digital at the moment, to do so.”
De-freitas was keen to emphasise how the UK technology industry will need to engage with the European Commission and government departments, such as BIS, to ensure that the digital single market framework fits their needs.
“We think this is really an area where raw action at a European level can make it a lot easier for European companies to be successful, and we think that the UK can be really constructive in this debate. We have a great tech sector in the UK that the government really wants to listen to,” she said.
Anthony Walker, deputy chief executive at TechUK, echoed De-freitas’ view and praised the government for its involvement in shaping ideas around the digital single market.
He also emphasised how the involvement of the technology industry and the government will be important in seeing that any digital regulations do not have a negative impact on the UK’s growing digital sector.
“We think it’s incredibly important that the EU is putting this huge focus now on digital,” he said. “The UK is one of Europe’s leading digital economies, and it is vital that the government has a leading voice in the discussion surrounding these issues.”
The digital single market is expected to boost UK and eurozone economies by €340bn, so it is no surprise that it is a galvanising topic in the EU.