Over the last two decades, we have witnessed the rise of the data economy, with heterogeneity of data sources becoming available. We have evolved from an economic development based on the access and smart use of public open data or science data; and more recently with mass adoption and exploration of the value of industrial big data. We are now on the verge of a new paradigm shift and evolution towards the economy of data sharing or common data.
While we are now starting to learn how to extract value out of our own industrial data to gain industrial competitiveness, we are also starting to realize that it is extremely unlikely that a single platform let alone a single company will drive the industrial data business. Hence, the development of new services, products relying on access to common data in the industrial environment calls for the transformation of various aspects.
Matching DGA with data sharing business culture
With the Data Governance Act and AI regulation, Europe is already laying the foundations for a European common data space. However, this policy framework needs to be matched with transformation at the industrial level of data sharing business culture and convergence of data infrastructures and soft data space services. We also have to acknowledge, that on one hand, we will witness the most wanted common data explosion when industry exhausts its ability to extract value out of its own industrial data. On the other hand, we also have to acknowledge that it is very unlikely that the B2B common data economy will be based on access to the raw data entities themselves.
On the contrary, data ecosystems and future value chains will more likely be developed on sovereign access to well-curated and well-controlled data endpoints of high quality. Hence the most urgent need to develop not only a data culture but a data sharing or common data one.
European data spaces need a physical and a soft digital infrastructure
Therefore, the development of data ecosystems should be envisioned as an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process that will support new business models and disruptive value chains. We may be indeed facing a chicken-egg problem. Data sharing and the data economy bring challenges that must be faced, like trust and openness, interoperability and cost, continuity, and controlled free flow of data. These are challenges, yes, but what is most important, all of these leads to necessities.
In order to avoid a data divide and provide truly free access to a European common sovereign data space, there’s a need for both a comprehensive digital infrastructure, not only a physical one but a soft one, related to all the services for sovereign data sharing and controlled data usage among different organizations. This should be accompanied by specific industrial agreements that will define the governance rules of future value chains. A well-balanced development of such dimensions is the best guarantee for the growth of the emerging and embryonic data spaces that the European industry is already putting in place to keep the leadership of the industrial (B2B) data and intelligence economy. The industry is already collaborating in finding an agreement on the design principles that should drive the development of such data spaces  and ecosystems under the OpenDEI  Task Force activities, which are open to all stakeholders interested.
The pathway to a trusted and sovereign industrial computing continuum
A need for the materialization of these soft data space services can be achieved thanks to IDSA Reference Architecture, assets, and international standards. Through the generation of a novel and smart data sharing ecosystem to be able to, not just share the data, but what is more important: to establish the terms in which such data will be shared. Coupling the mass adoption of the IDSA reference model by industry with the support of federated and sovereign Gaia-X infrastructure is a promising pathway to ensure a trusted and sovereign industrial computing continuum; the basis for the development of common data and AI-powered industrial services for the benefit of the economy and society. So, to build the path, in the scope of the necessary business culture change, the principles and the enablers like standards, protocols, usage control, governance, legal agreements, business model, and so on, must be identified.
Public private partnership
Lastly, but not less important, we should not underestimate the role that public administration will play in ensuring equal and fair access to a future common European industrial data space. In the same way that critical infrastructures have contributed to flourishing and economic renaissance, digital infrastructures managed by public administration will coexist with privately operated digital infrastructures to ensure that no business is left outside of future value chains. Public administration may not have a big contribution in terms of data assets to B2B industrial data spaces but it will be fundamental to ensure that data spaces reach those regions where private initiatives are not able to reach. Hence, regional and national investments in “local data bays” will be fundamental to achieve digital cohesion, which will play a fundamental development in our business and society in the next decades.