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09/12/2022 - Article - Digitisation

Shaping the digital transformation


Digitalisation is all around us, and has markedly changed the way we work and live. Video conferences have long been common practice in many occupations, more and more people are doing their food shop online and increasingly using the internet to book their holidays. The digital transformation is in full swing.

The digitalisation of the economy is rapid and has increasingly accelerated: 3D printers produce parts for machines, robots assemble them, and distribution is becoming progressively more digitalised. Artificial intelligence in particular has the potential to fundamentally change processes in industry and business. Our business world is experiencing a process of disruption.

The digital transformation is not just making for new products and services, but also demanding different answers and solutions: topics such as smart networking, an efficient data infrastructure and maximum IT security in the economy are coming to the fore. Digital sovereignty and sustainability are becoming the guiding principles of German and European digital policy.

Funding key enabling technologies

The more we commit to shaping the digital transformation, the more prosperity and quality of life we will enjoy. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is assisting this process by adapting economic policy and providing targeted support to companies and economic sectors.

The Digital Summit hosted by the Federal Government is creating important impulses. Throughout the year, issues relating to the digital transformation are being researched – in focus groups and expert workshops, the world of tomorrow is being planned for.

Germany as a base for startups

German startups, which are pushing progress with the help of new technologies and innovative ideas, are the drivers of a forward-looking digital economy. The success of their work is reflected not least in the record investments made in the first half of 2021. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action supports startups in their founding and growth, e.g. through the High-tech Start-up Fund (HTGF). The strong ecosystem of the Digital Hub Initiative is speeding up innovation by connecting SMEs and corporates with science and the startup scene. The Young Digital Economy Advisory Board is an important source of stimulus. It advises the Minister on the issues the information and communication sector and the digital transformation are currently encountering. Further information about digitalisation can be found at

Facts and figures on digitalisation

Symbolicon für Bürogebäude in Deutschland

amount in billion euros
that was invested in German startups in the first half of 2021

Symbolicon für Eurostapel

number of unicorns in summer 2021
in Germany. That’s startups valued at over US$1 billion.

Symbolicon für Scheck

the percentage of companies in Germany
with a digitalisation strategy (2020)

Symbolicon für Sicherheit

the percentage of companies in Germany
investing in digitalisation training for their employees (2020)

Startup strategy

Startup Strategy of the Federal Government

On 27 July 2022, the Federal Cabinet adopted the first comprehensive Startup Strategy of a Federal Government.

The strategy aims to strengthen startup ecosystems in Germany and Europe. In it the government has presented a specific roadmap of how it intends to achieve this goal in the course of this legislative period. The Federal Government groups the measures contained therein into ten fields of action:

1. Strengthen funding for startups
2. Make it easier for startups to attract talent –
make employee ownership schemes more attractive
3. Ignite the startup spirit – make startups easier and more digital
4. Strengthen female startup founders and diversity in startups
5. Make it easier to create startup spin-offs from science
6. Improve the general environment for non-profit startups
7. Mobilise startup skills for public contracts
8. Make it easier for startups to access data
9. Strengthen regulatory sandboxes – make access easier for startups
10. Put the focus on startups

The Startup Strategy emerged out of an extensive process of engagement and coordination. Numerous stakeholders contributed their perspectives and expertise in workshops and an online consultation. The Federal Government has taken them into account in the preparation of the strategy.

Following the Cabinet decision, the implementation of the strategy will begin. Numerous measures are already being prepared and can be realised relatively quickly. The implementation of the Startup Strategy will be subject to monitoring. The Federal Government will report annually on the current implementation status. In addition, it will regularly review whether and how the Strategy should be developed further. At the same time, it will continue to engage in dialogue with all the relevant stakeholders.

Strategies for the digital transformation

Utilising opportunities - a regulatory framework and strategies for the digital age

We want to actively shape the digital transformation: we want to tap its opportunities and tackle its challenges. We want digitalisation to unleash its potential for growth, to improve people’s quality of life, and create prosperity for all citizens. This requires a fair regulatory framework and forward-looking strategies.

The implementation strategy “Shaping the course of digitisation”

The Federal Government aims to shape the digital transformation and make Germany fit for the digital age. To this end, it adopted its implementation strategy “Shaping the course of digitisation” in November 2018, the Federal Government has advanced the digital transformation in Germany. It contains all the key measures designed to bring the digital transformation forward in business, society and administration. More than 90% of the planned steps of the implementation are or have already been completed (current as at: June 2021). Further information about the implementation strategy can be found at .

In drafting the implementation strategy, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has placed a special focus on digital innovations and Germany’s future competitiveness. Supporting SMEs as they embrace the digital transformation, improving the policy environment for startups and further developing competition law through the ARC (Act against Restraints of Competition) Digitisation Act were important projects for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The Federal Government adopted its Artificial Intelligence Strategy on 15 November 2018. The Strategy was drawn up jointly by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Federal Government’s aim is to safeguard Germany’s outstanding position as a research centre, to build up the competitiveness of German industry, and to promote the numerous possible applications for AI in all parts of society. The focus is to be placed on the benefits for people and the environment, and the intensive dialogue underway with all sections of society about AI is to be strengthened.

On 2 December 2020, the Cabinet approved the report to update the Artificial Intelligence Strategy of the Federal Government. In updating the AI Strategy, the Federal Government has adapted its implementation measures in line with the latest developments since the strategy’s adoption in November 2018. The report takes stock, highlights relevant further developments on a national, European and international level, and cites specific measures that will be implemented by 2022.

You can learn more here and at (in German).

Blockchain Strategy

On 18 September 2019, the Federal Government adopted the Blockchain Strategy (English version). Blockchain technology is one of the most frequently discussed innovations to form part of the digital transformation of the economy and society. To clarify and tap into blockchain technology’s potential, and to prevent opportunities for its misuse, action is required on the part of Federal Government. The strategy aims to use the opportunities in blockchain technology and mobilise the areas of potential that it offers for the digital transformation.
By the end of 2021, the Federal Government will launch measures in five areas of action, to use blockchain technology’s opportunities and to mobilise its potential. A paper on the implementation status of the Blockchain Strategy was published on 18 May 2021; it can be found here.

Successfully shaping the digital transformation in administration

German administrations also want to keep pace with the digital transformation. Germany has embraced a statutory commitment that citizens and companies will be able to handle their applications, documentation and reporting obligations online by 2022 at the latest. The basis for this is the Online Access Act. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is working with Hamburg, which has the lead responsibility amongst the Länder, to realise the Leading and developing companies section, i.e. the digitalisation of most administrative services relating to businesses. This involves roughly a thousand individual services. The digitalisation of business-related administrative services entails substantial changes to legislation.

The Digital Summit: a central platform for digital policy

We can make best use of the opportunities of digitisation for business and society if all the stakeholders work together on this. The Digital Summit (previously the National IT Summit) and the work that takes place between the summit meetings form the central platform for cooperation between government, business, academia and society as we shape the digital transformation.

The National IT Summit was renamed the Digital Summit in 2017. This takes account of the fact that the digital transformation affects not only the telecommunications sector, but all sectors and society itself – from the cultural and creative industries to Industrie 4.0. The last summit was held as a digital event on 30 November and 1 December 2020. The new Federal Government will decide on the dates and thematic focus of the next Digital Summit.

Boosting business through smart networking

The Federal Government’s Smart Networks Strategy (lead ministry: Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action) aims to tap the potential for digitalisation in key sectors of the economy and society (education, energy, health, transport, administration). By making optimal use of the possibilities created by digitalisation and networking, it is thus making a major contribution towards boosting prosperity in the interest of the overall economy and society as a whole.

The Urban.Rural.Digital initiative underpins this strategy with specific action to support the digital transformation. The office of Urban.Rural.Digital fosters the development of smart cities and regions through information and events. The Smart City Navigator provides good examples of smart networks.

High-speed networks are key

The comprehensive digitalisation of our economy and society requires high capacity networks which permit gigabit-per-second speeds (both download and upload), reliable real-time-capable transmission and high-quality secure internet services.

With a view to Germany’s future competitiveness, it is important for the rollout of gigabit networks to take place rapidly in the landline (fibre-optic networks, high-performance broadband cable networks) and mobile (5G) sectors. For this reason, the Federal Government has set itself an ambitious target: gigabit networks which cover pretty much the entire country by 2025. This will open up the possibility for many different new business opportunities and business models for network operators, but will also require a willingness to undertake significant investments.

In May 2021, the Federal Government adopted the new framework for national telecommunications legislation which sets targeted incentives for innovation and investment in new gigabit networks and strengthens consumer rights. The Telecommunications Modernisation Act enters into force on 1 December 2021.

Driving forward digital inclusion and skills development

Digitalisation is particularly affecting the areas of knowledge, education and training: our jobs will be fundamentally transformed. This means that a special focus needs to be placed on digital inclusion and education. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is funding the D21 Digital Index, which is the most relevant study for assessing the extent to which Germany has digitalised so far.

There are some major differences between various groups in society when it comes to digital integration and skills development. This is shown in the special study Digital Skills Gap of the D21 Digital Index 2020/2021. Based on the study, differences in digital skills, in particular with regard to age, level of education and type of job, should be observed.

It is therefore important that the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action gives financial support to businesses to not only invest in digital technologies through the Digital Jetzt (“Digital Now”) programme, but also in the skills development of employees.


Keyvisual zu G20, Symboldbild für Digitalisierung; Quelle:



To the external website

Digital sovereignty

Germany and Europe on the path towards greater digital sovereignty

Digital sovereignty is an issue of great relevance. The supply bottlenecks of computer chips were a reminder of how quickly dependencies on non-European producers can slow down important economic sectors, such as the automotive industry.

At the core of digital sovereignty is the question of how Germany and Europe can develop their own European approach, and at the same time, continue and further deepen important global cooperation. It is important to ensure that key enabling technologies do not leave Europe or disappear after companies are bought by non-European investors. The skills of providers and users in the EU need to be maintained and improved – particularly of those working in sectors of strategic importance such as IT security, automotive, energy and health, and in the areas of key enabling digital technologies such as network technologies, microelectronics, security technologies, quantum technologies and blockchain.

Important initiatives launched

Artificial intelligence plays a key role. In updating the AI Strategy, the Federal Government aims to strengthen Germany’s standing in international competition in the areas of the research, development and application of AI. This requires the emergence and expansion of AI ecosystems in Germany and Europe.

GAIA-X has also achieved a lot. GAIA-X is creating a secure and interconnected data infrastructure that meets the highest standards of digital sovereignty whilst fostering innovation. An open and transparent digital ecosystem is to allow users to provide, pool, share and use data and services in trusted environment.

Strengthening innovation in Europe

By means of the IPCEI Industrial Cloud, Germany and the other participating Member States are jointly preparing for a major technological leap. Cloud technologies are among the key tools in Industrie 4.0. The project will encompass the development of energy-saving, highly efficient, automated and interconnected cloud infrastructures and services. To this end, Germany is providing funding in the amount of €750 million from the German Recovery and Resilience Plan. Within the IPCEI on microelectronics and communication technologies we are working on increasing the sovereignty and independence of Germany and Europe with regard to imports. Our companies need reliable supply chains and a strong and broad-based microelectronics sector that owns patents, developments, and manufacturing sites in Germany and in the EU.

Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise key sectors of our economy – for instance, it can be used to control energy consumption, to guide traffic, or to test new active ingredients. The aim is for Germany to be among the most successful nations where the development and application of quantum computing is concerned. Over the next four years, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action will provide a total of €878 million in funding for the development of quantum technologies and quantum computing, and for related practical applications.

Digital sustainability

Bringing digitalisation and sustainability together

Digitalisation has great potential to help tackle the challenges in economic, ecological and social areas.

Digitalisation has great potential to help tackle the challenges in economic, ecological and social areas.
Digital solutions can deliver significant sustainability gains in industrial manufacturing, energy generation and consumption, in the way resources are being used and administrative processes organised, in traffic management, and in waste and emissions management. At the same time, servers, server-based services and data storage capacity, and the production of additional devices and technologies also require large amounts of energy and resources.

Live digitally in a sustainable way

We want to assist companies in moving towards digital sustainability by means of targeted approaches. We are already supporting SMEs with extensive information, advisory services and funding programmes so that they can digitalise their business processes and implement sustainable solutions. Via the Urban.Rural.Digital initiative, we support cities, municipalities and districts in developing specific strategies for their digital transformation. The Smart City Navigator was developed through the initiative for the 2020 Digital Summit. It provides experiences from digitalisation projects through the use of blueprints and offers the opportunity to network with experts. The Smart City Navigator can also be used to find general information about sustainable Smart City projects, to expand expertise on digitalisation, and to get an impression of the activities in your own municipality.

Digitalising SMEs

Driving forward the digital transformation in small and medium-sized enterprises

The SME 4.0 Centres of Excellence funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the Mittelstand-Digital nationwide network support SMEs and the skilled crafts sector in successfully using the potential of digitalisation through practical measures for awareness raising, information and training. This is because software solutions, Industrie 4.0 applications, standardised e-business processes and digital networking provide SMEs and skilled crafts businesses with a wide range of opportunities for developing new products and services.

go digital helps small and medium-sized companies access IT consultancy services

The nationwide funding programme, go digital, assists SMEs and the skilled crafts sector in digitalising. It provides them with targeted advice and implementation services from authorised consultants in five modules: digitalisation strategy, IT security, digitalised business processes, data skills – go-data, and digital market development. Further information can be found (in German) at

Promoting investments in future viability through Digital Jetzt

So that SMEs can tap the potential of digitalisation, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is offering grants through Digital Jetzt (“Digital Now”) for SMEs that are investing in digital technologies and in training for their employees. Further information can be found here.
You can find out more about digitalising SMEs here.

Junge Unternehmerin mit einem Tablet symbolisch für den Mittelstand Digital; Quelle: andresr

© andresr

Promoting digitalisation in SMEs

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Innovative Start-ups

Start-ups – the driving force behind digitalisation

Young companies are highly innovative and thus substantially drive forward the digital transformation. Start-ups are willing to take risks, they are dynamic and flexible. They develop digital solutions and business models that can be quickly brought to scale. This is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is supporting young start-up entrepreneurs, in particular as they go through the capital-intensive growth stage.

Tools for funding venture capital

In order to foster the German venture capital market, the Federal Government has a wide range of instruments for the various financing phases (early/seed phase, startup phase, growth phase) and various target groups (startups, business angels, fund investors, VC funds). Thanks to the High-tech Startup Fund, the ERP/EIF fund of funds, the European Angels Fund and the GFF EIF Growth Facility, more venture capital is now available for young, innovative companies.

Since May 2013, as part of the programme INVEST – Venture Capital Grant, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has been encouraging private individuals to invest in innovative startups by offering a purchasing grant worth 20% of the invested sum. In 2017, INVEST was expanded considerably. Since then it has also included a tax-free exit grant that is intended to reimburse natural persons with a lump sum for the applicable taxes on capital gains. Following the huge success of the INVEST funding programme, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action extended the programme on 1 January 2021 and implemented further improvements for investors and startups.

Since October 2018, KfW Capital has been investing in German and European venture capital and venture debt funds. The aim is to give young, innovative, fast-growing technology companies in the startup and growth phase in Germany better access to venture capital from highly capitalised funds. With assistance from the ERP Special Fund, the KfW’s existing volume of investment was boosted by an average of €200 million a year up to 2020. The launch of the Future Fund is to scale up the volume of investment to up to €400 million a year. KfW Capital is an investment subsidiary of KfW Bankengruppe and a joint initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the Federal Ministry of Finance, and the KfW.

The Federation has been providing €10 billion for an equity fund for forward-looking technologies (Future Fund) since 2021. The fund is to be based at KfW and support the German venture capital market. The Future Fund adds to the quantity and quality of existing financing options and also introduces the development of new instruments. The idea is to cover all developmental stages startups go though, especially in terms of growth financing, and to give a special focus to market segments that have thus far been neglected. The Future Fund consists of several modules that should dovetail with and complement one another.

A detailed overview of funding and financing instruments can be found in the article on Funding for SMEs.

Bringing together start-ups and supporting their internationalisation

Many large German cities are currently seeing the creation of regional digital hubs that bring together representatives of start-ups, academia, SMEs and industry. The Digital Hub Initiative is to help the twelve German hubs to better connect with one another and to make them more widely known around the globe. The initiative is also designed to attract international startups to Germany. In March 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action opened a new hub agency, which is to promote networking. More information about the initiative can be found under (in German).

In the long run, most digital start-ups are successful only if they internationalise their activities and look beyond national and European borders. The German Accelerator (in German) provides access to comprehensive mentoring and coaching services in the US for German start-ups and young entrepreneurs in the life sciences, the technology sector and the digital economy.

In addition, exchange programmes that meet the specific needs of businesses help pave the way for success. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action helps German start-ups to develop new markets and, in the other direction, facilitates cooperation between foreign start-ups with German SMEs, for example, by funding the German Indian Start-up Exchange Program (GINSEP) of the German Startups Association.

Promoting German-Israeli economic relations in the young digital economy is the objective of the German Israeli Network of Startups & Mittelstand (GINSUM), which was initiated by the European Leadership Network (ELNET) Germany. Through the programme, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is supporting networking between Israeli and German startups. It provides a central point of contact for joint projects and promotes the transfer of knowledge and innovation. In this way, German SMEs in particular can benefit considerably from digital expertise acquired from the cooperation with Israeli businesses.

Engaging in dialogue with start-ups and launching competitions

The startup competition for Digital Innovations aims to fund high-tech startups. To this end, potential entrepreneurs will be supported with advisory services and seed capital, and in matching with established businesses and potential investors.

In the context of the ‘Young Digital Economy’ Advisory Board, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has established a direct and practical dialogue between the young German start-up scene and policy-makers. The Advisory Board gives the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action advice particularly on the development and potential of the young digital economy and on new digital technologies in Germany, and on how to provide start-ups with a better environment in which to grow.

Motiv zur Gründungsoffensive

© BMWi

GO! startup campaign

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Funding new Technology

Cutting-edge digital technology – from the research lab to the market

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action’s funding programmes for digital technologies provide important stimuli for transferring scientific findings into marketable cutting-edge technology.

The Ministry seeks to promote the development of digital technologies by providing funding for pre-commercial research and development projects. The aim is to pick up on forward-looking topics in ICT at an early stage and accelerate the process of transferring scientific findings into marketable cutting-edge technology with great potential for practical applications.

There are a wide range of funding priorities and they represent the increasing importance of digital technologies in all forward-looking industries.

The aim of the Smart Data Economy – Artificial Intelligence, Semantics, Autonomy technology programme is to fund flagship research and development projects which are developing and testing novel smart solutions like data products and services, and data services and data-based business models derived from them. In this context, an integrated view is to be taken of a digital data economy and AI-based systems. In the digital economy, the programme will help us to make use of the opportunities of the digital transformation in its fields of application.

The AI-Innovation Competition serves to create a broader basis for innovations in this field in Germany to ensure that unconventional and disruptive ideas have a chance to prove themselves. Greater use should be made of AI methods to drive innovative value networks and create new products and business models for various industries.

The Secure Digital Identities showcases aim at strengthening digital sovereignty and at facilitating access to trusted German eIDAS solutions that are also user-friendly and economically viable: for administration, businesses – in particular SMEs – and the population. The objective is to create application-driven ID ecosystems that are open, interoperable, simple to use, easy-to-grasp and accessible.

Information and communications technologies (ICT) play an important role in electric mobility. They control all the key functions in an electric vehicle and enable it to be integrated into advanced energy, logistics and facility infrastructures. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is funding ICT for Electric Mobility.

The PAiCE – Digital Technologies for Business funding programme addresses forward-looking technology fields such as product engineering, logistics, service robotics, additive manufacturing, and industrial communication and projects that cut across several of these fields. Bringing together scientific networks and excellent SMEs in an efficient way will help speed up the transfer of creative ideas and scientific findings into practical applications.

Under the Smart Service World I and II programmes, funding is provided for projects that seek to develop smart services which can be used in many different areas of our lives and across all business sectors.

Under the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action’s Trusted Cloud funding programme, a particular focus was placed on cloud services. The programme aimed to build trust in cloud-based solutions among companies – for example, by introducing unified and transparent criteria for assessment. Two follow-up activities have resulted from the successful technology programme: the network of excellence with a marketplace and the label for trusted cloud services, and the AUDITOR pilot project to provide data protection certification for cloud services.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action supports a limited number of cooperation projects with select partner countries in Europe and internationally. The aim is, on the one hand, to transfer technological developments to foreign application areas and markets and, on the other hand, to use the specific skills of research institutions and companies from the respective partner country in current funding areas for joint activities.

You can find an overview of the funding programmes here.

Security and Standards

Providing for secure digital services that users can trust

As our economy and society become ever more digitalised and interconnected, ensuring data security and adopting reliable standards becomes ever more important. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action wants to ensure that SMEs can protect themselves against cyber threats and that they can fully share in the benefits of the digital transformation.

As part of its IT Security in Commerce initiative, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action constantly develops new and specific measures that help raise awareness for IT security among businesses, particularly SMEs. In view of the growing importance of IT security as the digital transformation continues, the initiative’s work was greatly expanded from 2019 and the IT Security in the Mittelstand Transfer Office (TISiM) launched.

A special focus is also placed on optimising the regulatory framework and on strengthening the IT security sector at both national and European level. Data on the IT security market is also collected and evaluated at regular intervals in order to identify appropriate measures. Find out more.

Reliable data protection in the cloud

Cloud services are central to the digital transformation of the economy. The Trusted Cloud Platform lists only those cloud services which meet the criteria of the Trusted Cloud Label, i.e. which are trustworthy and meet the requirements for transparency, security, quality and compliance with the law. The label was the result of the work undertaken in the context of the Trusted Cloud technology programme, which was launched in 2010 with the aim to develop innovative and secure cloud computing solutions, particularly for SMEs. The programme ended in 2015. Find out more.

Unified standards for Industrie 4.0

The close networking of technologies and value chains allows for an intensive exchange of data and therefore the creation of more interfaces. This means that unified standards are crucial for Industrie 4.0. You can find out more about this here.

Ensuring that our information and telecommunications technologies are both standardised and interoperable is important not only technologically, but also from a business perspective. Standards offer a competitive edge in global competition to those who develop and enforce them. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action places a strong focus on open standards and interoperability in order to not only guarantee that complex ICT systems function flawlessly, but also in order to make sure that there is unrestricted access to the ICT markets and to fair competition.

IT security affects us all!

industrie 4.0

© Nay/

Industrie 4.0

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International Digital Policy

Creating a European and global framework for digitalisation

Industrie 4.0 and the digital economy are issues that cannot be addressed by one single country. It is necessary to maintain a dialogue and adopt similar regulatory frameworks so that companies around the world can remain competitive and work together.

A digital Europe

Shaping and mastering the digital transformation of the economy and society is a key precondition to ensure that Europe continues to be competitive. For this to happen, we need a strong Digital Single Market. The aim is to create gigabit infrastructure, a European data space and a European data economy – including an adequate policy environment for business, so that full use can be made of the possibilities for digitalisation and the potential for growth in the Digital Single Market. The digital economy and trade do not stop at national borders. Creating a European Digital Single Market is therefore the only way that ensures that companies can provide products and services that are based on the same rules and standards across the entire European Union and that companies can grow on the European market.

For this reason, the current European Digital Strategy (Shaping Europe’s Digital Strategy) addresses a wide range of issues. It intends to create a European society driven by digital technologies that provides a reliable framework for businesses and enriches people’s lives.

In addition, in the Digital Compass 2030: the European path in the digital age Communication of March 2021, the European Commission presented a target and pointed out paths towards a successful digital transformation by 2030.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action places a particular focus on setting the right course for digital policy in the EU. This includes the issue of digital sovereignty, strengthening the semiconductor industry in Europe, recruiting skilled personnel in the ICT sector, improving communication and data infrastructures, rolling out digital technologies such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, implementing solutions for digital identities, and proper monitoring for the implementation of goals. Find out more.

Digital Europe programme

The new Digital Europe programmewill be launched in autumn 2021 to support the digital transformation. The programme is a key element in strengthening digital sovereignty. The objective is to build up and expand digital capacities and skills in key fields and to bolster the rollout (testing, application-oriented implementation and rollout) and acceptance of digital technologies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, but also the public sector, are to benefit from this.

The programme has five specific goals: supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cyber security and trust, advanced digital skills, and the introduction and optimal use of digital capacity and interoperability. Almost €7.6 billion is available for this purpose in the 2021-2027 period.

The related regulation was published in the EU Official Journal on 11 May 2021:

Important tools for realising the programme are the planned European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH). These are to support businesses, especially SMEs, and the public sector as they embrace the digital transformation. The selection process for the German EDIHs is still ongoing.

The European Commission is currently preparing the first work programme to span several years and is therefore engaged in a close dialogue with the Member States. The first calls to apply for funding are expected to be published in autumn 2021.

Up-to-date information can be found on the European Commission’s overview page:

The OECD’s work on digital policy

The topic of digital policy plays an important role in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD here serves as an open forum for dialogue between policymakers, businesses and civil society, beyond the circle of OECD Member States as well.

The Committee on Digital Policy (CDEP) has the lead responsibility for the OECD’s work on digital policy, whereby Germany is represented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The CDEP’s work is prepared in the four designated working groups: Communication Infrastructures and Services Policy (CISP), Measurement and Analysis of the Digital Economy (MADE), Security in the Digital Economy (SDE) and Data Governance and Privacy (DGP). The Committee and the working groups usually meet in Paris every six months. At the moment, the meetings are virtual.

Given its significance as a horizontal issue, the economic policy issues related to digitalisation are currently being prepared by the the OECD in a horizontal project, Going Digital, which entered its third work phase in the biennium 2020/21. A Going Digital Toolkit was developed in phase I; phase II focused on artificial intelligence and blockchain; phase III is dedicated to the issue of data governance for growth and well-being. The OECD’s most important publication on digital policy is the Digital Economy Outlook, which appears every two years (most recently in Nov 2020).

In addition to dialogue, the non-binding agreement of standards, i.e. soft law, in the field of digital policy remain a central goal, for example within the framework of OECD Council recommendation, most recently regarding artificial intelligence (May 2019), the broadband rollout (February 2021) and children in digital environments (May 2021).

European General Data Protection Regulation

The new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the data protection directive from 1995. It provides modern answers as our economy and society become ever more digitalised. The GDPR provides an up-to-date set of European data protection rules that help find answers to how to keep data safe in an age marked by big data and new methods and types of data processing such as profiling, web tracking and cloud computing. Find out more.

European data governance

Data has enormous economic and social potential. Yet this potential can only be tapped if the data is accessible. The European Commission’s proposal for a future Regulation of the European Parliament and Council on European data governance (Data Governance Act) therefore aims to make the existing, protected data sets of public bodies usable. The draft stipulates the conditions for data sharing services and structures and processes for the secure exchange of data, for instance, by trusted third parties or data altruism organisations. In principle, the Federal Government welcomes the fact that a draft has been tabled by the Commission and submitted a statement (PDF, 235 KB) following a first assessment and appraisal of the draft Regulation on 4 March 2021.

Internet governance

Internet governance covers a large number of different fields, ranging from web domain registration rules and global IP address allocation to, in particular, general questions about the level of openness or stability of the web. The Federal Government provides input on internet governance via a number of international bodies and organisations. Germany hosted the the Internet Governance Forum of the United Nations for the first time in November 2019. Find out more.


During its last G20 Presidency from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017, Germany hosted the first Digital Ministers’ Meeting ever to take place between the countries of the G20. Under the German Presidency, the ministers responsible for the digital economy in the G20 countries discussed the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation and drafted proposals for action. The focus was on three areas: the links that exist between digitalisation, economic growth and employment, trust and transparency in the digital economy, and Industrie 4.0. In the final ministerial declaration and in a roadmap (PDF, 427 KB, they identified eleven key fields of digital policy and agreed on a specific way forward for the future work of the G20. An overview of the results achieved as part of the Digital Ministers’ Meeting under Germany’s G20 Presidency can be found here (PDF, 83 KB).


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