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Data Spaces as Core of the Implementation of the European Strategy on Data and Europe’s Digital Future

Lars Nagel, Thorsten Hülsmann, Fran van Ette, Boris Otto, Henk-Jan Vink, Tuomo Tuikka

The European Data Strategy

In 2019, the European Commission published the European Data Strategy. This strategy creates the vision of a European data space which adheres to rules that are directly derived from fundamental European values. It envisages the "flow of data within the EU and across sectors" and is based on the FAIR principles when it comes to the access, management, and use of data. "The EU will become an attractive, secure and dynamic data economy by setting clear and fair rules on access and re-use of data, investing in next-generation standards, tools and infrastructures to store and process data, joining forces in European cloud capacity, pooling European data in key sectors, with EU-wide common and interoperable data spaces and giving users rights, tools and skills to stay in full control of their data."

As the European Data Strategy is more of a strategic outlook and an announcement defining the framework for future activities of the European Commission than a technological state of the art description, it remains rather vague in its nature. Nevertheless, it mentions nine key domains in which data spaces should be created and describes the availability of large pools of data, an infrastructure to use and exchange data as well as appropriate governance mechanisms as key.

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Using data sharing in the best way

This framework and the concept of data spaces is based on the groundwork done by the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) and its 110+ members from industry and research. Among them are companies like ATOS, Deutsche Telekom, Engineering, thyssenkrupp and Volkswagen, as well as research organisations like FraunhoferTNO and VTT. IDSA aims at open, federated data ecosystems and marketplaces, ensuring data sovereignty for the creator of the data. The Big Data Value Association (BDVA) was among the first associations to annotate this data spaces approach and framed several requirements and recommendations for the future development (Big Data Value Association, 2019).

The specification of IDSA forms the basis for data marketplaces and data platforms based on European values, i.e. data privacy and security, equal opportunities through a federated design, and ensuring data sovereignty for the creator of the data and trust among participants. It forms the strategic link between the creation of data in the internet of things on the one hand and the use of this data in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms on the other.

Common design principles for data spaces

IDSA is not a blank sheet but a vivid and strong initiative which already proved that it is ready to take responsibility for implementing the European Data Strategy and helping to create the European Data Space. They offer the following:

  1. Contribute knowledge and technology to the envisaged high impact project on European data spaces;

  2.  Provide data infrastructure services to the operations of the nine European data spaces through its support organization;
  3. Provide advisory, knowledge and expertise to the European Data Act; and

  4. Provide a community of practice and a network of hubs and collaborations to support knowledge sharing and build-up of required skills in the data economy across Europe and beyond European borders. 
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In doing so, the implementation of the European Data Strategy will benefit from an established network of expertise, data spaces knowledge embodied in a mature reference architecture model and ready to use software artefacts. This will speed up »time to market« of the strategy implementation. IDS looks back on five years of paving the way for a fair data economy in Europe and globally and is ready to go.


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Going forward


To build European Data Spaces common design principles are needed. The list of required measures includes the following:

  1. Making the IDS Reference Architecture Model (IDS RAM) a blueprint for the European Data Space in order to speed up its implementation in nine strategic areas;
  2. Leveraging the IDSA assets such as its member community and hub structure to create awareness for the relevance and urgency of data sovereignty and to disseminate European values for the data economy;
  3. Supporting adoption and deployment through funding of application projects and investment in competitive data sovereignty service providers in Europe;
  4. Supporting IDS-based standardization – e.g. on European level at CEN and international level at ISO – and IDS use in public tenders; and
  5. Promoting an »Architecture of Standards« – including for example the IDS RAM – as proposed by the GAIAX initiative as the comprehensive technology standard framework for cloud and data sovereignty in Europe.


Lars Nagel, CEO of International Data Spaces Association with expertise in topics such as Data Economy, Data sharing, Supply Chain Management and Internet of Things.

Thorsten Hülsmann, CTO at International Data Spaces Association with a focus on management and coordination of innovation networks, initiatives and clusters.

Fran van Ette, Consultant at TNO who specialises in blockchain development and ecosystem.

Boris Otto, Managing Director at Fraunhofer ISST with a focus on industrial data ecosystems, the digital enterprise and business networks.

Henk-Jan Vink, Managing Director at TNO of the ICT innovation unit who specialises in data science and strategic business analysis and strategy and policy for ICT, for example.

Tuomo Tuikka, Research Manager at VVT with experience in software technologies and data-driven solutions.