On 13 December, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel and his French colleague Michel Sapin, Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, held the Franco-German Digital Conference in Berlin under the headline of “Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies”. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande participated in the event, as did more than 300 high-ranking representatives of start-ups, international companies and public institutions.
Federal Minister Gabriel said: “Germany and France have a long-standing and close partnership and today’s conference helps to strengthen the digital foundation of this partnership and to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies.
We want to focus on four areas in particular: First of all, we want to focus on the digital transformation of industry, which is key for maintaining the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector. Secondly, we want to focus on supporting innovative start-ups, as they boost growth and job creation in both our countries. Thirdly, we want to focus on improving the way we work together on security issues, particularly on cloud services, which are of fundamental importance for our SMEs. Finally, we want to focus on Germany and France pooling their strengths in European and international cooperation and speaking with one voice when it comes to ensuring a free and secure flow of data and information and to strengthening the European standardisation system.”
The two Ministers will adopt a declaration entitled “Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies” that sets out the two countries’ priorities for their cooperation on the digitalisation of the economy. Under this declaration, Germany and France will support specific projects that help to drive forward the digital transformation and digital innovations, for example in the area of Industrie 4.0, and to support start-ups.
The cloud label initiatives Zeker Online (Netherlands), Label Cloud (France) and Trusted Cloud – a German initiative that operates under the patronage of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy – used the conference as an opportunity to deepen their cooperation. They signed a cooperation agreement that aims to harmonise standards across all European cloud label initiatives for SMEs – a project also supported by the European Commission.
The Young Digital Economy Advisory Board, which is based at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and its French counterpart, the Conseil national du numérique, also used the conference to present an action plan for “Digital Innovation and Digital Transformation in Europe” to Minister Gabriel and Minister Sapin.
Before the beginning of the conference, five expert workshops and a launch event for start-ups and investors were held. These addressed a wide range of issues including the digitalisation of production i.e. Industrie 4.0, creating growth for start-ups in Europe, the data economy, smart networks and the Digital Innovation Cluster. One of the workshops was organised by the German and French promotional banks – KfW and BPI (Banque publique d’investissment) – as a pitching event. The workshops are to put Franco-German cooperation on the digital economy on a broader basis.
In the run-up to the conference, on 12 December, the cyber security authorities of the two countries signed a MoU on closer cooperation.
This was the second Franco-German Digital Conference. It was conceived by Federal Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande at the Franco-German Ministers’ meeting in March 2015.