Cybersecurity focus in second Digital Europe work programme
The European Commission has published the 2023-24 work programme for the Digital Europe funding programme, setting out key tech policy focus areas for the upcoming years, with a dedicated section for cybersecurity.
AI, high-performance computing, and data all feature heavily in the work programme of Digital Europe, an EU programme launched in 2021 to finance projects related to digital technologies.
The programmatic document for the next two years was published on Friday (24 March) and sets out the objectives and focus areas of the funding, together with indicative budgeting for the measures, which come together at an overall figure of €909,5 million.
The Digital Europe programme was established to guide the EU more concretely in addressing the twin green and digital transitions, setting goals and actions in several key focus areas, including skills and technology uptake.
On cybersecurity, a dedicated work programme has also been released this year with expansive measures to boost work in both the identification of and response to cyber threats.
Noting the cross-sectoral importance of cybersecurity to Europe’s digital goals, a dedicated 2023-24 work programme on cybersecurity was released alongside the general document.
In particular, €35 million will go towards developing a Cybersecurity Emergency Mechanism, an initiative for which the Commission is next month due to present a legal framework, the Cyber Solidarity Act.
This emergency fund will finance critical entities to obtain cybersecurity audits, and incident response services from a group of certified security providers dubbed the European Cyber Reserve.
Moreover, €84 million, more than half of the yearly cybersecurity budget, was dedicated to strengthening Security Operation Centres (SOCs), regional control rooms intended to monitor, predict, and respond to cyber incidents.
The idea is to create SOCs covering regions like the Baltic or the Eastern Mediterranean as a way for EU countries to start sharing cyber threat intelligence with their immediate neighbours. An initial call for financing SOCs closed in February but participation was limited as this sort of arrangement takes time.
Altogether, these SOCs should form a ‘Cyber Shield’ to share threat intelligence and coordinate incident response via a European Detection Infrastructure to be established under the Cyber Solidarity Act and financed under the Digital Europe Programme.
In addition, the work programme’s actions will support several key objectives of the Digital Europe Programme, including developing cyber threat detection and analysis capabilities, boosting coordination between cyber communities to improve responses and supporting SMEs and startups with regulatory compliance.
What to expect from the EU’s Cyber Solidarity Act
The legislative initiative made its first appearance on Tuesday (28 February) in the updated version of the European Commission’s work programme but has been in the making for one year. Here is what to expect.
Digital Europe’s focus on high-performance computing will continue under the new work programme, with an estimated budget of €60 million for 2023.
Much of the work will focus on the Destination Earth system established under the previous work programme. This project aims to develop a digital twin of the Earth to track, simulate and predict the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
The new work programme aims to continue the system’s development while upgrading and expanding its service and integrating new digital twins.
Cloud, data and AI
The work programme will dedicate €113 million overall in 2023 to cloud, data, and Artificial Intelligence.
Concerning cloud services, one of the work programme’s actions focuses on establishing an office to oversee and disseminate information about activities in the Next Generation Cloud and Edge Infrastructure Services.
Another seeks to develop a “commercially viable highly secure cloud-based collaborative platform” to manage cross-border initiatives in the aeronautics and security industry.
In the realm of data, the new work programme will continue to develop the Commission’s Data Spaces and establish a common platform for open data. The data spaces for cultural heritage, tourism, language and health will be of particular attention.
The work programme will also support the development of the Digital Product Passport, aimed at boosting sustainability and the circular economy.
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On AI, the work programme emphasises supporting the work of the Testing and Experimentation Facilities (TEFs) established under the previous programme to help bring AI tech to market, as well as future ones to be created, and to boost coordination between them.
Another action will work on developing an EU ‘Citiverse’ aimed at offering immersive digital services and urban interaction.
On digital skills, the work programme sets out objectives of developing specialised education programmes in key areas as part of the Digital Decade policy target of having 20 million ICT specialists in the EU by 2030.
The programme also seeks to reinforce skills related to the semiconductor industry in particular and to further work on establishing and operating a Cybersecurity Skills Academy for retraining, with a particular focus on the needs of SMEs and public administration.
The programme also focuses on boosting digital skills amongst young people, especially girls, who are often underrepresented in these areas.
Around €108 million is allocated to accelerating the best use of technologies in five key areas: blockchain; public services; interoperable Europe; justice and consumers; and confidence in the digital transition.
Action in these strands will support the rollout and uptake of digital technologies, such as through the digitalisation of public administration.