Digital technologies occupy a central position in current geopolitical tensions and technological competition. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and the increasing global competition from the United States and China have highlighted the critical role of data, digital technologies, and infrastructure to guarantee Europe’s digital transformation.

Several EU policies and programmes have been deployed aimed at investing in digital technologies and capacities to re-assert Europe’s technological leadership and ensure its competitiveness, growth, and sovereignty. Among these is the influential Digital Europe Programme (DEP), a cornerstone effort to advance EU digital policy, and to bring digital technology to businesses, citizens and public administrations.

As a leading consultancy specialising in the digital transition, Technopolis Group, in partnership with Ramboll, has been entrusted with conducting the interim evaluation of DEP.

Digital Challenges

Europe faces escalating global competition, increasing gaps in digital skills and a patchy adoption of key digital technologies such as High-Performance Computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI); from high-tech sectors to traditional industries, and from large conglomerates to SMEs. This disparity is widening the digital divide and impacting economic development unevenly across Member States.

The DEP tackles these key challenges in the areas of digital technology and infrastructure to foster EU’s open strategic autonomy, digital competitiveness, and critical digital capacities. It aims to bring digital technology to businesses, citizens, and public administrations by providing strategic funding in six key areas: 1) supercomputing, 2) AI, 3) cybersecurity, 4) advanced digital skills, 5) the deployment, best use, and interoperability of digital capacities in economy and society, and 6) the EU Chips Act promoting EU leadership in semiconductor technologies and applications.

Figure 1 Digital Europe Programme overview

Source: Technopolis Group and RAMBOLL, 2024.

Our evaluation focuses on the programme’s effectiveness in fostering EU’s open strategic autonomy and enhancing digital competitiveness. It will assess the programme implementation, the experiences, and the successes of its implementation, while evaluating how the programme has contributed to bringing the expected changes to Europe’s digital transformation, competitiveness, and autonomy.

The evaluation poses several challenges. Primarily, the complexity of assessing diverse technology projects under one framework. Our team approaches this by deploying a multi-disciplinary team of experts in digital policy, analytics, and sector-specific technologies. Through a mixed method approach combining an analysis of a vast array of data, surveys and stakeholder interviews, case studies and cost benefit analysis, Technopolis will outline the programme’s impacts so far.

“While the evaluation is still underway, our preliminary activities involve rigorous data collection, stakeholder interviews, and policy analysis to provide a comprehensive overview of the programme’s progress” explains Kleitia Zeqo, Deputy Team Leader of the evaluation at Technopolis Group. This interim evaluation will culminate in lessons which can be applied to the future implementation of the programme and recommendations for potential programme adjustments.

Technopolis Group Pioneering the Digital Policy Evaluation

Technopolis Group has a wealth of experience in evaluating large European programmes and other interventions for various DGs. The foundation of our expertise rests on our deep understanding of the mechanisms of knowledge production and innovation processes, being a pre-eminent policy consultancy in the field of Science, Technology & Innovation policy since our inception. We have an unparalleled track record in evaluation and impact assessment across the whole policy cycle and design complex evaluations that use mixed methods approaches and a range of analytical techniques, from quantitative data analysis to foresight methods and qualitative content analysis. In addition, our thematic work on the Digital Transition support policy makers to face industrial, economic, and societal challenges posed by the digital transformation and provide in-depth understanding of the policy landscape, technology context, and market situation. If you want to learn more about Technopolis Group or this programme, do not hesitate to reach out to one of the consultants.

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