Industry considerations on Technological Sovereignty - Concept paper

  • April 9, 2021

9 April 2021 - Driven by geopolitical uncertainties and growing awareness of technological dependencies and vulnerabilities, technological sovereignty has become an important point on the EU’s strategic agenda. As one of the key objectives of the European Commission, it has begun to appear frequently in EU policies and programmes.  

At the same time, coherent and generally accepted responses to key questions are still missing: What does sovereignty mean in the context of technology and how can it be achieved? For which technologies does Europe want to be sovereign? And what does technological sovereignty mean for the EU vis-à-vis Member States and allied third countries?

Technological sovereignty concerns different sectors and a broad variety of emerging technologies, which are pervasive by nature. As a consequence, we propose to use for all strategic sectors a common approach to defining and operationalising the concept.  

A general agreement on how to select the technologies for which Europe should have (a higher degree of) “sovereign” control, and how to achieve this sovereignty would help create a common ground to debate the development and implementation of policies, funding priorities, investment and procurement decisions, etc.

We believe that this common approach should consist of a combination of strategic (capability-driven) planning and targeted industrial policy, supported by coherent and persistent investments in selected key technologies. Capability-planning is well known in defence, but as a general approach it can also be used in other strategic sectors to identify critical technologies for which sovereignty matters. At the same time, the EU’s new industrial policy offers instruments that can enhance technological sovereignty of value chains in all strategic sectors.  

Against this background, we propose to implement the concept of technological sovereignty in each strategic sector through the following five-step approach:  

(1)   identification of the relevant technologies, through the analysis of the links between function / capability / technology;

(2)   selection of the relevant value chains;

(3)   definition of the appropriate level and form of European control over the value chain

(4)   identification of gaps and dependencies that (may) undermine sovereignty;

(5)   preparation and implementation of the measures to ensure the desired level of control.

Defining and sharing technological sovereignty in a Union of 27 Member States, with extensive political, economic and military ties to third countries, is a major challenge. Moreover, bringing together strategic planning and industrial policy raises thorny issues of governance, as it brings together different policies, actors and instruments. However, we do believe that the stakes are sufficiently high to justify the effort and stand ready to support EU institutions and Member States in this endeavour.  




Benedikt Weingärtner
+32 2 775 8124