Even though the participants had somewhat different views on the subject, they could all agree on one thing: the Nordic Innovation/EFTA workshop on certification of services in Brussels 1 March 2012 was a welcome initiative.
Can we afford to continue without cross-border recognition of certification of services or should we promote pan-European solutions? And what role should standardisation play at national and European level? These themes were intensely discussed at the workshop in Brussels on 1 March.
The results from a new study initiated by Nordic Innovation and committed by Technopolis, show that more new national service standards are being developed compared to European standards – a gap that will be wider in the future if the trend is continuing. As more standards become available the number of certification schemes will increase as well. And none of the certification schemes are mutually recognised across borders, not even those based on European standards.
Kari Winquist, constituted Managing Director at Nordic Innovation, opened the workshop by highlighting the engagement of Nordic Innovation and EFTA in certification and standardisation of services, working together since 2009 with several studies in the field as a result.
- The aim of the workshop is to raise awareness of the issue of certification of services and the role of standards as well as to discuss the need for pan-European schemes, she said.
Increasing quality and creating trust
A conversation between Johan Englund, Nordic Innovation, and Tore Nyvold Thomassen, EFTA, sat the scene for the workshop by defining the purpose of certification: Contributing to credibility and trustworthiness and increasing the quality of services.
- We have a window of opportunity to create a Single Market for services and to increase trade between European countries – creating more jobs, competitiveness and growth, they stated.
In the product sector certification has been successful, but will the same go for the service sector?
- Selling products or services both have the same means – to satisfy customers. We do not have the same measurement possibilities, but we can use the same tools for evaluation and for setting performance indicators requirements, said Jacques McMillan, The European Commission, DG Enterprise.
McMillan also underlined that certification above all is a quality tool, not a policy tool and that it should not be pushed in where it is not needed.
- In some areas of the service sector there is a will to benefit from the Single Market. Here we must avoid the proliferation of national certification schemes and go European first. The opportunity is there, it is up to the service industry to realise it.
A market driven solution
Heidi Rühle, Member of Parliament, highlighted the role of pan-European standards for creating a Single Market, overcoming fragmentation and creating business and jobs.
- It has been a helpful instrument in the product sector; therefore it is important that we now turn our attention to the service sector.
She underlined the fact that there are many interests to cover and a question of definition when it comes to deciding what services should be included.
- The problem is to cover all interest with one Regulation. Standardisation must be market driven, but how do we define personal level services and market driven services? We must not risk that non-market driven areas are affected as well, said Heidi Rühle.
A proposal from Rühle is to give stakeholders the possibility to influence and negotiate the process on a multi-stakeholder platform.
- We can use the experience from the people in the service sector to build up knowledge around this.
Different approaches introduced
The approach to certification in different sectors was introduced by Hoang Liauw, CEN, Peter Jonas, Austrian Standards plus Certification, Daniel Makay, HOTREC and Ellen Troska, FEDEMAC.
Liauw, representing the product sector, highlighted existing European standards, support from regulators and a strong demand from the industry as critical success factors for certification in the building industry.
Jonas, from a national certification body, stated that the nationality of the certification body should be of minor importance.
Daniel Makay, representing the service sector, said that standards should be market driven, voluntary, based on consensus and easy to access – for SMEs and micro enterprises as well. Ellen Troska added that different areas and interests within the service sector must be considered when developing new standards.
A policy discussion on possible ways forward ended the workshop. Konstantinos Dimitriadis, The European Commission, DG Internal Market and Services, praised the initiative from Nordic Innovation and EFTA and said that another workshop will be held in October this year, to which stakeholders from the service sector will be invited.
- We will use the studies from Nordic Innovation when developing a policy on certification of services, he concluded.