“Standardization, a growth accelerator for enterprises?”

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On 2 February 2016, French standardization association AFNOR organized a meeting on the theme of “Standardization, a growth accelerator for enterprises?”. Led by Olivier Peyrat, Managing Director of the AFNOR group, this seminar was an opportunity to present the 2016 study of the economic impact of standardization (in French), performed by AFNOR Normalisation and BIPE (a strategic analysis and economic forecasting consultancy).

This study was carried out to measure the contribution of standardization to the economic development of the enterprise. It teaches us, for example, that companies taking part actively in standardization work (sending one or more experts to the working groups) have seen their annual revenues exceeding by 20% on average the revenues of other companies in the sector. Likewise, their export revenues are 19% greater than those of companies that have neither taken part in standardization nor purchased standards.

The contribution of standardization is therefore estimated at €15bn in revenues for French companies. “Voluntary standards therefore act as a growth accelerator, or, defensively, as a factor preventing it from deteriorating. [They also make it possible to] sell products better outside the national boundaries.” The study concludes that the estimated “direct contribution of the standards to GDP would be €3bn in 2013”.

This seminar also made it possible to discover the British research performed on this subject. For example, Scott Steedman, Director of Standardization at BSI, outlined standardization strategies and their benefits for the British economy. The standard is seen above all as a means of sharing and dissemination of knowledge of products and processes, allowing a formalized exchange between the various economic agents. The study performed by Cebr, fairly similar to the AFNOR/BIPE 2016 study, with a macroeconomic aspect, shows that 28% of the increase in the United Kingdom’s GDP is attributable to standardization measures. It has been estimated that a productivity increase of approximately 37% is related to use of the standard. The standard is estimated to account for £6bn in export revenues for the United Kingdom.

Both in France and in the UK, the benefits of the standard for business and the national economy seem indisputable.

The report published by the Fabrique de l’industrie – a think tank set up in 2011 and chaired by Louis Gallois (Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PSA Peugeot-Citroën) and Denis Ranque (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Airbus Group) – on the levers of competitiveness represented by standards was also presented. The study, entitled “Regulations and standards: levers of industrial competitiveness,” aims to explore neglected levers of competitiveness. First, it emphasizes a need to simplify the regulations, and for greater freedom for interpretation of the rules. A study by the OECD shows that a reduction in regulatory constraints would have impacts of 0.2% and 0.3% of additional growth on horizons of 5 and 10 years respectively. Next, it should be remembered that the potential implications of standardization are critical, because they can have a direct impact on companies’ technological decisions, and create dominant positions. Hence the importance for French companies of sending experts capable of defending a joint position at the French level. In this area, there is still great room for progress.

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