Standards Glossary

Standardisation is the process of developing, promoting, and possibly mandating standards-based and compatible technologies and processes within a given industry. is a 24-month European Commission initiative that will provide the European Standardisation Booster. facilitates and streamlines the dialogue between projects funded under the Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe and Digital Europe Programmes with the Standardisation landscape and its main actors, namely corresponding Standards Developing Organisations (SDOs) to increase the European impact on (international) Standardisation and strengthen the European competitiveness.

Do you want to learn more about the European Strategy on Standardisation? Here is the first version of our standardisation glossary which is based on common questions.


What are the EU standardisation priorities?

According to the EU Standardisation Strategy, priority areas are COVID-19 vaccine and medicine production recycling of critical raw materials (CRM); clean hydrogen value chain, low-carbon cement, certification of chips in terms of security, authenticity and reliability and data standards enhancing data interoperability, data sharing and data re-use in support of the Common European Data Spaces.

What is a standard?

Standards are a way of communicating – a kind of common language– in the form of a technical specification or document. There are several definitions of a standard. One of the most relevant definitions is “Something used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations”. Standards may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method.

What is a de jure standard?

De jure standards are formal standards developed by official standardisation organizations. De jure standards are developed under the requirements of the formal standardization system which implies consensus, voluntarism and the fact that they are market-driven.

What is an international standard?

It is a standard adopted by an international standardisation body.

What is a European standard?

It is a standard adopted by a European standardisation organisation.

What is a harmonised standard?

It is a standard a European standard adopted on the basis of a request made by the Commission for the application of Union harmonisation legislation.

What is a national standard?

It is a standard adopted by a national standardisation body.

What is a de facto standard?

De facto standards are not developed by one of the recognised bodies. These are standards that have gained currency over time e.g. music notes. Other de facto standards could be a result of one or more companies’ products where the products become a ‘standard’ itself. Due to the different kinds of de facto standards, they are developed in different ways. Sometimes a standard can start as a de facto standard and end up being approved as a de jure standard. One example of this is the PDF document. This started as a de facto standard but was eventually approved by ISO and is today described in ISO 32000.

How to influence the content of a standard?

Standardization organisations are open for participation for all interested parties. Participation typically takes place through the network that the national standardisation organizations constitute under the European or international organisation (e.g. CEN or ISO). If you wish to influence a standard, may join the national standardisation organization. Joining your national standardisation organisation may even allow you to become part of the European or international standardisation activities.

What are the main types of standards?
  • Terminology standards are used to create a common language and are especially utilised in new innovative areas, where the need to establish clarity about terms and definitions is profound.

  • Compatibility standards are used to ensure that different parts or products fit together
    Performance standards specify requirements for operation, quality, safety or other parameters such as the environment, health etc.

  • Measurement and test standards make it possible to test products in a uniform manner and to establish confidence in the product.

  • Management standards constitute a tool for organizations to effectively manage their efforts for improvement with respect to diverse parameters


How are standards created?

Standards are typically based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience. They are provided in documents established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. Standards may be mandatory or voluntary. De jure European standards are developed and published by CEN (the European Committee for Standardization), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization and ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute). CEN and CENELEC member countries are obliged to adopt each European standard as a national standard. They also have to withdraw any existing national standard that conflicts with a new European standard. De jure international standards are developed and published by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). The standards for electrical, electronic and related technologies are developed and published by IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), which have more than 80 member countries. At the international level, ITU develops standards for the telecommunication field. Standards can also be developed by consortia or come into being as an effect of market dominance (de facto standards).

How does the standardization process work?

Standards are developed in technical committees and their sub-committees as well as in working groups. The member organizations contribute to and assist in the standardisation work where they represent the interests of their stakeholders. All member organizations have the right to participate in the work of all the committees and can nominate experts to the working groups. Participation in standards development in the formal system is open to everybody. It is voluntary work based on consensus. The standardization committees should preferably consist of experts from each relevant sector of society, e.g. industry and commerce, consulting agencies, academia and R&I bodies, consumers and labour, public authorities as well as government.

What is the lifecycle of a de jure standard?

Drafting a standard goes through a certain path from a draft standard to the phase of public consultation, balloting, publishing, and finally, the implementation of a standard. A public consultation means that each member body releases the draft standard for public comments in their own country. Revision is also a stage of the lifecycle of a standard. A technical committee makes sure that a standard is up-to-date, and whether a standard needs to be revised or not is checked regularly. The first review is required to take place within five years after a standard has been implemented.

Who is an expert in committees and working groups?

An expert is a person nominated as a member of a working group or a technical committee by the national standardization organization. An expert participates in the technical writing of standards.

Who is a WG Convenor?

Person responsible for the administration of a working group, meeting arrangements, acting as a chair of the meetings and delivering documents. His/her task is to help the experts find a sufficiently wide consensus on subjects. He/she also reports on the achieved work to the technical committee.

Who is a delegate?

A delegate is nominated by a national standardization organization, which he/she represents in the meetings of the technical committee. A delegate participates in creating a multinational consensus and decision-making as a representative of his/her own country. Unlike in the role of an expert, a delegate comments on the issues according to the prevailing view of his/her own country.

Who is the TC Chair?

The chair of a technical committee has the overall responsibility for the management of a committee. He/she must take all the members’ views equally into account by then leading the work towards the consensus of all the stakeholders. The TC chair will be a person nominated by a committee secretariat, often originating from the country holding the secretariat.

Who is the TC Secretary?

The TC secretary is the person who takes care of the administrative work of a technical committee. Together with the TC chair he/she takes care that the committee work is carried out according to the current rules. In questions of substance, the TC secretary has to act in a neutral way with no connections to national views.

How are standards numbered?

Each standard is given an identification number by the secretariat of the European or international standardisation organizations. The letters of identification tell what or which standardisation organizations have developed the standard. The identification number can refer to different parts of a standard.

How are standards titled?

The title of the standard indicates the subject of the document without unnecessary details. Any additional particulars shall be given in the scope. The title normally contains the main element, which covers the subject treated in the document.

What is a technical specification (TS)?

It is a document developed or adopted by CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, ISO or IEC for which there is the future possibility of agreement on a European standard, but for which at present:

  • the required support for approval as a European standard cannot be obtained,
  • there is doubt on whether consensus has been achieved,
  • the subject is still under technical development, or
  • there is another reason precluding immediate publication as a European standard.
What is a technical report (TR)?

A Technical Report gives information on the technical content of standardization work. The obligation at the national level is limited to the announcement of the existence of the CEN/TR and conflicting national standards may continue to exist. Adoption as a national deliverable is optional.

What is a guide?

It is a document published by CEN, CENELEC, ISO or IEC giving rules, orientation, advice or recommendations relating to standardisation.

What is a CEN-CENELEC Workshop Agreement (CWA)?

It is a CEN-CENELEC agreement, developed by an “open workshop” outside the normal committee system, which reflects the consensus of identified individuals and organizations responsible for its contents.

What are amendments and corrigenda?

They are corrections that amend a standard before a full revision is carried out.

What are the main standards in the ICT domain?

You can have a look at the EUOS ICT Standards Repository developed by for an overview of the main standards in technological domains.

What are the main standards in the drone sector?

You can have a look at the Drone Standards Portal developed by AW-Drones for an overview of the main standards in this field.

Reference: A World Built on Standards - A Textbook for Higher Education