The Digital Economy touches every aspect of our society, from the job market and the economy to our social life. The world is changing and who wants to be competitive must adapt quickly. This was the message reinforced at the EBS 2015 Session on Europe and the digital era last week, which was moderated by Bruno Berthon, Global Managing Director for Digital Strategy at Accenture.
“The Digital industry can help the EU reach a +15 – 20% GDP growth target”, Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the Digital Single Market at the European Commission declared at the opening of Thursday’s morning session which took place in Palais d’Egmont’s prominent “Europe Room”. “It is mandatory to invest in the digital industry renovation in order to help create new jobs and new opportunities”, Mr Ansip stressed.
Mr. Ansip was also critic toward the EU: “We definitely need a more proactive approach to identify opportunities. The EU has lower investments in the digital and tech innovation than any other key player in the world – take the USA, take China, take Israel. We must accelerate innovation if we really want to compete and generate opportunities for our businesses”.
Jean-Pierre Lartigue, Head of Corporate Strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, soon echoed him. “In the technology sector Europe hasn’t got many key players. It’s a fact”, he affirmed. “If you look at the list of the biggest and most successful companies in the market just a very few are Europeans, although we were leaders in the 90s. How did this happen?”. He then pointed the attention on where to invest: “SMEs and infrastructure is where to invest to regain credibility! We have to build centre of excellence where to make students and small businesses connect”.
Christian Morales, VP and General Manager EMEA for Intel, shared the same view and stated the winners will be those who can accelerate the transition to the digital era through innovation and research. He was also confident that Europe has the potential to grow. “We need to invest in order to remain competitive, but Europe historically has the potential. Twelve of the top twenty most innovative companies in the world are in Europe, and we have to start again from here, from investing on our resources.”
Further, Marco Comastri, President & General Manager at CA Technologies, was very clear on the challenges the EU has to take if it wants to be a key player in the digital sector again. “Security is point number one: we have to invest on data protection if we want to compete”, he stated during the EBS session.
“The second point is crucial: skills! We have lower rates of employment and lower investments on engineering and mathematics than other important markets like the US and India, and Europe simply cannot think of growing business without growing skills. We need to invest on a new class of professionals”, Mr. Comastri said. “This will help us open a new chapter of our economy”, he added.
Finally, Mr. Ansip concluded the session answering a question from the audience. “What can be done in the EU to really accelerate evolution?”, he was challenged. “We have to be faster in standardization, and uniform services across borders. Our start-ups and entrepreneurs urgently need help, and we have to make it easier for them not only to do business every day, but also to start again after a failure. The market needs concrete answers”, he interestingly replied.