Europe is a leader in many technology sectors such as aerospace, environment and automotive. However, in certain critical technologies such as semiconductors and AI, the EU must enhance its competitivity, and do so fast. In the context of rapid breakthroughs around the world, especially in the digital field, the EU should further promote the digital transition as a top policy priority and act accordingly, by allocating generous resources and deploying incentive measures in an integrated, EU-wide approach.
Diversity is one of EU’s strongest resources. However, diversity should never affect the cohesion of the EU Digital Single Market, across its varied implications. Besides the unified legislation, the EU Digital Single Market requires the common development of frontier scientific projects and funding for R&D in the digital sector.
While EU funding for innovation is, in certain sectors, smaller than its global peers, fragmentation among MS can further decrease its effectiveness. Therefore, I advocate for larger and better coordinated R&D and innovation funding in Europe, especially in the digital sector. Only by pooling resources together, significant resources, in large and ambitious projects that follow EU’s strategic priorities, we will be able to achieve breakthrough innovation on European soil. This includes empowering the venture capital and start-up scene, including with wide state support, as long as the downstream investment decisions continue to follow market principles.
At the same time, larger and closer coordinated R&D and innovation funding, should preserve diversity in allocation. Currently, EU R&D funding is highly concentrated in certain traditional sectors, such as automobiles, but not in digital and high-tech technologies, such as AI, semiconductors and other ICT-related industries. In contrast, other major global actors concentrate R&D spending exactly in these sectors. Therefore, the EU should make sure that while it increases and better coordinates R&D spending, at the same time it priorities those technologies that are strategic for the future. In order to do so, besides additional funding, the EU should further act to provide fiscal and other sort of incentives to high-technology companies in strategic digital domains, thus preventing the departure of domestic companies from Europe and even attracting investments from new foreign companies into the EU. Not the least, the EU could further expand its business internationalisation schemes, assisting to a larger extend European tech companies to enter overseas markets. Expanding market scale overseas is crucial for data-driven companies, as it improves efficiency, brings creativity and reduces margin costs.
Another priority for the EU should be to attract and retain more talent. Building a company and serving the society with new technologies requires human talent.
The EU and increasingly more countries from the Central-Eastern Europe are an outstanding source of talented programmers and scientists, that lead the way in revolutionising technology. However, Europe cannot always retain them. Romania has recently joined the ranks of countries that invest significantly in bringing talent back. In this field as well, allow me to envision a Europe-wide talent attraction programme, that is just and equitable, making Europe again a major talent destination in high technologies.
In addition to funding and human resources, innovation in the digital realm also requires modern, slim and efficient regulation. Gladly, the EU is setting the global standards in terms of consumers’ rights, privacy and data safety. At the same time, we must make sure that sufficient ground remains for companies to experiment in a safe environment, so that they can achieve technological progress. While the EU is doing its utmost to ensure the safe use of data and the highest ethical standards, it should not forget that in the absence of autonomous domestic technology, our values, freedom and security will be impossible to protect against external threats. In this sense, we must regulate smartly and listen to both consumers and tech companies. Technology development and consumer safety are not in opposite concepts, but two sides of the same valuable coin. Digital technology requires however access to large batches of data and to critical infrastructure.
Through smart regulation and sound policy instruments, we can find more ways to grant our tech companies access to data and infrastructure, without affecting the safety and security of our citizens. This will allow EU companies to grow on the market, instead of non-EU competitors that pose greater security risks.
To conclude, I envision a digitally strong European Union, that allocates growing resources for research and innovation, targets strategic sectors and is driven by smart, innovation-friendly policies. A Europe that acts as a free, creative environment for technology development, while maintaining the highest standards of safety and security for its citizens. The Europe I believe in is THE leader in digital technologies, the most prolific craddle of human talent, corporate unicorns and technology champions, that lead global markets. It is the Europe that we will make, together.