DigitalResearch & Innovation

Europe’s digital future

The run up to the European elections is one of the most adequate times to analyse the EU’s state of play, look ahead, and prepare for the challenges and opportunities to come.

From this perspective, in my view, it is necessary and urgent that the European Union concentrates on paramount issues for Europeans, those where decision making at European level represents true added value. Consequently, there is a need to focus.

We live in a global World that requires a global perspective.

Hence the European project will only advance to the extent we are capable of working together and adopting the necessary integrated policies, this is clearly the case of areas such as security and defence, Banking Union, immigration policy or Climate Change.

However, these are not the only fields where EU response is needed; we must also endeavour to enhance the Single Market of which the Digital Single Market constitutes its greatest accelerator. Sixty years after the Treaty of Rome we are witnessing the formation of a new World which is defined by the digital transformation.

Europe will only be able to successfully overcome all the challenges that this process brings about if it is capable of completing the Digital Single Market.

Beyond any doubt the European Union provides unique and extraordinary conditions to seize all the opportunities of the Digital Transformation.

With a GDP of 16.5 trillion Euros, representing 22.8% of global GDP, more than 500 million consumers and an outstanding global competitive position in manufacturing, a sector that represents the major share of investment in EU R&D (62.3%) and 80% of total EU exports, the EU has the necessary assets and economies of scale for developments such as cloud computing, Big Data, data-driven science, robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and of course 5G.

These strengths will prove of outmost importance in an Era where the growth of machine-to-machine communications is exploding beyond the charts, transforming the physical world in in a type of information system through sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects and linked via the Internet Protocol.

No doubt, that this Parliament has been aware of the importance of the digital transformation, and that action has been taken in many fields. In that sense network security, e-identification, e-commerce, end of roaming charges, geoblocking, copyright, Cloud computing, free flow of data and the adopted regulatory treatment that ensures predictability, reward risk-taking and long term investment in very high capacity networks and support the rapid development of 5G communications, are very clear examples.

The next Parliament and Commission must continue the work towards making of Europe a leader of the digital transformation, at least with the same ambition.

We still have, to say the least, many challenges ahead. For example, today, due to still very significant regulatory fragmentation, Europe’s industry cannot yet fully seize all the benefits of these technological developments.

We must also be aware that the digital trans- formation will inevitably bring about profound changes in all aspects of our daily lives but also regarding new business models, labour relationships and skills.

There will be consequently a need for Europe’s population and specially its workforce to undergo a reskilling process.

With Artificial intelligence (AI) development exploding beyond the charts, the EU should, amongst other actions: support business- education partnerships to attract and keep more AI talent in Europe, establish dedicated training schemes for professionals, support digital skills and competences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), entrepreneurship and creativity, encourage Members States to modernise their edu- cation systems and elaborate a set of AI ethics guidelines.

From a research and innovation perspective, experience from successful public policies for high tech areas shows that, in addition to traditional research actions, there is a need to support rapidly developing technology fields.

More specifically Europe must focus on reinforcing capacities in high performance computing, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. It must no longer be acceptable that while the EU currently consumes one third of high performance computing resources worldwide it provides only around 5%, pushing EU scientists and engineers to turn massively to computing resources outside Europe.

Lastly, as it can be no other way, the Union needs to continue to drive the cybersecurity agenda by supporting cybersecurity across the entire value chain, from research to the deployment and uptake of key technologies, as well as supporting public-private partnerships that are able to stimulate the competitiveness and innovation capacities of the industry, thereby guaranteeing the supply of cybersecurity products and services.

Accordingly, as the latest development with regards third country vendors has shown, cybersecurity requires essential policies, and global cooperation.

Europe cannot go about it alone, it is very important to work together with international partners and create initiatives by building a mutual and international con- sensual regarding an open, interoperable, secure and reliable cyberspace.

At the end of the day, the EU has this legislative term adopted much needed and break-through legislation and it counts with the most ambitious public research programme in the World. Nevertheless, Europe’s Digital Future will greatly depend on the EU maintaining its efforts and digital ambition, a precondition if we are to take the European economy to the next level of growth and competitiveness.