The recent price crash of Bitcoin and Ethereum has caught many investors off guard and re-opened the debate about the inherent risks of crypto assets. Interestingly, their current volatility is not just about the whims of increasingly risk-averse investors. Rather, it is the inherent design flaws of stablecoins which are also hastening this era of crypto uncertainty.
Unlike conventional crypto assets, digital stablecoins promise a ‘less risky’ investment by pegging their value to traditional currencies like the US dollar, the euro or certain commodities. Stablecoin design can become more intricate with certain types guaranteed by a basket of government-backed (fiat) currencies or specific financial instruments.
Essentially, stablecoins offer assurances that they are backed by real-world assets, not just by computational wizardry. Think an updated, decentralised savings fund backed by boring old government bonds and real world currencies.
Alas, the past weeks have shown that stablecoins can have feet of clay. In a matter of days, TerraUSD – a stablecoin supposedly pegged to the US dollar – imploded and lost more than 80 % of its value. Its over-elaborate algorithmic blueprint and extremely questionable balance sheet cost its investors billions in losses. Before the crash, TerraUSD comprised more than 10 % of the overall €170 billion stablecoin market.
One might say that this was a one-off blunder of a relatively small and reckless digital asset. However, the biggest stablecoin Tether – with a market cap of more than €70 billion – also tumbled the same week and fell below its $1 peg before recovering.
Unfortunately, the damage was done and this negative signal caused selling panic, which ricocheted to many other crypto assets. Tether has been on the radar of regulators for a long time, as a US investigation in 2021 revealed that its creators have falsely advertised its stablecoin as being fully backed by actual dollars.
This is not a recipe for building confidence in a global market beset by rising inflation and political uncertainty.
Superficially, the current stablecoin industry is far too small to endanger global financial stability. Nevertheless, it remains an important cog in the bigger crypto market, which is currently close to a €2 trillion valuation. Should stablecoins continue to grow in prominence internationally, a sudden liquidation of assets to cover redemptions could have negative contagion effects on the traditional financial system.
Just think of 2007 when a little known, but highly risky, financial ‘innovation’ called mortgage-backed securities triggered a global financial crisis. And the parallels between what happened in 2007 and the current crypto markets are rising.
Global policymakers thus face a momentous task in crafting a regulatory response that sets up clear and binding rules for the stablecoin industry, as part of a wider legislative effort on crypto assets.
The best approach is to safeguard societal interests and financial stability while allowing individuals to continue to have access to these tools. In Europe, policymakers should anticipate that there will be growing demand for these novel type of applications and ensure legal predictability for both users and industry. The European Commission’s proposed ‘Markets in Crypto-Assets’ (MiCA) regulation is a necessary, but far from complete, first step.
Although still in draft form, MiCA has suggested a wide array of rules on traditional crypto, stablecoins, as well as on their service providers. Explicitly on stablecoins, the draft places on issuers strict obligations for authorisation and certification. National competent authorities, specialised European agencies, and even the European Central Bank (ECB) would be involved in the implementation and monitoring of all technical requirements for stablecoins.
Politically, as recent economic history has shown, innovation can never be regarded as risk-free.
The international aspect is also key. The EU should seek to coordinate its novel approach with global partners and avoid competing regulatory regimes fighting for stablecoin domiciliation. Mairead McGuiness, the EU Commissioner for Financial Services, has rightfully issued an open call for a global approach to regulating cryptocurrencies; global challenges require a global response.
But it is not just about regulating the many risks of stablecoins. Global central banks must act faster to develop their own digital currencies as a means of underpinning the credibility of digital finance. In Europe, the EU and the ECB should also accelerate their efforts in setting up a digital euro, as a complement to traditional euro notes. Unlike crypto assets, central bank digital currencies are centralised digital equivalents of cash, which offer new avenues for payment operations and financial inclusion.
The ECB has the resources and technical capacity to develop a privacy-proof digital euro equivalent, which will be a natural next step in the digitalisation of the European economy.
The strategic political importance of the digital euro cannot be underestimated. Unregulated payment solutions or third-country financial applications (especially from China) are already mushrooming, which creates specific long-term vulnerabilities across Europe’s economies. Like it or not, fundamental change is coming within retail, e-commerce, and finance across Europe, and EU policymakers must be prepared to provide trustworthy alternatives.
Crypto assets are now part of the financial mainstream. But the wider risks posed by still unregulated stablecoins remains a potential credibility shredder for the wider digital finance industry. It’s time for public policymakers to step up.Eoin Drea Dimitar Lilkov Economy Innovation
Stablecoins are Crypto’s Feet of Clay
09 Jun 2022
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as the main engine of growth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, owing to its naturally cross-cutting, general-purpose nature. From a military perspective, the range of potential applications is at least as vast as the current range of tasks that require human cognition, e.g., analysing and classifying visual data, organising logistics, operating vehicles, or tracking and engaging hostile targets. How can Western nations – by which I mean those nations that are members of either NATO or the European Union (or both) – make the most out of the rise of AI, bearing in mind its potential defence applications?AI Defence Innovation
Artificial Intelligence and Western Defence Policy: A Conceptual Note
12 Jan 2021
While the world is focused on the aftermath of the US elections and its consequences, China is currently discussing its Five-Year Plan, the most important guiding policy document at national, regional, and local levels, which will define its policies and direction for the foreseeable future.
As a result of the successful containment of the Coronavirus, China will be the only major economy to grow this year, which makes engaging with China very attractive for governments, companies, and their shareholders.
Simultaneously, recent political developments in and around China have taken a heavy toll on China’s image in most European countries. Beijing’s deteriorating image and the lack of reciprocity for market access and intellectual property rights have also hardened positions in Brussels – a planned comprehensive investment agreement might not be achieved this year. So, how and in which areas could the strained EU-China relationship move forward?
Like in any international relationship, cooperation is built on trust, perceptions, and policies.
Perception of the EU and its member states in China
The rapidly deteriorating relationship between the People’s Republic and the United States does not (yet) seem to have had a negative effect on the image of European countries in China. Most EU countries, and the EU itself, seem to have a neutral or positive image within the Chinese population.
An example: a high-ranking Chinese government official pointed out that, while previously the USA, Japan, and Germany were all valued and trusted cooperation partners, Germany has remained the only one. The reasoning is that the current international situation makes cooperation programs with the USA impossible and the relationship with Japan is (again) burdened by history. Meanwhile, Germany and most European countries are seen as neutral and developed countries.
Europe’s generally positive image should be used when dealing with China. Nevertheless, without supporting national Chinese policies, any entity dealing with China will encounter difficulties in cross-border cooperation.
China’s Five-Year Plan is the country’s most important guiding policy document
Anyone who has a political or economic agenda in China attempts to influence the drafting of the Five-Year Plan (FYP). After the next FYP will be formally approved by the Chinese National People’s Congress in the spring of 2021, provincial and local governments, as well as state-owned companies, will follow its guidelines and turn them into concrete projects and cooperation.
The outlines for the next five-year plan were formulated in the fifth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee in late October 2020. Like its predecessors, the next FYP will focus on increasing innovation and manufacturing, developing a sustainable society, raising the general living standard, and bridging the development gap between the wealthy coastal and the less wealthy rural areas. The most notable new developments will include:
-A long-term vision reaching until 2035, thus also laying the ground for the next three five-year plans;
-A push for higher technological innovation and self-sufficiency, influenced by the deteriorating US-China relationship; and
-The introduction of a new “dual circulation” model that aims to create growth based on domestic consumption, while not cutting ties to international markets.
Next steps in the EU-China relation: focus on reaching global goals and tackling megatrends on commonly agreed terms
Looking from China, Europe is already a battleground for narratives in an increasingly polarised world. The ‘damage control’ tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, his first trip abroad after the pandemic began, illustrates the importance of Europe in Beijing’s plans. As the relationship between China and North America deteriorates, China will be looking to other countries for foreign policy successes.
In line with the European Commission’s strategic outlook on relations with China, the EU and its member states should build on their positive image and strengthen cooperation with China in mutually beneficial areas. This does not mean giving in or selling out your own values. As demonstrated by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China in its latest position paper, one can and should be frank while negotiating with China, but this shouldn’t be done through aggressive Twiplomacy, where the negotiating partner risks losing face.
One also cannot expect China to do the EU´s homework. It is up to Europe itself to form and show unity on how it wants to cooperate with China.
In conclusion, looking at the proposed goals of China´s next five-year plan and the EU’s strategic outlook, two cooperation areas seem especially mutually beneficial. Firstly, the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement within an already existing UN framework. Both the EU and China have pledged to become climate neutral by 2050/2060. Both plan to invest billions into green technologies, green finance, and in new solutions promoting sustainability. Cooperation in this area will foster innovation that will benefit both partners and third countries. Secondly, both China and most EU members need to curb megatrends like population aging and the sustainable development of rural areas, with the goal of forming equitable living conditions. In these areas, China and the EU can change best practices and create new solutions that also benefit vulnerable groups.Janne Leino China Globalisation Innovation
China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025): Reshaping the EU-China relation
09 Nov 2020
Regulating autonomous vehicles is not only a question of finding solutions in connection with the technical aspects of the legal framework. Rather, it involves making preliminary policy-based decisions that take all stakeholders into consideration. This article makes the case that efforts must focus on how to incentivise the use of autonomous vehicles without putting the burden on the shoulders of those who will ultimately make use of them. In that respect, the existing regulation (implemented on the basis of the Product Liability Directive and the Motor Insurance Directive) is insufficient, as there is a considerable mismatch between the current framework and the challenges posed by autonomous vehicles. There is a need to act urgently on the regulatory level.
Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Anastas Punev Industry Innovation Technology
Autonomous Vehicles: The Need for a Separate European Legal Framework
18 Sep 2020
On 22 June, Amnesty International, a non-governmental organisation, published a story on Moroccan journalist and human rights defender Omar Radi, whose smartphone was reportedly bugged. Amnesty’s investigation of the case found traces of so-called ‘network injection’—a cyberattack in which an outside actor inserts a program in the target’s device in order to gain access to its content, including email and browsing history.
Network injection attacks are usually carried out by tricking the target into opening malicious links, often sent via SMS and WhatsApp, which then infect the target’s device with malware. According to Amnesty, the spyware program used in the Radi case was Pegasus, developed by an Israeli firm to track COVID-19 cases in Israel.
In Israel, this technique is used with full transparency, and amidst a healthy debate on its benefits and drawbacks. However, it’s worth mentioning that the technique itself can, of course, also be used to track and monitor political opponents. This creates a clear and present danger of authoritarian overreach, as witnessed in China and Russia, for example.
Amnesty accused Moroccan authorities of the attack, a charge which Morocco denied, asking Amnesty for material evidence. As presented by Amnesty, the case itself is a human rights violation due to the use of spyware against a journalist doing his job, since the journalist’s smartphone was tapered with and infected with malware in order to track and survey him.
But the Omar Radi case also reveals a more significant issue, which deserves to be discussed. And yet, for obvious reasons, it is often hidden and avoided in public. Cybersecurity has become more and more relevant in the past 20 years. This is directly related to the growing combined threats of international terrorism, trafficking, and smuggling, which bedevil relations between Europe and its neighbours.
The technology at the core of the Radi case (i.e., spyware used to penetrate phones and other forms of electronic communication) is, by nature, multi-faceted. It can (and is) used by friends and foes alike: terrorists, traffickers, and the agencies trying to combat them. Over the years, this technology has progressed and become much more sophisticated, as well as much harder to trace.
Electronic surveillance is, of course, taking place inside the EU as well, mostly used by state actors. But since the technology has developed and become more user-friendly, it’s also accessible to non-state actors (such as criminal organisations and terrorists). Network injection itself is, in a sense, a ‘tip of the spear technology’ when it comes to tracking technologies. Also, in order to be effective, direct contact with a phone (or some other device) and the network used is necessary.
It’s hardly a surprise that authorities across the board are keen to embrace such ready-to-use technology that can help keep track of what they consider hostile or politically disruptive individuals and organisations. The line between what constitutes genuinely nefarious and dangerous cases, and what does not, should be easy to draw. However, it sometimes isn’t. Accessibility makes various types of spyware tempting to use, even when it’s not necessary. However, when their use by authorities crosses the line, they often create individual casualties in the process.
Simultaneously, the very nature of cyber technology such as spyware makes it ripe for clandestine applications, and therefore not necessarily open to a more public debate.
So, when a case like the Radi one appears, even if it takes place outside the EU, it should be seen as a chance for the Union. It is a chance to discuss and learn from the issue of how cybersecurity, and the technology used to enhance it, ought to be managed, protecting individuals and societies alike, as well as avoiding abuse and malicious overreach.
The issues at stake are critical for the EU as well, since we do have similar technology (oftentimes purchasing the same software), and the balancing act of individual integrity and societal security is linked across borders. There is to date no common EU policy towards these issues. That needs to change, and a way to start is to address the difficult problems tied to integrity and security on an EU-wide level.
Cybersecurity technology roams unsupervised. Here’s why that needs to change
20 Jul 2020
One of the most pertinent questions posed during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is whether technology can be successfully utilised to mitigate the spread of the virus or otherwise limit its impact on everyday life. This In Brief takes stock of the technological measures taken in several Asian countries as a reaction to the outbreak and examines the recent response of European Union member states. The text also maps out workable solutions and important future considerations on the digital front for the EU.COVID-19 Crisis European Union Innovation Technology
COVID-19 and Technology in the EU: Think Bigger than Apps
07 May 2020
Perhaps, when the history of European integration in the early 21st century is written, 5G will be viewed as the beginning of Europe’s geopolitical renaissance. Although, that currently seems very unlikely. Because it’s hard to escape the overwhelming feeling in Brussels that a greying, slowing Europe is now stuck in a technological blindspot behind the two global superpowers of the United States and China.
5G sums up the EU’s ability to constantly punch below its weight on a geopolitical level. It also symbolises how Brussels has totally failed to leverage its significant (and often underestimated) economic strength to project its wider political priorities.
Honesty is clearly needed in Brussels because advocating for greater subsidiarity within the EU while simultaneously calling for a more geopolitical Europe is resulting in a clear dilemma. You simply can’t be a global power if there are 27 (or more) potential veto’s sitting around the table. What is required is not a universal abandonment of the EU’s competition or industrial legislation, but rather a more agile, more nuanced understanding that in select, geopolitically important areas, Europe must work together if it is to protect its interests on the global stage.Economy European Union Industry Innovation
A Geopolitical, 5G Europe? Brussels needs to go big, or go home
13 Mar 2020
The term ‘financial technology’ (FinTech) refers to technology-enabled innovation in the financial sector. FinTech could result in new business models, products and services. It has been rapidly developing around the world, offering innovative products and services that are quickly gaining traction with consumers and investors. Different countries and regions around the world are finding themselves caught up in this fast-paced ecosystem, where their competitiveness depends on a variety of factors, including the interaction of different market players, access to funding and talent, and regulatory measures. This paper examines the latest developments in specific financial technologies, major financial services and product providers. It also looks at the conditions which are shaping financial centres’ competitive significance in FinTech on a global scale.
European Union Industry Innovation Technology
Recent trends suggest that the US and China are emerging as key hubs for unlocking the disruptive potential of financial innovation in terms of the scale of their FinTech businesses and investments compared to Europe. For the comparatively smaller and younger European FinTech companies it would be challenging to compete with them without favourable government initiatives and support. The EU has already undertaken certain measures and initiatives in order to nurture its FinTech firms, but at the moment it lacks a targeted, EU-wide approach to FinTech. The policy landscape remains rather fragmented with different national approaches to legislation and regulation. The paper examines the current EU policies, initiatives and frameworks for the purpose of providing forward-looking policy recommendations for a more competitive and innovative single European market in the financial sector.
Fine-Tuning Europe: How to Win the Global FinTech Race?
18 Feb 2020
Digital authoritarianism is no future prospect. It is already here. The People’s Republic of China has institutionalised draconian measures for citizen surveillance and censorship, as well as gaining almost full control of online political discourse. The Chinese Social Credit System is an intricate extension of this tactic. A coordinated administrative system which feeds on data from different governmental sources and has the ability to sanction and publicly shame individuals would be a powerful tool in the hands of the Chinese Politburo. In parallel, China is pursuing an aggressive agenda of techno-nationalism which aims to move the country closer to technological self-sufficiency and to maximise the penetration of its technological giants on the global stage. The majority of these digital champions have been nurtured by generous public subsidies and successfully shielded from international competition.
This research paper analyses the unique features of the Chinese model of digital authoritarianism and its international spill-overs. China’s oppressive model is no longer just applied domestically but is successfully being exported to other countries across different continents. As a new decade begins, the EU must make sure that its citizens have the necessary institutional and legal protection from abuses of modern technology such as facial-recognition software and the advanced application of AI. Europe must remain a global influence when it comes to ensuring a coherent regulatory approach to technology and stand ready to oppose the spread of digital authoritarianism.China Democracy Economy European Union Innovation Technology
Made in China: Tackling Digital Authoritarianism
11 Feb 2020
Democracy needs to be improved and updated. Today, due to the fast-changing nature of our society, democratic structures have difficulty to respond to the demands for more participative and transparent political processes, both at national and EU level.
However, it is often easier to ask for an improvement than to propose solutions. This is also the case with the improvement of democracy, which is ultimately defined by the way people discuss, interact and come to an agreement. All these characteristics have not essentially changed even though the modern means of communication have.
Events like Gilets jaunes demonstrations in France underline the importance of involvement in the democratic process of ordinary people. For some years now, high expectations have been put on the power of Internet to bring people closer to politics as well as on direct democracy tools such as direct voting. However, various Internet-based political initiatives have not been groundbreaking, and after the Brexit referendum doubts are increasing whether the direct vote is the way to go to improve democracy.
The Irish Example
Citizens’ Assembly, Ireland’s own example and experience with innovating deliberative democracy, is worth studying when tackling politically sensitive and potentially divisive topics.
For years, the topic of abortion was seen in Ireland as a highly controversial theme. The establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly proceeded two previous assemblies (The independent We the Citizens initiative in 2011 and the government sponsored Convention on the Constitution from 2012-2014) which helped to create space and acceptance for the assembly.
The Irish Citizens’ Assembly was launched in November 2016. Ninety-nine citizens from across Ireland gathered in Dublin to begin a national conversation on abortion. Assembly members were selected by a private marketing research firm hired by the government aiming to be broadly representative of the Irish society, based on citizens’ geographic location, gender, age and social class.
The results of the Assembly’s final, highly anticipated vote were released on April 2017: 87% of the Assembly voted in favor of easing the Irish abortion restrictions. In their formal report to the Irish Parliament, participants recommended legislation legalising abortions.
The Irish Citizens’ assembly showed that purposeful smaller representative groups can indeed make a difference. The Assembly facilitated the presentation of various views and insights on the topic. The media coverage of presentations triggered intensive discussion and expert input and the forum informed public opinion and thus facilitated greater understanding of the issues.
However, the Assembly still had relatively limited public visibility and the majority of the population was not aware that the assembly actually took place. Thus, it is important that such a process is supported by the political system in order for the opinions to reach the public debate. For example, the University College of London organized a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, but due to total lack of visibility, the assembly did not have any impact on the public debate.
An EU Citizens’ Assembly?
The European Parliament has a clearly defined role to represent European citizens. However, the question whether a European Citizens’ Assembly, with an advisory role, could be valuable in engaging with the citizens when the EU has a clear decision to make, remains.
The Irish example shows that a Citizens’ Assembly is the most effective when the debate is on a specific topic. An EU’s Citizens’ Assembly could take place when discussing enlargement, trade agreements or major EU institutional changes. The first Citizens’ Assembly should have a limited lifespan, related to a topic. If the Assembly was a success, it could be relaunched.
A European Citizens’ Assembly with rotating members could enforce the view that the EU is accessible to ordinary citizens and enforce the dialogue between the EU institutions and its citizens. The Assembly could bring some fresh air to Brussels and provide the Brussels-based EU officials with a better sense on the concerns of citizens.
In any case, the Citizens’ Assembly is a tested and useful idea when considering a referendum in EU member states. In the Irish case it created a basis for a passionate, yet rational debate leading to a decision which did not appeal to everyone, but which the Irish society was able to digest. In light of the current situation with Brexit, that is what one would hope from all referenda.Tomi Huhtanen Brexit Democracy EU Institutions Innovation Society
An EU Citizens’ Assembly to enforce European democracy?
19 Feb 2019
The rapid technological progress in automation, robotisation and artificial intelligence is raising fears, but also hopes, that in the future the nature of work will change significantly. There will be changes in what we do, how we form workplace relations, how we find work and the role of work in a society. Some believe that these changes will be for the better: we will need to work less and thus will have more free time. Others think that the changes will be for the worse: there will be fewer ways to earn a living.
The central question of this paper is this: will adages such as ‘By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food’ and ‘No bees, no honey, no work, no money’ become obsolete? Will work disappear and with it the societal relations and inequalities that result from differing success in work? If this is going to happen, what policy options do we have to address the issue?Economy Innovation Jobs Society Technology
The Future of Work: Robots Cooking Free Lunches?
11 Jul 2018
This week Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress in Washington D.C. to testify over two consecutive days in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The CEO of Facebook addressed a series of allegations, previously assumed but before now, never fully proven or confirmed at such high-level by a company representative. This personal blog briefly highlights the most important political takeaways which could have significant policy implications and are likely to remain matters for growing public concern within the EU.
Facebook is a monopoly. Facebook faces competition from other social media platforms or rival apps, but only in overlapping areas. The company does not have actual competition in today`s market and there is no single competing entity offering a similar bundle of services.
The company can`t cope. The narrative that a social network with so many users can self-regulate and monitor content independently and successfully remains untrue. The CEO of the company admitted that tracing hate speech and monitoring disturbing video content posted in an array of different languages, fast and effectively, is a persistent and insurmountable challenge. The copious number of languages and linguistic nuances employed and the millions of posts every day, means that there is no fully efficient ‘check’ against dangerous content or misleading/untrue facts which can distort markets and impact democracies.
Journalistic investigations have also questioned the actual amount of fake profiles engaged in fraudulent activities or phony accounts which are part of businesses seeking to sell online influence and artificial social engagement. Facebook has regularly pledged to address this issue, but the company has thus far refrained from admitting how much of its 2 billion user base has in fact been corrupted.
Facebook is at war with Russian operators. Mark Zuckerberg openly confirmed that the company has not fulfilled its responsibilities in terms of data privacy, fake news and foreign interference in elections. He further commented that his company is engaged in a persistent battle with Russian operators, attempting to exploit the social network.
In his words: ‘This is an arms race. They’re going to keep getting better’. This statement is nothing new but is a stark reminder that the upcoming 2019 European Parliament elections might be a target for the disinformation warfare lead by Moscow.
Personal data costs money. Prior to the recent scandal, the majority of Facebook users had little or no idea that their data was used for side purposes and also by third parties. Data costs money and Facebook provides a free service for the users by running ads. That is how Zuckerberg explained the business model of the social media in a nutshell.
However, this free service is supported by users ‘selling’ their own data at an unset price and by ‘signing’ a flawed contract with an abundance of fine print.
On Facebook ‘consent’ is an empty concept. Prior to 2015 Facebook`s Application Programme Interface (API) allowed third-party applications (after receiving user consent with a single click) to gather the data of the respective user, as well as the data of their Facebook connections. Granted, this was done after the original users had given their ‘consent’ to the third-party app but most users did not make an informed choice to share such a wealth of personal data and also expose their online friends.
Most importantly, users were not properly informed that in giving their consent with a click, they were delegating their personal information (and their friends’ data) to a third party, outside of Facebook`s platform and servers.
Facebook applies certain standards of accountability, respect of privacy and transparency when it comes to storing personal data within its servers. However, the company has been negligent in its handling of personal information and has de facto given it to third parties, without having created or implemented the necessary mechanisms for controlling these third parties.
Cambridge Analytica is a case in point. Even after the infamous company assured that it had deleted the personal data it had accumulated, Facebook had no instrument to verify this and only years later was it confirmed that Cambridge Analytica had lied. Again, it should be reiterated that most users have never given their full and informed consent and do not have comprehensive knowledge that third parties have been using, storing, studying and even archiving their personal data, away from the Facebook servers completely unchecked by private or public scrutiny.
The European Union should set the global standard on data protection. The CEO of Facebook recently hinted that parts of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in late May 2018, could be applied by the company not only in Europe but on a global scale. During the recent public testimony, he stated that the company may implement a different set of parameters given the `different sensibilities in the U.S.` but Facebook remains committed to installing necessary controls and tools for affirmative consent.
This remains only a promise. The current gaping legislative hole in the U.S. is likely to be addressed soon and it is probable that GDPR will serve as a template. The EU should acknowledge this and further increase its effort to set a global standard for data protection and privacy in terms of trade and the conducting of business with third countries.
Tread lightly but regulate. The question of regulating social media companies is becoming ever more pertinent. This is a considerable challenge given the growing ecosystem of start-ups and innovative companies which should not be stifled by cumbersome legislation. Zuckerberg himself confirmed during the hearing that regulating social media companies is inevitable and he is open to providing support for such an idea. The U.S. and EU legislators will have to make decisions fast and walk into the unknown land of tougher social media regulatory oversight.
Facebook is currently acting as an intermediary in news spreading, financial transactions and broadcasting live content, but it is far from being classified as a media, financial service or broadcasting company in the strict legal sense. Facebook is one of the global brands which are redefining classical concepts of competition and have used this opportunity to grow their business on a massive scale.
Such innovative companies are welcome as they provide new services, improve lives and create employment opportunities. However, they remain mostly unchecked and recent developments have proven that users are in a vulnerable position, particularly exposed to data breaches, and in some instances, platforms can be used for nefarious purposes with detrimental global impact. Legislation 2.0 is urgently neededDimitar Lilkov EU-US Innovation Technology
The Zuckerberg takeaways and what they mean for the EU
12 Apr 2018
Looking back over time, we can see that the Information Age has made our economies and our society knowledge-driven; our main drivers of growth have become based on pushing bits up and down (digital services) and on connectivity improvements which have made delivering those bits quicker, and ubiquitous, all throughout the world. In sum, we are assembling the “space shuttle” for globalisation.
In today’s world, the biggest transport company doesn’t own a single car. The foremost house rental company doesn’t own a single house or apartment. The space race is being carried out not by state agencies but by energy, automotive and online payment companies (SpaceX founded by Elon Musk), by a company that started as a record shop (Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Branson) and even by the world’s biggest retail company (Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos).
The car industry is being challenged by Internet companies which have yet to produce a single car. Recently, an Internet/TV company went global, disrupting the TV industry’s decades-long reign. Trade is global, companies are going global; the workforce and talent pool are becoming more and more global as well.
In the time since we have unleashed the information society, our economies have undergone incredible transformation, causing me to wonder, “Are we taking this transformation seriously?” I don’t think so.
Our so-called modern societies, democracies, governments and institutions are still not organised with an agile mindset that will enable them to engage in decision-making and policy-making that is able to cope with such transformation and speed. The way we think and govern this transformation is still rooted in a sectoral approach, not focused or centred on the citizen.
Governments, politicians and institutions should give to digital policies the same weight, the same holistic approach which they do for those dealing with education, health, social issues, the economy and even foreign affairs and defence.
We fail to consider how the digital transformation is being disseminated horizontally, economically and across sectors (e.g. in education, health, manufacturing, farming, etc.) and how vertically it is impacting our society.
The Internet has become the veins of the modern economy and of modern society — and data the lifeblood within, rendering cyberspace analogous to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for every middle-aged or older politician.
The Good, because it has brought about increases in productivity and therefore growth; the Bad, because it has increased inequality and has apparently led to lower incomes and to the erosion of low-skilled jobs; and the Ugly, because it has been regarded as an unruly space facilitating cyberattacks, fake news and terrorism.
We must then prepare our society and institutions for the radical change that is underway. Governments, politicians and institutions should give to digital policies the same weight, the same holistic approach which they do for those dealing with education, health, social issues, the economy and even foreign affairs and defence.
At EU level, this Commission (EC) has built a political structure to underpin the Digital Single Market (DSM) for concentrating efforts on the market dimension horizontally. Still lacking, however, is proper coordination or structure on cyber-diplomacy in order to address and promote a values-based and a rules-based global cyberspace — an EU Digital Ambassador is needed.
In the European Parliament (EP), digital affairs are done either in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee or in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO). But due to the cross-sector nature of the digital files, some files end up having five committees involved. This brings slowness and lack of agility on delivering pieces of legislation: a Digital Affairs Committee is badly needed!
In the Council of the EU (Council), whilst digital files are discussed in the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council configuration (TTE) and in the Competitiveness Council configuration (COMPET), most of these files end up being dealt with in more than just one Council configuration, within the framework of a particular sector, thus losing the horizontal vision needed in the digital transformation. Here, and again, it’s about time to devise a Digital Affairs Council.
A Digital Affairs Council would bring together a specially designated digital minister from every Member State, who would address the “digital present” but also devise a borderless and human-centred digital future. A digital minister would enable its Member State to no longer regard the digital realm merely as a sector, framed within his country’s own borders.
As a matter of fact, with digitalisation taking place in every sector, citizens will also be equally demanding toward their respective Member States, either in terms of “public” services or public policies: soon, domestic policies will have to deal with algorithms and the virtual world as well.
Concerns over privacy must be addressed, as do other recent phenomena, such as cyberbullying and online behaviour. We should be looking at how new digital technologies are re-shaping the family structure as we have traditionally conceived it, at how they are affecting our sense of time, our critical-thinking capacity to evaluate information and our standards of knowledge themselves — which are fundamentally changing our perceptions of the world. Before long, we should be questioning which values we want to preserve and nurture in a society that is turning digital.
New generations born in a hyper-connected world will hardly understand the concepts of borders or sovereignty — even the languages which are seen by today’s generations as barriers will be transformed by technology into enablers. We need to cope with their aim for flexibility — working from anywhere to reach everyone in the world.
It’s being said that globalisation and digitalisation are destroying jobs — or at least destroying more than they create. I’m not fully convinced of this; I believe there will be changes in jobs rather than losses: changes, for example, from low-skilled to high-skilled work.
Governments should thus be preparing society for a massive movement of workers from one profession to another, putting the right employment and social policies in place to incentivise workers, and encouraging the private sector to invest more in skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling human capital.
In the same way, discussions have started to appear regarding what some call “the negative effects of automation”. The ideas range from Universal Basic Income to taxing robots, although the point remains valid that “there is no single magic bullet for poverty” and inequality. But these tools can be valuable instruments when contextualised within a broader strategy — such as an education, fiscal and social reform — and targeted such as to maximise effectiveness.
We need to prepare future generations for jobs that don’t yet exist. For this, deep reform of our educational systems is of the utmost importance. Kids should master creativity, critical thinking, communications and adaptability. Throughout their lives, they will have to face a world in rapid and constant change, in which their ability to adapt to this change will be key to surviving. We must nurture a natural process of learning, unlearning and relearning.
Quick adaptability to change, therefore, is key to success, be it at EU level or Member State level, in the public or the private sector, or even at the level of the individual.Gonçalo Carriço Business Economy Innovation Internet Technology
Are we prepared for the digital transformation?
22 Jul 2017
Technological change was never as fast as it is today. This is not a cliché, this is a fact: previous technological revolutions, such as the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution provided humanity with abundant food, energy and industrial products.
ICT innovation is supporting the innovation process itself. Never before did so many people have such an easy access to so much knowledge and never before was it so easy to connect with other educated, empowered people.
The end of work?
There may be one downside to all this: the pace of innovation is killing jobs faster than new ones are being created. Indeed, if we were satisfied with the 1930s standard of living, we could have a 4 hour workweek and produce all the goods and services we need.
However, work is not just about satisfying material needs, it is about establishing a meaningful place of a person in society. Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontief stated as early as 1983:
“the role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors.”
The fancy term for this is “machine induced human redundancy”. The usual answer to this problem is that creativity and education might prevent that. We hope that the answer to accelerating technological change is better education, more creativity, so that we can be the ones that are leading change, and so that our jobs and lives are not being destroyed in the process.
How to thrive in this new environment
I believe we have reasons for optimism rather than panic in this new environment. First, we are flexible: there are many different things that we can do and we can learn. This is why education, especially life-long education is so important. Machines too can do many different things, but machines can also help a not so perfectly skilled human to do work he/she alone would unable to do. Therefore, a key thing to learn in the future is man-machine teamwork!
Second, we are not only those who work, we are also the customer. As customers, we will always have new desires and demands. Humans will always be guided by the ambition to better their lives and new work will always be generated as a consequence.
Demands are shaped by values and culture and we need to educate these. Appreciating the local and the particular, as conservatives, creates more jobs than finding satisfaction in the global and the general. We need to preserve the innate feeling that humans like to deal with humans! And we need to reward the desire of people to feel useful. Being useful towards our fellows creates the interdependencies and the fabric of human society. The issue is not so much about jobs as it is about being of use to others, in one way or the other.
Education: learning what makes us human
Currently, school systems are ignoring or suppressing what makes us human. We learn how to be like machines: memorize facts, learn recipes and formulae. This is, as Andreas Schleicher from OECD likes to point out, easy to teach, easy to test, easy to replace by machines. Instead, learning should encourage us to preserve and develop what makes us human and what is uniquely human, things like curiosity, creativity, empathy and critical thinking. And, most importantly, social interaction and building communities.
Education will have to focus less on “just-in-case” topics, learning something in school in case we might need it later in life, and more on “just-in-time” learning, such as learning while working. It should be less about how to serve machines and computers, and more about how to control them; less about how to answer questions, and more about what questions to ask.
Currently, school systems are ignoring or suppressing what makes us human.
Education should focus less on how to solve problems, and more on how to define problems; less on how to obey decisions, and more on how to make decisions; less on how to make stuff, and more on how to sell stuff; less machine skills, more people skills; less how to be smart, more how to be good; less how to treat people like objects, more how to treat people like humans.
This calls for a major overhaul of school curricula and pedagogy, whose effects will only start to reap results in fifteen years at the earliest. Therefore, a major effort is required on all kinds of life-long learning approaches and on opportunities for experimenting with creative ideas.
More education is not a panacea
Education is not a panacea, though. Too often, when faced with a problem, politicians’ answer is “more education”. As if better educated people are a solution to everything. The “more education” mantra is politically un-controversial: who could be against more education? Who could be against better educated people? Who could argue with the fact that having better educated people in the right places would solve all of our problems?
Well, Hayek had already argued against that. More precisely, his argument is that we cannot expect to have perfect people everywhere; rather, we must create systems and institutions that work with imperfect people and yet produce optimal results.
Education is about perfecting people, but it is not the only tool that governments have. Rather than only focusing on (the non-controversial) education, governments should keep a 360 degrees view on other tools available in their toolbox.
The infrastructure of innovation
States should provide the right infrastructure for curiosity, creativity, empathy and community building. This would include technological infrastructure, human-human networking, modernized IPR legislation, flexible employment mechanisms, social safety nets, all in order to allow people to experiment with new ideas. Innovation should be permission-less. Legacy institutions and legislation should not stand in the way of inventing new ways of working.
And states should put in place a responsive market economy that will recognise and reward the winners of this permission-less innovation. It is not likely that politicians and civil servants will find a solution to the future of work, but people will, as providers and as customers. The role of the state is to provide an infrastructure for innovation, for the generation of ideas, and then recognise the winners.
By innovation I do not only mean technical innovation, but also innovation in business, institutional and social models. The role of the EU is not to enforce, from the top down, a new social model for the digital age, simply because the civil service in Brussels is unable to come up with such a model. Instead, Brussels should allow states to experiment with different solutions and then facilitate best practices to spread.
To sum up, humans will always survive and thrive by adapting, learning, and creating new demand and supply. If we were happy with our current standards of living, less and less work would be needed to achieve it; however, human nature will always aim for more and better and newer! Thus, we should never be afraid of running out of work, but of running out of being human, running out of ideas, running out of fertile ground for ideas to develop into businesses and running out of mechanisms that tie individuals into a community.
The text is an expanded version of the author’s introduction and closing remarks on the panel “Tomorrow, How Will We Learn and Be Creative” at the 2016 Economic Ideas Forum.Žiga Turk Economy Education Innovation Jobs
The end of work? It just isn’t in our human nature
25 Jan 2017
Technology is transforming the world around us at a growing pace. It affects the way we live, the way we study, the way we trade, the way we communicate. And it can be disruptive. It puts into question long cherished assumptions, it makes communities more fragmented and fluid and – crucially – it can destroy jobs in the industries it challenges. Are we to conclude that the world would have been better off if we had artificially restricted the development and commercialization of trains, cars and electric devises? Obviously not. This lesson is still valid for tomorrow’s technological developments.
It’s around these pressing issues that experts from all over Europe gathered for the 7th Economic Ideas Forum. Organized by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, the official think tank of the EPP, the EIF’s aim is to act as a laboratory for policy-oriented ideas. This year’s edition has six main takeaways to pick our brains:
1. Keep Calm and No Basic Income
Today, the majority of jobs in Europe are still full time, permanent positions. But labor markets are changing as technological advances and flexible working options increasingly dominate the discussion. Basic income, many people say, offers a potential solution to the emerging realities of tomorrow’s labor market. But according to one speaker, a universal basic income will simply let big business off the hook in terms of providing corporate and social responsibility. In Europe, we should distinguish between being more educated and being more skilled.
2. Creative Bravery: Celebrating Failure, Changing Europe
One participant quoted Nobel Prize winner economist Wassily Leontief: ‘The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors’. We need to move towards a system in which individuals and firms can innovate ‘without permission’ as regulations often distort or prevent the creative process. In Europe, the risk reward balance needs to be reset. Failure is an option, because out of failure comes innovations which change the world.
3. To Be Digitalized or Marginalized: That is the Question!
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) offers huge potential for the EU to close the digital infrastructure gap with other global economies. For this to happen, public money needs the support of private capital in order to tackle market failures. The right regulatory framework requires a light and flexible approach, allowing private enterprise to bring their strengths to the next-generation digital economy. In Europe, fierce competition is the best way to ensure lower prices and higher investments.
4. Conscious Uncoupling: Living Happily Even after Brexit
The success of EU integration has been constituted by the internal market and the free movement of goods, capitals, services, people. These principles constitute the basis of the market economy model. To build walls and limit freedom of movement now would be not just counterproductive but also impossible. Free movement of people and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice are two key negotiation points. If the United Kingdom accepts these principles, an agreement may be possible. However, according to Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland and speaker at the head-to-head session on Brexit, this seems to be an unlikely scenario.
5. ‘Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed’
Fragmentation must be overcome. Only through combining the strengths of member states can the EU hope to add value at an industrial scale. European industry is going through a fourth industrial revolution: digital transformation is changing how companies do business on a daily basis. European industries still need to challenge fragmented markets, fragmented standards and fragmented national regulations. In Europe, we need to think globally.
6. Can Cows Save Europe?
Agricultural policy has been at the heart of EU policy since the Treaty of Rome. Research just doesn’t happen in factories and labs; it happens every day in millions of farms throughout the EU. In a time of huge global population change, land scarcity and increased environmental awareness, research and innovation in agriculture matters more than ever. For the EU, this means not just ensuring European farmers have the best knowledge transfer gained from private sector companies, but also helping farmers in emerging countries learn from our expertise. In Europe, agriculture must remain one of the most innovative and research intensive sectors in our economy.Agriculture Business Economy EU Member States Innovation
Tomorrow’s Europe in Six Steps
09 Dec 2016
In the early 2000s, it appeared that the European Union would continue to lead the world in telecommunications. It accounted for the largest share of private investment in telecommunications infrastructure; it had six handset manufacturers accounting for more than half of the world’s phones; and a continental agreement on 3G/UMTS which became the global mobile standard.
But the EU’s lead was short lived. Instead the US and Asia emerged. Today there are no more European handset manufacturers. 4G eclipsed 3G. The US is on track to have half of all its mobile broadband subscriptions as 4G by the end of 2016, while Europe will struggle to reach 30 percent. There is over €100 billion of additional investment required to achieve the Commission’s Digital Agenda goals.
This note examines the reasons behind the EU’s decline in global telecommunications leadership, notably a confused approach to telecom regulation and a regulatory framework which actually deters European enterprises from investment and innovation. 3 solutions are proposed to help close the gap in investment and to strengthen European enterprises so that they can invest/innovate and stimulate the demand for digital services.
These solutions are:
1. Removal of obsolete regulation on specific industries in favour of a general competition approach;
2. Update the competition framework to recognise the dynamic effect of digitally converged industries
3. Encourage public sector institutions to digitise as a means to help lagging European nations adopt the internet and achieve Digital Single Market (DSM) goals.European Union Innovation Internet Macroeconomics Technology
Telecoms Investment: 3 Steps to Create a Broadband Infrastructure for a Digital Europe
07 Sep 2016
Most, if not all, economic transactions are digitized to some degree. Most, although not all, enterprises use digital technology in some part of their business. Many, though still far too few, people use digital technology to make their lives richer and easier in everything from shopping and online banking to online dating or streaming music and films.
Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly hard to separate the digital economy from the non-digital one. Rather, the digital economy is the new economy, and the ambition to establish a European Digital Single Market (DSM) is the aspiration to realize an improved single market that makes use of new technologies. This is what makes fulfilling this goal both extremely complicated and very simple.
Rather than a bombastic revolution, digitization has been a silent, low key integration process moving horizontally through our economy and society. That is, until now. We have now reached a critical point, having realized that digitization has been embedded into most, if not all, parts of our lives.
Accordingly, a lot is changing as new technologies are no longer just being used to do things the way they have always been done, but also to do things in completely new ways. The song has been separated from the CD, bloggers compete with journalists, a mobile gaming company is worth more than a car manufacturer and our cities are being transformed by apps. Times are changing.
Based on our examination of the process of digitization and digital market integration in Europe, we highlight five specific policy issues that are crucial to promoting a lasting digital economy in Europe.
These areas include the need for harmonized regulation; making data borderless and data flows seamless, promoting regional, bottom-up, controlled experimental policy initiatives; growing urban digital markets where digitization and density accelerate innovation, and establishing an open, coherent framework for data ownership with regard to privacy, personal data and metadata.
In particular, we highlight urban digital markets as a unique opportunity for the EU (and member states) to improve the policy response to digital and disruptive entrepreneurship. Used properly, these markets can generate substantial growth and innovation while aiding the transition to a sustainable and world leading European Digital Economy. A rewired Europe fit and able to compete in the 21st century global economy.EU Member States Innovation Internet Technology
Rewiring Europe: Five Priorities for a Lasting Digital Economy
29 Jun 2016
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen meets 3D-printed life-sized robot InMoov at Makerstown.
Held on 24 May 2016 at the Square Meeting Centre, Makerstown was the first event of its kind in Brussels. It brought to the European capital 50 young and innovative Makers — a new generation of entrepreneurs and DIY experts empowered by Web 3.0 tools, technology and crowdfunding. From 3D printing to robotics, wearable technology to new ICT and food to fashion, the Makers selected from all over Europe might just be tomorrow’s Robert Bosch, Enzo Ferrari or Arthur Guinness.
Part fair, part conference, Makerstown was organised by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, the official think tank of the European People’s Party, and by Think Young, the first think tank to lobby for young people.
Speakers included Jyrki Katainen, vice president of the European Commission responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness; and Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner responsible for Research, Science and Innovation, as well as members of the European Parliament and business leaders. Industry 4.0, public and private finance for entrepreneurs, women’s entrepreneurship, start-ups and scale-ups were the order of the day.
1. Ideas are assets. Makers are leading the way
Twenty years ago, our biggest challenge was digitalising information. Now we are entering a new era in which the digital world is affecting and transforming the physical world in unpredictable ways. It is the age of the fourth industrial revolution and of the peer-to-peer economy. In this age, innovative Makers at the cutting-edge of the technological frontier are our best hope to revive our ailing economies.
Start-ups in Europe represent only 5 percent of firms, but they already account for a disproportionately high percentage of job creation. This is destined to rise due to the increasing interpenetration between digital and physical world. We must be ready to exploit this opportunity.
2. The three Fs of funding: Friends, family and fools
For innovative start-ups launched by visionary Makers, financing is often the main initial hurdle. In the early stages, often only friends, family and fools will be bold enough to believe in a new idea. In some contexts, public money can partly remedy this shortcoming, and innovative financial instruments have been developed by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank in the last few years.
Such versatile instruments are often not well known by makers and it is important to raise their awareness on this topic. However, public money should be used with great caution, as it can backfire and discourage the investment of private money.
Europe’s real problem today does not seem to be the availability of finance – markets are actually flooded with liquidity – but the lack of an adequate ecosystem. In the U.S., public money is much more limited than in Europe, and yet Silicon Valley is in California, not in Germany or France.
3. We can make it: Female entrepreneurship
Women are an under tapped source of economic growth and innovation. While more than half the European population is female, women represent only a third of the self-employed and 30 percent of start-uppers in the EU. This happens in spite of excellent educational achievements. The EU has traditionally been at the forefront of initiatives promoting gender equality and equal opportunities.
It could potentially do more in the field of education, which is essential in fostering a new mindset that would encourage women to live up to their potential. This needs not come at the expense of maternity and family life: intelligent policies can help women reach a balance between family and career engagements.
4. Creative bravery: Celebrating failure, changing the world
According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, 60-70 percent of productivity growth stems from innovation. Taking initiative is therefore essential. Recent years have seen a few success stories of innovation in Europe, for example the Estonian policy of abolishing tax for new companies, arguably one reason why Skype was born in Estonia.
However, some countries are doing better than others and policymakers should be open to bolder initiatives. In the U.S. more universities are introducing commercialisation offices to help students develop their ideas and bring them to the market. The initiative can be valuable for Europe, too.
Other important policy initiatives include increasing personal security on the Internet, strengthening the presence of technology and science in schools and decreasing transportation costs. Why not even allow reformist zeal to carry us away? The introduction of a ‘failure day’ could celebrate entrepreneurial failure and help eliminate the stigma it carries.
5. Ecosystems are essential
Only the right ecosystem can allow entrepreneurial spirit to create start-ups. The first element of a successful ecosystem is a big continental market. Europe has in place all the institutional instruments to create such a market, but national tensions mean services, digital and energy remain closed to competitive pressure.
The second essential element is an environment with few regulations, little bureaucracy and a very high level of flexibility. The EU has not always been up to the task. The EU and its member states should minimise regulation and allow as much innovation as possible. The third element is a mindset open to failure as a stepping stone towards success, and not paralysed by it as a shame to avoid. Although it’s unlikely that a single European Silicon Valley will emerge, we can be optimistic that Europe’s innovative future is bright.
After a day of demos and discussions, everyone who attended the event could agree on at least two things: Europe’s manufacturing tradition IS getting an update, and Makerstown was THE place to experience it first-hand! Breaking free from the confines of a regular EU-bubble conference, it was anything but a talking shop. Instead, it was streets ahead, celebrating European innovation in a dynamic, engaging, and inspiring way. Missed the action this year? No worries, Makerstown 2.0 will be back in town in spring 2017.Business Economy Industry Innovation Technology
Europe, get ready for the Makers Revolution!
25 May 2016
Technology is, undoubtedly, disrupting the world as we know it at a faster pace than we’ve ever seen before. It is reinventing society in ways we could have hardly imagined just a few years ago.
Technologies such as cloud computing, mobile apps, ecommerce or wireless communication have helped democratize information and give access to knowledge at a larger scale than ever before. We now live in a ‘network society’ always connected, always changing and always redefining itself.
This digital revolution has taken by storm all aspects of our daily lives and the way we work is one of the areas where disruption will be the strongest. It is not only the ‘how we work’ that we need to rethink, but also the ‘when’ and ‘where from’.
Coping with such disruption is already proving to be very challenging across industries, for both employers and employees in the public and private sectors. But it is up to us to face the challenges and make sure that the workplace environment is keeping up with the technology surrounding it, instead of trying to ignore for as long as possible (which, on the long term, would have disastrous consequences).
First of all, I strongly believe that for the world of work to keep the pace with the technological revolution, our paradigm around what work is and how it should happen need to change. For the past 150 years, throughout the industrial revolution and until today, very little has changed in the way we design organisations and jobs.
Just like in Henry Ford’s time, today’s workplaces are following the factorymodel organisational design shaped around structured hierarchy, heavy bureaucracy, overwhelmed by control and rules, adverse to change. As much sense as this model might have made in the industrial era, today it is making less and less sense to apply these same principles to our working environments.
Given the opportunities that technology is providing, it is now the time for us to start rethinking the meaning of work so that we can start redesigning the workplace. Organisations need to become flexible and adaptive in order to survive and because of technology, we now have the opportunity to make it happen.
Less hierarchy, more autonomy, simplifying bureaucracy as much as possible and involving employees more in the decisional process should become the norm of the organisation leading the way forward in any kind of industry or sector.
New models of organisation design such as holocracy, wirerachy, freedom centered or distributed (remote) have challenged the status quo of the world of work. And though none of these models have proven to be perfect, they all have one thing in common: maximising the impact that technology has within the workplace, taking full advantage of how it can help an organisation thrive (and improve the flow of information, communication, learning and development of employees, productivity etc).
In addition, technology is also redefining the physical environment of the workplace. Remote work is becoming more and more the chosen solution, as for an organisation this means lower fixed costs, significantly decreasing commuting times and also being able to tap into a global talent pool without being limited by the physical space to look for the most talented employees living in the proximity of the workplace.
And even for companies for whom remote work is not the solution, the office space is being redefined. It is making its transition from the cubicle to becoming a hub for collaboration where employees can spend time connecting with each other rather than the place where they need to be between 9am and 5pm.
But for all of this, the shift of paradigm needs to happen also as organisations need to drop the idea that efficiency and performance is directly tied with the rules of the physical offices fixed working hours and long commutes. Instead, remote working working organisations and coworking offices rely heavily on collaborative technology and digital tools to help employees thrive in their work.
Secondly, another aspect of the world of work keeping up with technology is the fact that digital workplaces will need digital employees. In other words, emphasis needs also to be put on developing digital literacy both within current generation in the workplace as well as younger generations who will enter the workplace in the upcoming years.
At the moment, there is a high percentage of the workforce (mostly represented by Generation X) across the world with real difficulties in using digital tools within the workplace and this is impacting in a negative way both productivity and the workflow within the organisation.
Developing learning programs that help them gain digital skills will be critical in the next years, as the requirements of the modern workplaces and the transformation of many of today’s jobs could lead to a stron technological unemployment trend which might leave heavy marks on economies and the society.
And even if today’s younger generations have been heavily exposed to technology since very early in their lives and they are true digital natives, they still need training and education about using digital tools purposefully in the workplace. For this, attention needs to be brought to education systems across the world to integrate digital literacy within the curricula of schools as an essential part of the learning process.
At the moment, the gap between skills taught at school and skills required in the workplace is becoming higher and higher and most of it because of this lack of focus on digital literacy.
Last but not least, government policies need to be more open to regulating new ways of work supported by technology. On one hand, it is the rise of the digital nomads and of the remote workers (who are either working on a freelance basis or as part of remote or flexible working companies).
At the moment, it is legally quite difficult for such workers to deal with paying taxes or finding legal ways of justifying their work (since the are huge gaps in legislation related to such regulations of remote or freelance work).
On the other hand, technology offers the opportunity to help close the unemployment gap for vulnerable groups of people (the disabled, the elderly, ethnic discriminated minorities etc). With the help of digital tools, they can be much more easily integrated in the workplace (both on physical or in remote working environments, depending on the needs).
But in order for organisations to create employment opportunities for these vulnerable groups, government policies play an important role in advocating for such approaches, reducing the bureaucracy of these processes and maybe even incentivising organisations for adopting such policies.
To sum up, I believe the impact that technology will have on the workplace will have a massive impact on shaping tomorrow’s society and it is our duty right now to try to foresee the changes coming along in the workplace and the forces driving it so that we can adapt to them in the best possible way.
The Romanian version of this article has been previously published in the Romanian news portal Ziare.com.Ana Marica Economy Education Industry Innovation
The Digital Revolution Within the Workplace
10 May 2016
The discussion about strengthening the European economy is very timely. Although the EU is facing urgent challenges now, we have to learn to tackle more than one crisis at a time. We still need to make efforts to improve the competitiveness and thus resilience of our economy when facing shocks, I have asserted today in the debate “Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU”, organized within NET@WORK Forum of the Martens Centre. The completion and strengthening of the Economic and Monetary Union is essential to ensure the stability of our common currency. In order to strengthen our economies, we have to tackle the root causes of the current crisis: Too much debt and too little competitiveness. It is necessary that the banking system returns to its mission of supporting the real economy, like financing entrepreneurship and SMEs. Progress has been made regarding the governance of the Eurozone, where the ECB monetary policy has been constructive. However, this help is limited and can only function as a bridge. There is no way around improving competitiveness through economic and political reforms, and I believe an appropriate tool for this can be a fiscal capacity of the Eurozone. The capacity should incentivize reforms especially in good economic times, when it makes sense to implement them, such as reforms already laid down in the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). An evaluation of the CSRs implementation rate could steer us towards reforms whose transposition require financial incentives through the fiscal capacity. What kind of reforms do we need to make our economies more competitive? On the one hand, we have to reduce deficits and limit public debt, return banks to their initial function, allocate more financing to research and innovation, further invest in roads and railway infrastructure as well as improving energy and digital markets. On the other hand, we need to reform labour markets to be more flexible in order to offer more opportunities to young people. We have to support entrepreneurship, start-ups and SMEs, further develop the single market, provide predictable and reliable tax and legal systems as well as insuring the functionality of the rule of law. In addition, there is need to reform the budgets. The limited financial resources we have at public level should be allocated to those areas which strengthen our economies. The budget should be a reflection of our political priorities. Moreover, we must invest in education. Schools and universities have to prepare the students with the necessary skills to be successful in the labour markets of the future. Many jobs of the future will require new skills, such as digital and e-skills. Furthermore, the development of the governance of the Eurozone is necessary, but more important is the impact on the real lives of the citizens. We have to show how our actions in Brussels really help the economy, and more specifically, how they benefit entrepreneurs and SMEs. European citizens are rightly interested in the final results. As pro-Europeans we have to talk about the achievements of European integration and present the EU as something which is still responding to the present and future needs of the citizens. In the past, the most urgent need was peace. Today, the challenges of the future are manifold, including the refugee crisis, increasing Euro scepticism and international conflicts. If the European idea is challenged and questioned by populists, it is our obligation, besides defending the European idea, to improve and further develop it. [originally published in Siegfried Muresan’s blog]Siegfried Mureşan Economy Education EU Institutions European People's Party Innovation
Do or Die: Political and Economic Reforms for a Stronger EU
20 Apr 2016
“We have stabilized the Euro and carried out reforms. Now we need to focus on innovation for growth and the digital economy.”
These are the words used by Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament during his opening of the Economic Ideas Forum that was held in Brussels on December 2nd 2015.
The Economic Ideas Forum (EIF) is an annual high-level conference that brings together economic experts, decision makers and business leaders to discuss and consider innovative ideas and solutions to the economic challenges facing the EU today. The Forum has so far been a roadshow affair, with previous editions successfully held in Bratislava, Helsinki, Dublin, London and Madrid. Organized by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, the official think tank of the EPP, the EIF’s aim is to act as a laboratory for policy-oriented ideas.
Here are the seven key takeaways from the one day discussions:
- Digital Single Market (DSM): You snooze, you lose
The Commission’s plans for a Digital Single Market featured prominently in the discussion and all speakers agreed that their successful implementation could be agame-changer for the future of the digital economy in Europe. According to one speaker, some EU member states still need to wake up from their “digital snooze”, otherwise the EU will continue to lag behind in digital innovation, most notably in comparison with the US. One big market, rather than 28 different ones will make Europe an investment and digital-friendly continent.
- Industry 4.0: Embrace, don’t erase
As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, Europe has long relied on its industrial eco-system as a core economic strength. But the relative contribution of industry to the EU economy is declining. In response, we need to activate a new industrial revolution: we need to transform industrial production through the merging of digital technology, the internet and conventional industry.
In an era where users take the driving seat, and the economy becomes an “on demand” one, including the personalization and digitalization of products, the EU needs to provide a co-ordinated response on how to embed innovation at the core of Europe’s industrial sector.
- Collaborative economy: Disrupt yourself
Revolutionising our economies and work habits, that’s no modest ambition set out by the new, dynamic players that are part of the so-called collaborative economy. How about the more traditional players that are challenged in the process? They can use this as an opportunity to disrupt their own business models by adapting and borrowing practices from the newer players. This will lead to growth, lower prices for the consumer and increased efficiency in the utilization of resources.
- It’s the (data-driven) economy, stupid!
All the digital innovations discussed raised complex issues of data treatment, storage and protection. There was a general agreement that a balanced deal on data protection is a necessary prerequisite for the digital economy to fully accelerate in Europe. On the issues of data flows and “safe harbor” the temptation to build walls around Europe should be avoided.
- Energy Union: Don’t rush to Russia
In the energy field, speakers agreed that the objectives are security of supply, climate protection and the reduction of energy costs. The EU has gone a long way towards having a common policy to achieve these goals, but further steps will still be needed. Tackling the overreliance of some EU countries on external supply (i.e. Russian gas) can be achieved through a better connected European energy market, a stronger energy union and intelligent diversification.
As for the latter, agreement on the importance and role of renewable energy sources was mixed with an acknowledgement that other complementary solutions should also be considered, including nuclear power.
- COP21: Leader, not lonely front-runner
With the EIF taking place just before the Climate Change Summit, the timing was right to underline that what was at stake in Paris was the future of Europe as a leader in clean energy. If an agreement was not reached, Europe could turn into a “lonely front-runner”, shouldering a disproportionate part of the burden in fighting climate change and losing its competitiveness to countries with laxer standards.
- Ukraine: Remain Calm – now reform and support
The need for diverse and comprehensive reforms in Ukraine was best summarized by a speaker that urged for a “Maidan in government structures”, as well as de-regulation, privatization and an independent judiciary. In this, Ukraine should value the experiences of centre-right reformers from Central and Eastern Europe during the 1990s. In turn, Europe needs to avoid that Ukraine falls off the EU agenda and offer concrete rewards to encourage the reform process in the country, such as the concrete prospect of visa liberalization.
Closing the event, Martens Centre Executive Director Tomi Huhtanen told the audience how, in previous years, “financial crisis” and “economic recovery” were the topics dominating the EIF discussions. This time around, new buzzwords such as “collaborative economy”, “industry 4.0” and “data-driven economy” took over the conversation.
In a world where change seems to happen at an exponentially growing pace, 2016 is no doubt going to bring new, disruptive trends for the European economy. The Martens Centre will be there to discuss them as they happen, with a continued appetite for new ideas and concrete policy recommendations.Economy Energy Growth Innovation Trade
Economic Ideas Forum, inspiring ideas into policy action: 7 key takeaways
10 Dec 2015
Europe and the US are witnessing a trend towards a more diffused production of services. This can be seen in the entry of a new kind of platform-based company into services markets. The driving economic factor behind this development is collapsing transaction costs enabled by new applications of the Internet.
It is a move towards what can be called a ‘People-to-People Economy’ (P2PE), in which self-employed individuals offer services in areas such as transportation, accommodation, cleaning and dining through platforms that connect demand and supply. This article explains, first, the concept of the P2PE and, second, how it has the potential to make the European economy more flexible.
It argues that the centre–right should not oppose, but support this development. The P2PE has the potential to transform European culture and entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, there are plenty of challenges ahead, which require policy responses such as modernising labour legislation, revising outdated regulations, tackling vested interests and providing social security for the growing number of self-employed people.
This article will take an unwaveringly positive approach to the P2PE since this new economy will likely increase the efficiency of service production and lead to gains for the economy as a whole.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Juha-Pekka Nurvala Business Economy Innovation Resources
‘Uberisation’ is the future of the digitalised labour market
08 Dec 2015
A lot has been said about the impact of the digital world on science, technology and the entertainment industry. However, little attention has been paid to innovation—or lack thereof—in the political system. This article argues that the political system is out of sync with the times. It explores the causes of this and proposes some avenues for institutional innovation. The aim is not to propose a solution or a roadmap. Rather, it is to ask the questions that need to be asked and push the boundaries in terms of what could be done, all in the hope of moving the debate forward.
The Internet is bringing about a seachange in how citizens expect to be represented. Governments, however, are unable to keep up with the changes that it has provoked in our societies. The world changes by the second, and yet our governments are still only receiving citizen input every two, four or five years, depending on the system. Modern democracies are based on information technology that is five hundred years old, the printing press.
With this information technology, the best possible system that could be designed was one whereby a few make daily decisions for the many, and the many vote on who represents them once every few years. Long-term representation made sense at a time when citizens could not participate in the decision-making process. This was not physically possible, nor did the citizens have access to the information required to make informed decisions.
One could argue that, in the eighteenth century, someone like John Adams knew pretty much everything there was to know about running a country, but that is far from true today. The increased complexity of the issues we face, from climate change to the global financial markets, makes it impossible for our representatives to come up with innovative and long-term solutions on their own. We are in the middle of a global crisis of representation. Governments simply do not seem to be able to respond to the demands of our rapidly changing society.
Technological connectivity has multiplied access to and circulation of information at a very low cost. Conversations that used to be one-to-many have become many-to-many. The Internet has the potential to transform us all into producers as well as consumers of information, and we can now participate remotely in any global conversation.
Read for FREE the full article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Pia Mancini Innovation Internet Political Parties Technology
Why it is time to redesign our political system
09 Sep 2015
Our society is living in turbulent, yet exciting times: an unprecedented political crisis on the European level is shaking up the political status quo, leaving no stone unturned. Europeans have begun to realise that they live in a more complex, interdependent and connected era than ever before.
Citizens are now questioning the current political situation and are not satisfied with the means of participation. Where European politics is concerned, many citizens do not feel sufficiently informed and are unable to get actively involved. According to the latest Eurobarometer results, more than 50 % of European citizens feel ‘that their voice is not heard’ on the EU level (European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication).
However, democratic processes, and policymaking tools especially, remain very traditional. Voting for representatives during elections is still the primary source of legitimacy in the law-making process—with only rare ‘adventurous’ participatory exceptions, for example in the Nordic countries.
The desire for more legitimacy in representative democracy, combined with the unprecedented technological possibilities available for realising greater citizen involvement, is exciting for citizens and political actors alike, as its achievement would offer a more encompassing assessment of society’s sentiments. Existing digital communication tools that are readily available and just waiting to be exploited are expected to improve the quality of democracy through an increase in citizen participation. Most promisingly, digital methods can improve the dialogue between civil society on the one hand, and elected officials and political parties on the other.
This article will address crowdsourcing in democratic processes and especially how the process of crowdsourcing legislation can be implemented by political parties to augment democratic processes. One example of how legislation can be crowdsourced will be presented in greater detail, and the implications for the citizens who participate in the process will be discussed. The article will look at possible challenges to crowdsourcing activities and then conclude with recommendations on how political parties can use this new technology effectively.
Read the full FREE article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Maria Lastovka Democracy Innovation Political Parties Society Technology
Crowdsourcing as new instrument in policy-making
09 Sep 2015
This research paper examines two modern disruptive military technologies that are being used increasingly frequently: remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and cyber-attacks. These technologies are called disruptive because they are profoundly changing our societies and warfare. These changes also apply to Europe, so it needs to take them into account and adapt to the changes. More conventional threats have not disappeared, however, but are sometimes used alongside the new methods, as Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown. Europe is facing a hybrid threat with multiple elements that blend together and can change rapidly. However, Europe is falling behind in developing or even dealing with new technologies. Insufficient investment has been made in research and development (R&D) and, due to a decline in military technology programmes, the European defence industry is suffering. If this continues we might lose important capabilities that have already been jeopardised by defence-budget cuts in recent years, and the existence of European military technology know-how could even be endangered. Creating European projects, such as a common RPAS, and economies of scale will be necessary to support the European defence industry.Defence Foreign Policy Innovation Technology
Dawn of the Drones: Europe’s Security Response to the Cyber Age
17 Apr 2015
Kumardev Chatterjee is not only involved in shaping European innovation and entrepreneurship policy as the Founder and President of the European Young Innovators Forum, he actually started his first profit-making company at the age of 19. In this interview he talks about why he thinks new start-ups do not flourish in Europe as well as they do in the USA.
Mr Chatterjee, you were one of the 45 world leading digital thinkers requested by the European Commission to write a chapter for the project “Digital Minds for a New Europe” that aimed to articulate a vision for Europe in 2020. What is your vision of Europe 2020?
My vision is that Europe in 2020 will focus strongly on innovation and entrepreneurship, not only in the area of products, services and business processes, but also in the area of public procurement and government services. Some people think that innovation and entrepreneurship are the ‘cool stuff’, the ‘edge stuff’, but that is not yet the mainstream opinion. We need to have this absolutely reversed by 2020 so that entrepreneurship is seen as being mainstream, something that is driving more sectors of the economy.
How can we achieve this? If we come up with more financial instruments, many people, especially in business, will say that it is just another level of bureaucracy.
Innovation and entrepreneurship needs young innovators and robust private sector involvement in tandem with strong government policies and flexible financial support.
A lot of people don’t know that Silicon Valley, which has ended up becoming the paradise of private funding, innovation and entrepreneurship, started off as an area with companies and projects funded by the US Government for decades. Government directly funded certain projects there which led to the initial development of the ecosystem before it became self-sustaining and scaled massively.
Government helped create an ecosystem where companies could grow to the extent that they are now run completely privately. There is no shame in saying that public funding can help to bring down barriers that we have put up, it can seed the market and create an environment that is required to foster growth. This is particularly true for Europe, where public action is key to bringing down barriers. We will never have quite that level of ecosystem here in Europe if public funding and public action is not taken.
Yes, some people will say: ‘oh, but that is fake’. Well, is Spotify fake? Is Skype fake? I don’t think so. There are real success stories and the fact that some public financing helped them in the initial part of the story is completely linked to the fact that we have a high-tax regime and strong regulatory barriers. Why should the tax not be spent on creating an ecosystem where individuals are free of state dependency and create self-sustaining entities that further growth, jobs and prosperity?
Isn’t the main problem administrative barriers in Europe? In some countries it takes hundreds of days to start a company.
You are absolutely right. Just try as a citizen of one EU country to go to another EU country and set up a business there. It will take up to six months for the banks just to agree that you, as a European citizen with all the existing credentials in your home country – address proof, identity proof, bank proof, can actually open a bank account for business in another country.
So yes, administrative barriers are huge, but why are they there? I think it is pretty straight forward: they are there because of Member States’ inaction in this area. The Member States want to have oversight over everything. I don’t see the reason why each Member State should have control of European business transactions. The Commission and the European Parliament operate at the right level to deal with this.
So we need more EU level legislation?
Yes, we need the EU Member States to acknowledge that the market has to function according to European rules and not national rules. Of course there are national priorities and derogations in some areas but why should opening a bank account for business in another country be a national issue? Banks should be absolutely mandated to do that. If you are already known as a good bank customer in one Member State, you should automatically be able to open a bank account in another Member State.
Why are there no venture funds in Europe that could complement the bank system?
There is a lot of venture funding in Europe today compared to, let’s say, five years ago when the situation was quite dire. Some venture funds from the US and elsewhere have set up shop here but it’s all about access to finance.
Let’s say that you are in Bratislava and you try to access some money from a Spanish bank: you have to jump through several regulatory hoops just for that. And if you are a bank backing a start-up, it had better be in an area where cross-border trade is easy to do, otherwise you won’t get the financing.
The money is there but the will to invest is not at the same level as in the USA. Do an analysis of the number of pitch events where entrepreneurs can pitch and get money in Europe and it’s at one tenth of the US. A common anecdote says that the same pitch for a start-up that will make you hundred thousand dollars in Europe will make you a million in the US, because there you will not find so many administrative barriers to scaling up, on the contrary there is a robust single market where you can easily get your investment back.
So you think that Europeans have entrepreneurial spirit but we lag behind the USA because of administrative barriers?
If you go to Silicon Valley or any other major innovation centre in the world, you see that Europeans are there. And this is because we are innovative, we have a lot of ideas, we have a lot of creativity, we are highly educated. In fact we have the elements required at the level of the individual to build successful startups.
So, it has nothing to do with the fact that we are not innovative. It has to do with the mindset that we are not encouraged to take risk. Having creative ideas is not the same as actually taking the risk to set up a company to put your idea into action.
That’s the first part and the second aspect is, as I’ve said, that there are so many barriers, starting with access to finance, access to market, with all the regulation. The USA is actually the reverse. Even with a fairly basic idea you can get some money and get to the market pretty quickly, fail fast and then try something else.
Can digitalization help reduce these barriers? What should an ordinary citizen understand is meant by the word ‘digital market’ that is stressed so much by Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commision?
The citizen should hope to have an easier digital life. So, that means, for example, that instead of going to ten offices for one paper that you need, you can do it online from your home. Why should you run at least twice to the office when you need a driving license?
Several countries have awful digitalization because the public sector often opposes it. ‘Oh, if you digitalize, jobs will be lost in the public sector.’ But there will be maybe more jobs created in the private sector! We have to focus on the consumer, the end-user of the product.
The governments always have to ask: is this an innovation? Does the consumer benefit from this innovation? Or does the bureaucracy benefit from this? This is the crucial question: ‘Who should it benefit?’
Interviewed by Vladka Vojtiskova, proofread by Eoin O’Driscoll.
Kumardev Chatterjee was a speaker during the fifth annual Economic Ideas Forum that took place in Bratislava on 16-17 October 2014. He is a Young Innovation leader, top-tier ICT industry professional, European Commission appointed expert and New York Times published opinion leader, all by the age of 35. Chatterjee’s vision, opinions and views have been published by the New York Times, World Economic Forum, European Commission, European Business Summit, Microsoft and leading tech media across Europe. Chatterjee is one of the 45 leading digital minds around the world who have been invited to contribute to the European Commission’s “Visions for Europe’s future in the new digital era”, alongside Eric Schmidt of Google. He is an Advisory Board member of the Journal of Innovation Management with Henry Chesbrough. In recognition of his Innovation leadership and the high-impact achievements of EYIF, the European Commission and INTEL have awarded him as an Innovation Luminary – Young Innovation Champion.Business Innovation Jobs
Market has to function according to European rules and not national ones
09 Dec 2014
Banking Economy Energy Innovation Jobs
Economic Ideas Forum 2014, Bratislava – Conference Report
01 Dec 2014
The triple crises in Europe affected business innovation and R&D in a negative way. The market entry of innovative businesses in Europe was obstructed and risk capital dried out. Investment in innovation suffered due to the unstable market conditions and the macroeconomic situation. Surely, in times of uncertainty fewer companies would boost R&D spending and invest in innovation. This is especially valid for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The crises were a stress test for the small companies and many failed to pass it. At the same time innovation demand for SMEs grew higher than ever because it meant survival, productivity, growth and competitiveness. Small companies innovate to maintain market share and achieve greater efficiency. Currently, 99.8% of all firms in the EU are SMEs and this is why small innovative companies are crucial for the economic growth and sustainability. In the long-run, economic growth depends on the establishment and support of business environment that fosters innovation. Innovation-intensive countries which create and implement new technologies develop faster than countries that do not innovate. This is why innovative businesses have a special place in the long-run development of the EU.
Innovations and R&D are hardly digestible in our daily round and the best way to tell the story is to look at real life examples. In 2013 I did research on 256 young innovative companies in Belgium. They are small, highly innovative with products and services that reshape and create markets. Due to the high risk nature many of these companies do not survive through their first critical years. Many of these firms co-exist in clusters such as science and industrial parks. That is where a network of enterprises, organisations and academic institutions houses knowledge transfer, suppliers and expert capacity. Many of the young innovative companies in Belgium are university spin-offs – a bridge between universities and businesses, providing jobs and added value to society.
A typical example of innovative businesses concentration is the Louvain-la-Neuve Science Park – a large cluster of small innovative businesses. Established in 1971 as part of the Catholic University of Louvain, it is the first of its kind in Belgium and it is the biggest one in the region of Wallonia. The area of the science park is 231 hectares and it is the home to almost 200 companies that have committed investment amounting to €440 million. Approximately 5,200 employees work there and the majority of them are scientific workers. Louvain-la-Neuve Science Park is specialised in life sciences, engineering, ICT, chemicals and other fields. The park itself is part of a local group of scientific and technology parks which includes the Scientific Park Monnet, Einstein Scientific Park, Fleming Scientific Park, Scientific Park Général and Scientific Park Athena. Louvain-la-Neuve Science Park is a mixture of academics, on the one hand and innovative companies, scientific and research organisations, on the other. This combination of factors creates a suitable environment for small innovative firms to start-up, grow and generate added value through innovation.
Zooming in at individual companies, my research revealed that some of the small innovative companies are established as spin-offs from the Université Catholique de Louvain (KU Leuven). Following the business path of such companies is of particular importance in order to understand how such firms initiate their activities. The KU Leuven Research and Development, a specialised organisation for setting up spin-offs, plays a major role. Initially a project proposal based on a scientific discovery is submitted and thoroughly reviewed. After the approval of the idea, the KU Leuven Research and Development provides assistance to the researchers in creating a business plan for a start-up and for identifying investors. In order to ensure knowledge transfer, the KU Leuven Research and Development allows the know-how to be utilised later for educational and research purposes. Once the company is created, it starts operating in the cluster environment which provides networking and partnership opportunities. The cluster provides more security for such companies because joint research projects drive the cost of R&D down to an affordable level. This is how a small company, engaging creative ideas of young researchers, might become a disruptive innovator, capable of reshaping markets. Successful cases, on the other hand, attract more of the usually scarce risk investment, both public and private. More entrepreneurs and innovators are attracted too. In the end, all these ingredients create an almost self-sustaining cycle that provides jobs, economic growth and added value to people.
There are many cases like the one I described and their cumulative effect will create a big difference on a larger scale in the EU. This is why investment in innovation and R&D, focused on small firms and their clustering, is a must-have for the European economy. Such investment will transform the European SME sector to a competitive and productive population of firms. The market value and employment capacity of small innovative businesses will be improved significantly. In addition, such companies have the capacity to close the gap between universities and businesses. Finally, small innovative companies could contribute to the economic convergence in the EU and to the long-run goal of economic growth and sustainability.Kalin Zahariev Business Innovation
Small innovative companies make a big difference
11 Mar 2014
The new dimension created by the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provides a clear business opportunity for small and medium sized enterprises in the European Union, which should be taken as a formula to create jobs and boost business competitiveness.
At present, the possibilities offered by newly created tools such as cloud computing enable European SMEs to have an opportunity to grow that needs to be promoted by the EU institutions.
Cloud computing is a new technology tool that allows businesses to access a catalogue of services. It also allows businesses to respond to their needs in a flexible manner and enable them to adapt to the demands of the moment, paying only for what they need to consume at any given point. Cloud computing also increases the number of network-based services, enabling providers to operate in a faster and more efficient manner. Finally, these benefits come with an optimisation of costs and a guarantee that the service will remain secure.
The European Union must make a firm commitment to further the use of this valuable tool., As my colleague MEP and President of the European Internet Foundation, Pilar del Castillo points out, cloud computing offers a unique opportunity to spur economic growth and boost employment. Studies have concluded that fully implementing this tool could generate an estimated 3.8 million new jobs in the EU in the framework of the Horizon 2020 Programme.
Besides promoting job creation and innovation, and contributing to increased productivity and competitiveness, cloud computing has tremendous potential in terms of cost savings of ICT. It will also act to boost the development of the digital single market.
Data protection regulations must be adapted in order to accommodate this new technology and, at the same time secure and strengthen consumer confidence.
On the other hand, the fragmentation of the Digital Single Market should no longer be one of the outstanding issues, in order for cloud computing to realise its full potential.
In order to carry out these actions, we need the support of the EU to continue to promote access to new technological innovations including the deployment of High Speed broadband in Europe or the achievement of other initiatives already underway, such as the Galileo program of the European Commission for the development of the European satellite navigation.Pablo Zalba Growth Innovation Internet
The cloud: a business opportunity for EU SMEs
09 Apr 2013
What do demonstrations on city streets in the Philippines in 2001, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2008, revocation of the results of the fraudulent elections in Moldavia in 2009, the M-15 movement with their camps and demonstrations in Spain in 2011, the so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East in early 2011, and the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started in New York, also in 2011, all have in common?
They have all used social media to help organise such protests and mobilise their responsible agents. Yet these were much more than just about arranging a party: they all greatly exploited social media to establish communication networks and move towards their objectives.
Today’s social media have helped make real the idea of a “global village”, first put forward by communications theorist Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s, and suggests the claims of a “flat world” by twenty first century essayist Thomas L. Friedman are true. According to Friedman, personal computers and the speed of the optic cable in the transfer of information have marked the modern revolution and almost removed the limitations of time and space.
Social media’s quick development into an important way to influence society is part of the advancement of information and communication technologies. The study Social Media and Politics – The New Power of Political Influence explores the development and use of social media in influencing politics and society.Innovation Internet Society Technology Youth
Social Media and Politics – The New Power of Political Influence
18 Dec 2012
This publication summarises the proceedings of a conference organised during February 2012 in Lisbon by the think tank Platform for Sustainable Growth (Plataforma para o Crescimento Sustentável) on the topic “How can we simultaneously foster growth and consolidate our public finance?” Speakers included Lucinda Creighton (Minister on European Affairs, Ireland), Andrew Haldenby (Director of the think-tank REFORM, UK), Philippe Aghion (Harvard University, US), Vitor Bento (President of SIBS) and Jorge Vasconcelos (PCS). The aim of the event and the follow-up publication was to identify policies and measures to foster sustainable growth in Portugal going beyond the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Portugal and the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and the European Central Bank. The main conclusion is that in addition to fiscal consolidation, Portugal also needs to focus on structural reforms and selective and reproductive investments on knowledge economy, green economy and industrial policy; this his will foster an innovation-led economy.EU Member States Growth Innovation Sustainability
Growth and Austerity: How to Foster Growth in Times of Austerity?
01 Nov 2012
The European Union, as an early proponent of the shift to alternative forms of energy, has taken impressive efforts in promoting green business and environmental reform. Where does the EU stand today in its transition towards a sustainable economic model built on green business? What challenges do European policymakers and business leaders face in their progression towards a truly green economy? The availability of and access to private forms of investment capital is one of the most important challenges for new green industries struggling to maintain competiveness in the face of growing global competition. Other practical challenges for businesses in the renewable sector are highlighted in the paper using the case study of Germany. The paper proposes new forms of investment, sustainable financial products, the creation of common standards, and greater transparency. This should go hand in hand with the continuation of renewable energy subsidies and the exchange of information and the promotion of skills among businesses.Energy Environment Innovation
Green Energy- Green Business: New Financial and Policy Instruments for Sustainable Growth in the EU
01 May 2012
Today the internet is part of our daily lives. But it is also part and parcel of our politics, from e-government straight through to e-revolutions. This book visits the major questions of Internet governance today bringing to the fore the role of the Internet in, and its impact on, politics and policy-making.This publication does not in itself aim to be an exhaustive text on the topic. Rather, the authors open small windows onto vast themes. Hopefully, this will entice readers to engage further with a relatively new area of academic research and perhaps – why not? – instigate them also to contribute to future research in this fascinating area.Innovation Internet Technology
Governing the Internet
01 Dec 2011
This paper examines the extent of competitive challenge faced by European enterprises in the knowledge economy from the emergence of Asian technology powerhouses. Key sectors such as those of software development, IT services and pharmaceuticals are explored and the paper demonstrates that European politicians and business leaders should become more aware of the current and future innovative capacity that industries such as these are beginning to gain momentum in Asia today.Economy Innovation Technology
Maintaining Europe’s Innovative Advantage: EU Policy Responses to the Asian Challenge in Pharmaceutics and Software
01 Feb 2009
The world is rapidly moving toward increasing penetration of smaller, more local sources of energy. This paper analyses the existence and design of an optimal policy for building robust markets for distributed renewable energy solutions, specifically energy technologies that can be adopted at the point-of-use by energy users (as opposed to energy utilities) that are carbon-free and renewable. This includes the objectives of distributed renewable energy policy, how they conflict among stakeholder types, which elements have been used to stimulate market growth and which policy type can drive towards unintended and intended consequencesEnergy Environment Innovation
Accelerating the Deployment of Distributed Renewable Energy: Through Innovative Market-Driven Policy Programs
01 Jan 2009