Defining Europe’s role in the digital century

Brussels, 1 April 2019 – Ahead of the European Elections in May 2019, European DIGITAL SME Alliance has defined 10 priorities to pave the way for Europe’s digital future. With its Manifesto for the European Elections, DIGITAL SME wants to encourage policy-makers, citizens and businesses to build the conditions for a thriving European digital economy, built on innovation, future technologies and European values.

The most valuable global companies of today are digital, and the 10 leading digital companies are stemming from the U.S. or China. In competition with those two countries, Europe finds itself in the middle ground with an economy based largely on small and medium-sized companies and with big European companies leading in more traditional sectors, such as oil and gas, automotive, finance or engineering.

“While Europe is strong in research and innovation, we lack an environment which allows our innovative digital companies to thrive,” says Dr. Oliver Grün, President of DIGITAL SME. “However, growing a strong and independent digital industry is fundamental to ensuring Europe’s economic prosperity in the future. Even more so, digital sovereignty may be a necessity to maintain our free and democratic societies.”

The future will be dominated by an environment that will be digital in all aspects. Houses, cars, fridges, but also objects of daily use will be equipped with sensors and embed connectivity between themselves, but also interact with human beings. The technical solutions will not be limited to certain areas of the economy but will likely touch all parts of life. Therefore, it plays a crucial role if the standards and rules embedded in those technical solutions are secure and protect European values.

The manifesto developed by DIGITAL SME and its members aims to identify the key challenges Europe faces when defining its role in the digital century. For instance, big digital companies have access to large amounts of data, which are the basis for AI-based innovation. If those are kept in a closed eco-system and within the control of one single company, they provide competitive advantages to that company. At the same time, this limits the overall innovation potential of other businesses and the society as a whole. Other examples include digital companies entering traditional markets with business models built on digital innovation, which disrupt existing social and businesses relationships.

Europe is defining answers to these challenges, but currently fails to develop a comprehensive roadmap. The approach proposed by DIGITAL SME builds on Europe’s strength: innovative companies, outstanding basic research and a strong industrial base as well as strong fundamental values and rule of law.

“We should have the confidence to build on the potential of innovation, creativity and autonomy of our citizens and companies,” says Dr. Oliver Grün. “Europe needs to apply strategic thought to use the opportunities of the digital revolution to the fullest. It is time to understand our strengths, to build on them and to create the right conditions for our companies to flourish.“