From October 19th to 22nd, more than 7,000 stakeholders gathered in Lisbon from all segments of Europe to innovate, connect and transform the European digital industry.
In the keynote speech, European Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society Günther H. Oettinger pointed out that the commission believes the implementation of a Digital Single Market strategy is crucial. The EU has already managed to create single and unified markets of various kinds (like the Schengen zone, which ensures the easy transport of goods and citizens) but is clearly lagging behind in the digital space. For example, data protection regulation varies across Europe and there is a very low level of interstate e-commerce.
This was reiterated by Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, who discussed the case of Siemens, which needed to set up several data centres worldwide to comply with regulations. Data needs to be able to travel without borders, although there is also a pressing need to ensure data security.
Participants confirmed that European talent is clearly available. The key difference with Silicon Valley is that the Valley has the presence of business people, a network and investors for scaling up. The example of automobile company Veniam is typical. Founder and CEO Joao Barros underlined that the main motivation for moving the headquarters of the company from Portugal to Silicon Valley was to network better.
During the conference, Horizon 2020 calls were announced for 2016-2017. These funds help Europe to innovate, digitize and grow. Despite a common belief that the administrative attitude of the European Commission is too bureaucratic, there has been significant change: focus has moved from project implementation to impact. The message was clear: project implementation needs to segue from just papers and studies towards real impact! This is a major and very important move – and we entrepreneurs welcome it.
We believe that European innovation can be fostered through the active participation of big European corporations. We also believe that European corporations don’t speak the same language as the European start-up world, and thus there is a need for corporate innovation programmes.
We propose that corporations make the best use of Horizon 2020 funds and initiatives to tap into the creative resources of the start-up communities and build effective and efficient innovation ecosystems, which can then be the premier source of new products and services for the corporations. And in building these initiatives players should rely on Silicon Valley methodology and networks.