angle-left European industry needs a fast shift to digital – and beyond

European industry needs a fast shift to digital – and beyond

Photo: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Ministeri Lintilä

Digitising European industry is a key factor for global competitiveness. We need to have the best technologies and research to remain competitive in the global market, which is already in many ways digital.

In these past couple of days in Sofia, Bulgaria, the European ministers responsible for competitiveness have been discussing the future of Europe in the areas of industry and research. 

Both industry and research connect strongly with the global megatrend of digitalisation. Bulgaria has put the right issues in front of us. Europe can be a winner, if it decides to tackle these important questions head on. 
Digitising European industry is a key factor for global competitiveness, but in my opinion it is just a start. The more you give thought to it, the clearer it seems. We need to have the best technologies and research to remain competitive in the global market, which is already in many ways digital. 

There is a window of opportunity for the European Union. The EU’s objective should be to facilitate value creation in Europe – and not outside, and to ensure that citizens can face the “arrival of digital” with confidence – and with the right set of skills and knowledge.

Here in Sofia and in future meetings we are reflecting on what comes next. The fact is that we do not always really know. The global markets and the technologies change so rapidly that almost any new innovation might make a huge change overnight. This is something we have to keep in mind. So the thing is not only to facilitate the best use of the current and future technologies but to make sure our legislation does not create a burden on the creation and use of future innovations. 

It is important to work towards future-proof single market, which meets the needs of digitalisation and renewed business environment. At the same time, the preparation of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF, is moving forward. Here, we should aim at better coherence and integration of research and innovation policies and tools. The forthcoming funding for R&I will have to be significant in scale and quality – especially when benchmarked against the USA and Asia. Furthermore, funding should be available for ambitious and risky projects to support transformation of European industry.

A digital Europe needs – Estonia made a strong point about this during its Presidency – a functioning framework for data mobility, data access and interoperability. We also need strong European ecosystems to create and capture value in global platform economy. It is crucial update our education systems so that individual citizens can update their skills to match the needs of new digital demands and opportunities. 

Artificial intelligence really deserves a special mention. Alongside with broader digitalisation, it is already bringing radical changes to the world, society and people’s everyday life. Its economic growth potential can be realized but only if European companies and know-how are successful in global platform economy. We are in a hurry when it comes to making European businesses prepared for the AI-revolution. Global competition on AI-supremacy is on!

The mood in Sofia is in my mind business-like and at the same time hopeful: the current promising economic recovery in Europe must be made sustainable with decisive EU action. Putting AI and digital issues more broadly at the top of the European agenda is crucial for making our economic recovery truly sustainable.

Mika Lintilä
Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs