This week some progress was made in the agreement needed for the innovation finance program, Horizon Europe, but the theme of investing in the Digital Europe program was once again central to the opening of ICT 2018. And there were no shortage of warnings that without a more committed Europe will continue to lose ground.
Figures and analysis show that Europe continues to lose ground to the United States and China in innovation in a number of key areas such as artificial intelligence, supercomputing and cyber security. And what can be done to regain leadership? The issue is central to ICT2018, the European event that brings together a number of conferences and project expositions, as well as the startup support forum, which runs from 4 to 6 December in Vienna, Austria.
"ICT 2018 shows the creativity and excellence of European researchers. But our next challenge is to transform its results into successful products and companies, bringing new opportunities for citizens and benefits to the whole economy, "said Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, in a message taped at the ICT 2018.
Financing is a key factor and the Commissioner stressed the importance of reaching an agreement to meet the proposed budget of € 9.2 billion. "We are at a crucial moment in designing the financial instruments that make the digital future a reality," he warned, noting that the Digital Europe program has an ambitious budget for 2021-2027 and is essential for investing in high performance computing, artificial intelligence, cyber-security and advanced digital skills.
This week the European Council is taking an important step in the partial approval of the Horizon Europe program which runs from 2021 to 2027 and has a budget proposal of € 100 billion. This program should run in parallel with Digital Europe and continues Horizon 2020, which commissioner Carlos Moedas ranks as one of Europe's biggest success stories.
This agreement has not yet touched on budgetary issues, not least because the total amount to be allocated to Horizon 2020 depends on what is set for the overall EU budget, which is still under debate, and which will set the amount to be allocated to the Digital Europe program.
Kahlil Rouhana, head of DG Connect, admitted that over the past 20 years Europe has contributed less to research than it should, especially in terms of investment, which has not increased in proportion to what digital society.
"In 20 years we have not made much progress in the value we invest, but digital has tripled in market value, the impact has grown in society, and 20 years ago we were 15 countries and today we are 28," he said. walking, "prompting a very ambitious proposal for the next digital program. "Only in this way will we be able to be leaders and have the best capacity for innovation, the best infrastructure and skills", he adds, pointing out that for every euro invested in innovation by the EU there are 10 more from the private sector, and that economy.
On the side of the European Investment Bank, Wilhelm Molterer did not spare warnings for the delay in Europe and for the digital Gap that exists, noting that it is necessary to increase by at least 20% the investment to reach 3% investment in Research and Development (R & D).
"What we need is a strong framework, not only of regulation but of planning, an ability to plan and implement," he said, noting that it is also essential to strengthen public-private partnerships and open the door to the link between companies and investigation. "We are too embarrassed to share the research that is done," he says, noting that this is a challenge for society rather than industry or researchers.
Two examples of how innovation is advancing in key areas, but finding various barriers, both for the lack of cross-regulation and the lack of a concerted strategy, are autonomous cars and artificial intelligence. Pierre Chehwan, responsible for Navya, a French company developing autonomous vehicles warns that there are still many barriers to licensing within Europe, but also in other markets that want to impose barriers to the development of this technology by European companies. "We are ahead in this sector but we need to defend the leadership," he warns.
In the area of artificial intelligence, Pekka Ala-Pietila, president of the high-level AI group, admits that Europe has lost its lead to the United States and China in the consumer area, but that there are significant opportunities in B2B, which represents more two-thirds of billing, but also in the public area. "We have good companies, high tech hubs and we are not the best in machine learning, but we are good at robotics, and we have a lot of talent in this area," he explains, but he warns that it is also important to reinvent the way we work. "We have to gain speed and learn from mistakes, but faster," he says.
Among the relevant messages at the opening of ICT 2018 is also the need to gain speed in the decision making process, which is still very bureaucratic and slow. "We need a new model, faster, because we need to compete with the United States and China […] Europe needs to focus more on the big issues and leave the subject matter to the countries, "said Margarete Schrambock, Austrian minister for digital and economics.
A conference focused on innovation
More than 5,000 researchers, companies and decision-makers are registered for ICT 2018 from 4 to 6 in Vienna, with more than 100 parallel sessions of conferences and debates, networking and exhibition space, featuring the main European projects investigation.
There are also marathons for ideas and the forum for innovation and startups, workshops and several side events dedicated to research, financing and innovation.
Organized jointly by the European Commission and the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the ICT 2018 theme is Imagine Digital – Connect Europe and the aim is for the discussion to help define the priorities of digital transformation in society and industry as well. of meeting point for researchers and companies involved in European R & D.
In the exhibition area, some of the major projects funded by the European programs are present and on 5 and 6 the Innovation and Startups Forum hosts sessions dedicated to more technical topics such as the blockchain and the delivery of the Innovation Radar awards.