European Innovation

Colleagues from the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe (on which I have the pleasure of serving) have drafted this Open Letter to Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy, published at the occasion of the European Council on 24-25 October devoted to innovation and the digital agenda.


Dear Presidents,

As members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Europe, we want to express our high expectations for the upcoming European Council on 24-25 October.

We welcome that – at last – a summit of heads of government is devoted to innovation and digital advancement, both of which we consider absolutely essential to Europe’s economic development. Against this backdrop, we recommend that this become an annual occasion, to take stock and measure progress.

With innovation driving up to 85% of productivity growth in advanced economies – and the digital economy projected to grow seven times faster than other sectors – these are the pillars for future growth. But already today, some 1 million vacancies in ICT cannot be filled, despite the highest levels of unemployment across the EU in decades. Overcoming this skills mismatch – as well as raising digital literacy across the board – will be an indispensible precondition for getting Europe’s 26 million unemployed back to work.

The timing is good. Now that the immediate financial crisis appears to be abating, you have the opportunity to

1) Complete the digital and telecommunications single market. It is paramount that key legislative milestones be taken forward before the current European Commission leaves office and the European Parliament dissolves

2) Devise alongside EU member states an actionable investment plan for Europe’s digital infrastructure. It is the lifeblood of modern economies and current estimates put a price tag of € 200 billion to complete the Europe 2020 digital broadband targets

3) Close the innovation performance gap. Europe has some of the most innovative countries in the world – but also some of the worst performers. This makes for an unsustainable alliance of excellence and mediocrity; an imbalance that must be addressed, using tools like the structural funds and the European Commission’s new powers on economic surveillance.

Dear Presidents, the importance of the upcoming European Council cannot be overstated. In the short-term, digital innovation will accelerate growth and job creation, thereby strengthening the recovery. In the medium- to long-term, it will build a bridge to the next generation of digital citizens, giving them a future where they can compete for modern, well-paying jobs, benefit from true cross-border connectivity and be served by responsive, modern governments. It is a positive message and win-win situation.

We wish you much success at tomorrow’s summit.

Best regards,

  • Javier Solana (vice-chair), president, ESADEgeo – Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, Spain
  • Sir Andrew Cahn, vice-chairman, Nomura, United Kingdom
  • Ding Chun, dean, Centre for European Studies, Fudan University, China
  • M. Willem van Eeghen, lead economist, Office of the Chief Economist for the Europe and Central Asia Region, World Bank
  • Maria Fanjul, chief executive officer,, Spain
  • Charles Grant, director, Centre for European Reform (CER), United Kingdom
  • Daniel Gros, director, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)
  • Danuta Hübner, member, chair of the committee for regional development, European Parliament
  • Dominic Llewellyn, co-chief executive officer, Numbers4Good, United Kingdom
  • André Loesekrug-Pietri, chairman and managing partner, A CAPITAL Group, France
  • Ann Mettler, executive director, The Lisbon Council
  • Robin Niblett, director, Chatham House, United Kingdom
  • Mark Spelman, global managing director, Accenture
  • Paweł Świeboda, president, demosEUROPA – Centre for European Strategy, Poland
  • Sinan Ülgen, chairman, Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), Turkey
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