17 May, 2019

ETNO launches #Dialogue4Tech: digital transformation, trust and sustainability are centre-stage

Europe’s industrial sectors are in the midst of digital transformation. This comes with huge opportunities for socio-economic growth, but also with the necessity to build trust across sectors of society and to scale-up sustainability efforts. Also, the need for Europe to aim for a global leadership position in tech has never been so high.

These were the key highlights of the first “Dialogue for Tech leadership”, which took place on May 9, building on ETNO’s brand new vision for the next policy agenda. At this initial meeting, we brought together voices from the sustainability, unions and industry worlds: Sigrid de Vries (CLEPA), Luis Neves (Global e-Sustainability Initiative), Birte Dedden (UNI Europa), Gerrit Steinfort (Orgalim), Patrick Grant (Business Europe) and Benjamin Ledwon (Bitkom) took part into the gathering.

Industries are transforming fast, and so is work
Europe’s traditional industries are transforming at a stellar pace. The automotive sector, for example, which is one of the pillars of our economy, is aiming at a quick and reliable transition to connected and automated mobility. Similarly, Europe’s technology businesses are looking at the transformative potential of AI and 5G to boost the development of new products and services.

Both sectors share at least 2 views: transformation needs to be fuelled by innovation, and the right kind of industrial policies need to be in place if Europe is to succeed. The gain is clear for both businesses and society. Industrial transformation, underpinned by innovation, will help tackle some of the EU’s hardest problems: overcrowded infrastructures, efficiency or ageing population for example.

However, society needs heavy investment and support during this transition. The workforce, in particular, should be at the core of the policymakers’ attention: Europe’s aim should be to invest in quality jobs. Social partners are not concerned about technology per se, but they are asking that all the necessary measures are taken to ensure the transition is socially sustainable. Skilling and re-skilling employees for the digital age should remain a top political priority. What is more, public and private actors should intensively work together to contribute to the transition.

Trust and cooperation are more needed than ever
Because changes are fast-paced, profound and cross-cutting, the need for trust and cooperation across sectors of society is at a high. This should be reflected in the EU policy dialogue and in how the policies of the next European Commission term are formulated. Industry or policy silos are innovation-killers and they reduce the ability of Europe to build a strong leadership in global markets.

The same is valid for trust. Europe should encourage and support cross-industry trust and dialogue. The model of the telecoms and automotive cooperation, for example, shows how connectivity and automotive expertise need to come together. This will be crucial to build industrial leadership in connected and automated driving.
Similarly, trust is essential to ensure the take-up of new products and services. Drivers never think twice when they pull the brake, but most of them look over their shoulders when parking with sensors. Trust in new products depends on technology as well as on transparency, information and education.

Sustainability depends on digitisation
If governments and corporations want to solve global problems, digitisation is a must: a new Digital Access Index demonstrates a strong correlation between connectivity, digitisation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, analysis found that a 5% increase in digital access has the potential to reduce consumption-based CO2 emissions (MtCO2) by 1,6%: this is the equivalent of 450 of coal plants.

The increase of digitisation, at the same time, is also key to ensure sustainable development and positive transformation of industrial sectors. The zero net emissions in the automotive world, for example, will also depend on achieving smart transport objectives.

In this light, stakeholders’ around the table agreed that sustainability and EU tech leadership go hand in hand: one will not happen without the other.

What’s next
ETNO is now organising more “Dialogue for Tech Leadership” meetings to continue discussing all the key policy ingredients for achieving European tech leadership globally.
Up next will be stakeholder discussions on connectivity and on digital users, before the summer break. To join and to find out more, you can e-mail us here. To read more reports about the findings, just follow the hashtag #Dialogue4Tech or subscribe to our #ETNODigital newsletter.

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