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Get a life, Europe.
This is the harsh love message from a senior EU official who argues that instead of trying to copy Silicon Valley, the bloc needs to act independently and learn to nurture local strengths.
The battle for consumer tech companies “is lost,” said EU Commissioner for Innovation Mariya Gabriel to POLITICO. “We don’t have to lose any time because we are not going to create a European Google or Facebook. Let’s be very realistic.”
Your message comes amid a strong onslaught on European technology. French President Emmanuel Macron says the block can produce 10 companies worth 100 billion euros by 2030. Technology investments will hit a record in 2021. And the number of unicorns – startups valued at more than $ 1 billion – is growing every year.
Meanwhile. Thousands of tech enthusiasts crowd the aisles at the VivaTech conference in Paris, while the EU is allocating billions of euros to basic research and businesses that need to scale.
But the Silicon Valley complex – and its legacy – is already overshadowing many of Europe’s successes.
Last week, POLITICO reported that the French state search engine Qwant, which emerged from an effort to create a European Google, was demanding 8 million euros from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to stay afloat.
On the opening day of VivaTech, it was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, who made the headlines, not one of the numerous startup bosses in Europe.
To make Europe a technology powerhouse on the world stage, startups need to focus on products and services that can empower existing businesses while making Europe the most sustainable economy in the world, Gabriel said.
“We have our strengths. We are the world leader in green technologies. We need to invest strategically in sectors where we can make a difference, ”she added.
A lot of money is already flowing into EU companies that are geared towards sustainability.
“The [share of] Global venture capital invested in European startups is only 8 percent, “said Gabriel.” But for climate-tech startups it’s 16 percent and in energy 48 percent. “
The EU is working to ensure that private funds are backed by public funds.
The bloc’s innovation fund, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), pledged EUR 3 billion on Monday for the next six years, while the Commission detailed on Wednesday how it will raise EUR 14.7 billion this year and next. Wants to spend EUR.
Green technology is a top priority.
The first three programs the EIT launched in 2010 focused on climate, energy and digital – programs like the Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt, whose products are designed to power the electric cars of BMW, Volkswagen and Scania.
The same applies to Horizon Europe: The EU will distribute four out of 10 euros here and next year will flow into climate-relevant technologies such as clean energy, clean mobility and the circular economy.
Another focus is the critical infrastructure.
“It is important that we continue to focus on some strategic areas such as semiconductors and the alliance in batteries,” said Gabriel.
A bigger challenge is embarking on an original path to artificial intelligence and blockchain, areas where Silicon Valley already has a distinct advantage.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) released a report on June 1 stating that Europe is facing an annual investment gap of EUR 10 billion, which is preventing the bloc from developing and deploying both technologies.
Gabriel only says that the EU should “continue its work on AI, especially now the EU is developing its own approach to artificial intelligence”, the so-called AI law, which is heavily criticized by ex-Google boss Eric Schmidt.
This begs the question of whether Europe is spending too much energy regulating technology and not enough energy supporting young companies.
In a letter to the Economist late last weekPatrick Collison, CEO of fintech giant Stripe, said European companies wanted “a leaner common market, less impractical and ineffective regulations (like website cookie banners), better legal treatment of stock options and easier access to visas for the highly skilled People.”
Stripe, which has two main offices in San Francisco and Dublin, is valued at $ 95 billion.
While Europe waits to hear from Vivatech’s Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Gabriel had an answer to Macron’s goal of growing 10 mega-tech companies by 2030.
“Why not any more?” she quipped.