Don’t be naive. Insights from the EU Industry Days
The third EU Industry Days organised by the European Commission to discuss European industrial policy took place on 5-6 February, 2019 in Brussels.
BEDA had the opportunity to participate in this by-invitation-only event and to organise the only stakeholder session on design, or all creative industries for that matter in the event. You can read Anna Whicher’s report on BEDA’s stakeholder session on Intangible value creation by design elsewhere in this newsletter.
What I wish to share with you is what I found noteworthy in this high level event that coincided with the current European Commission’s term coming to its end, after the European Parliament elections take place in May.
Read my thoughts, as the President-elect of BEDA, as opening a discussion with you. I very much welcome a dialogue.
Top of the agenda
Un-surprisingly, digitalisation and artificial intelligence are high on the industrial policy agenda. It is old news that Europe is lagging behind the US and China when it comes to investments in digitalisation or where the biggest companies in the field are from. All 20 largest companies in the world are either from the US or in China, none from Europe. They all have global platforms while fragmentation troubles European companies. This brings us to a fair and seamless single market, considered a necessary prerequisite for Europe’s success.
Many of the world’s largest digital companies have understood the value of design from day one, as have the global consulting firms that actively acquired design firms during the past years. Design should play a crucial role to develop a strong digital industry in Europe as well. BEDA needs to accelerate uptake of design as a strategic tool, the means are to be discussed.
‘Don’t be naive’
When talking about China, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EC Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, says Europe welcomes foreign investments, but we cannot be naive. Lowry Evans, Director General of DG Grow too said this in her speech: open and multilateral trade is the strength of Europe, but we cannot be naive. The same message was repeated by many speakers on other issues — rules are needed and rules need to be respected, reciprocity is the word here. One issue was again digitalisation and AI — Europe should lead the work to create clear ethical codes.
European design professionals work in an international business environment. Design services are exported from Europe and contribute to economic growth. As said above, open and multilateral trade is Europe’s strength, but we cannot be naive. It is in all designers’ and design businesses’ interest that rules on IPR are clearly defined and respected by all parties. Other means to contribute to creating a competitive advantage through design are to be discussed.
Perhaps a surprise at EU Industry Days was the strong weight given to values by so many speakers. To name a few:
Aranza Gonzáles, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, said Europe has a value based policy system, a value based economy. President of Business Europe Pierre Gattaz reminded what is special in Europe — that we care about human beings, care about the environment and the climate. Ann Mettler, Head of the European Political Strategy Centre was ready to see human-centered industrial policy as Europe’s competitive advantage.
Kristalina Georgieva, Interim President of World Bank reminded that skills is Europe’s most important asset — and that the jobs and skills agenda for Europe is also an equality agenda for Europe. And finally, Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition reminded us that Europe needs a strong industrial strategy that supports openness and fair competition, and one that is not for the few but for all. Diversity is the most striking quality of a strong ecosystem, she said.
As someone coming from Nordic countries it is easy to sign up to Margrethe Vestager’s message that Europe needs an industrial strategy that is not for the few but for all. Design should support the development of all regions of Europe, as it should support design for all end-users. Advocating that is one, making a visible change needs more concrete actions.
Sustainability, climate change and circular economy
A top of the agenda issue, big enough to come back in the next newsletter.
Welcome to discuss this
We at BEDA Board look forward to a dialogue with you. There will be an opportunity to discuss at the Insight Forum in May in Brussels. The dialogue can also go on online: a post on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/bedanetwork/ with this topic is open for your input and comments.
EU Industry Days sessions online
EU Industry Days 5—6 Feb, 2019 sessions are available online at:
Päivi Tahkokallio, President-elect of BEDA