20 Feb 2019


Europe can lead, but we need to do so based on things that we excel in and the values we believe in.

However, we also need to face the fact that we still have a fragmented and highly regulated European market. In an era where consolidation and global scale are key to growth and competitiveness, we must be careful that we do not end up with a Europe where only corporate giants can afford to grow due to a fragmented European market. We must also enhance fair opportunities for European champions to emerge in a global competitive environment where scale is key to success.

Therefore, DIGITALEUROPE believes that the next Digital Single Market program should be linked to clear mission-based policies setting ambitious goals. Our DIGITAL EUROPE Vision 2025 is:

A Europe where digital technologies, innovation and artificial intelligence can provide Europe’s people with competitive jobs, better health and better public services.

A strong unfragmented DIGITAL EUROPE that takes leadership in creating digital Inclusion, Green growth, Innovation, Trust, Agile mission-based policymaking that drives prosperity and creates benefits for European society and leads globally in an open economy.

For a sustainable, prosperous and stronger DIGITAL EUROPE, we believe that there are 7 key areas of impact that should be addressed by all decision-makers from industry as well as government leaders and public sector institutions:

  • Digital Single Market
  • Inclusion
  • Green growth
  • Innovation
  • Trust
  • Agile & mission-based policy
  • Leadership

The future of Europe is D-I-G-I-T-A-L.

Digital Single Market

As the European motto says, “we are stronger together”. This is true more than ever; Europe needs cohesion and we need to consolidate the single market to make it fit for the 21st century and to be competitive in a global digital era. The EU Digital Single Market strategy should be recognised for prioritising digital as the core of EU’s actions. In the next five years, more efforts are needed to deliver opportunities in a harmonised European market.

DIGITALEUROPE believes it is time to strike a balance between risks and opportunities. Unfortunately, the debate around digital policy-making has primarily focused on “protection,” “risk” and “disruption. It is time to take an innovative, mission-based approach and to focus on the benefits we wish to achieve for the citizens of Europe.

We would like to see the Digital Single Market relaunched with mission-based policy making and with the goal to achieve a strong competitive digital eco-system of innovative companies fulfilling the DIGITAL EUROPE Vision 2025, and a fully harmonised Digital Single Market.

Currently Europe has only 11% of global business unicorns – and 6% of these are based in UK. We need to rapidly implement a truly harmonised Digital Single European market if we are to keep up with global competition allowing business to grow in a homogenous home market and Europe to create and maintain a fair share of European unicorns and champions.

By 2025, Europe should be home to 25% of the world’s unicorns

Digital knows no borders, and digitalized enterprises, whether they include a physical product or not, are by nature global. European SMEs are to a high extent linked to the international market either as sub-suppliers to the big players, or with direct market access through global platforms and supply chains.

It is essential to cultivate harmonised policies in the EU and strive for global harmonisation of rules. This prevents trade barriers and simplifies compliance, especially for start-ups. Let’s boost growth and competitiveness.


Are Europeans empowered in the digital age? Our DIGITAL EUROPE Vision 2025 aims to empower European citizens through digital competency and knowledge. We believe that only by enabling society’s digital understanding and competence can we divert fear of technological developments into creativity. Our citizens must be not only users, but creators of innovative technological design.

There are challenges ahead: upskilling the manufacturing sector – 52% of the current European workforce needs retraining before 2022.

We need to urgently address the digital skills shortage to drive growth and secure prosperity for future generations, but also to make sure that people are empowered to voice their demands and to articulate questions to their political leaders. The question is not “what about job losses?” The question is “do we have enough skilled Europeans that are ready to fill all these new digital jobs?” While long-range studies vary in their predictions, virtually all of them outline a net positive outlook for jobs; from 1.8 new jobs per job disrupted all the way to 3.7.  Let us make sure that the young Europeans are ready for those jobs and that we make an extensive effort to reskill the current workforce.

This enormous job potential means that we will have to reform the educational system and the way we reskill people. All educational institutions should include key digital skills and integrate computational thinking in their curricula. Young people should also have sound knowledge of privacy rules and cyber protection methods. Higher education should include technology innovation in every discipline.

Digital should enhance a non-biased society, and technologies like Artificial Intelligence give us the chance to fight inequality by advanced transparent data analysis. Inclusion must be the rule, not the exception, and digital services and products should promote inclusion. Efforts such as the European Accessibility Act (aimed at improving goods and services in the lives of disabled or elderly people) and the Digital4Her declaration (which promises to get more women into tech) are a good start, but more is needed.

People have the right to participate in the digital society and to have access to digital services. We need to consider infrastructure and safe digital access as a basic right. A grounded and pervasive digital infrastructure will allow everyone, regardless of location, to reap the benefits of the digital age. We believe that by 2025, every European household should have access to 4G.

Today, one household in ten in rural areas still does not have this basic connectivity right. Would citizens accept a Europe without highways? No, and neither should they accept a Europe without an advanced and secure digital infrastructure as the base of all digital access and services.

Green growth

With population growth and increased prosperity, demands for resources and materials, energy, food and water have been rising. This does not only have an impact on our environment, it also presents challenges to the finite amount of natural resources and therefore Europe’s ability to grow sustainably and compete globally. To transform the European economy and generate new and sustainable competitive advantages for Europe, the European Union started a transition process to move towards a low-carbon, more resource-efficient and circular economy.

This transition is not only an opportunity for businesses and citizens, it is also a necessity from an environmental, economic and social perspective. It will contribute to moving towards a more productive, higher added value and sustainable economy and not least there is the potential to create new, green jobs for instance within the recycling industry. We believe there are opportunities for the EU to further encourage the transition to a circular economy by creating a truly circular single market, where materials can flow freely, and which boosts refurbishment, repair, reuse and recycling.

Digital technologies have an enormous enabling potential. Concerning mobility, they enable driverless and connected cars as well as ride-sharing services that contribute to reducing emissions from transport; in the energy sector, digital technologies improve the efficiency of distribution grids and utility operations.

To truly grasp the benefits of this transition, Europe should continue to build a framework for a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient Europe that is fit for the fast-moving innovations in our sector and leverages the true potential of digital technologies as key enablers for green growth.


In order to position Europe as a global leader, access to capital and strategic investments in innovation is crucial. In 2016, private investment for AI in the European Union (EU) was between € 2.7-3.6 billion, in China it was € 7-11 billion, and the US was leading with € 14-21 billion – more than 5 times that of Europe’s.

We therefore welcome the European Commission’s proposal for the “Digital Europe investment programme”. This programme will drive a long-needed acceleration of digitalisation in European society.  The Digital Europe programme is a great cross-sectorial initiative from the Commission with the target of adopting technology across all sectors.  However, the current funding is merely a drop in the ocean. It costs €9,2 billion to digitalise all sectors in Europe and to invest in digital infrastructure and reskilling – the biggest challenge to growth – is much too low. It is evident compared to the support and subsidies granted to declining sectors. We need to invest in the future, not the past.

Europe can only lead through investing in European technology adoption and the creation of innovative eco-systems enhancing innovation in crucial technologies like AI, IoT, 5G. We urge Members States to collaborate and prioritise this and allocate a significantly higher budget for the Digital Europe programme. 5G, IoT and Cloud are turning-point technologies that could deliver socio-economic benefits worth more than €110 billion and create 2.3 million new jobs in Europe.

Europe needs a dedicated “unicorn strategy” to raise the share of unicorns above the 11% witnessed in 2018. In Nordic countries, arguably more successful than most, two thirds of unicorns leave Europe in the first two growth phases.

Europe needs a clear vision, leadership and capital to ensure that next decade’s world-leading unicorns come from within Europe and are given the right incentives to stay. Public-private partnerships are just one aspect that should be more fully explored. We believe that by 2025, Europe should have as a minimum 25% of the world’s unicorns and world-leading digital cross-sectoral eco-systems driving growth in key areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and public services.


Trust is fundamentally important as it is the glue that holds relationships together and is a basic prerequisite for a well-functioning and participatory democracy.

Europe has been built on trust. It is crucial to avoid erosion and leaders should therefore take responsibility and take actions to build trust.

The digital age brings numerous opportunities to boost trust by providing more transparency and easier access to information and platforms. Building trust means that Europe must continue to defend citizens’ accessibility, privacy, cybersecurity, consumer rights, education and workplace development.

In the digital age, trust is closely linked to cybersecurity. Europe must act as one in the area of cybersecurity to ensure there are no weak links in the chain. Efforts by governments and industry to strengthen cybersecurity are crucial to maintain and build European citizens’ trust. As data does not stop at borders, we need to collaborate also at a global level.

DIGITALEUROPE acknowledges that we, as decision-makers from industry, have a pervasive impact on the people’s lives. We also believe that, together with the policy-makers from EU institutions and national governments, it is our common responsibility to enhance trust and cement cohesion for the benefit of all Europeans.

Agile and mission-based policy

In the coming decades, societies will have to find solutions for global megatrends such as population ageing in advanced economies, urbanisation, and sustainability.

Digitalisation and globalisation have changed the society and the competitive environment at a speed we have never experienced before. Long policy making processes driven only by institutions are out-dated and not fit for the real world. Europe has a long tradition on multi-stakeholder dialogue, and we should take this to the next level.

Agile and mission-based policies can provide solutions and approaches to address societal challenges. At the same time, they will promote innovation and inclusive growth. A STRONGER DIGITAL EUROPE should build on the following missions:

  • An inclusive and social DIGITAL EUROPE that promotes participation and builds trust
  • An innovative and sustainable DIGITAL EUROPE that brings benefits to society at large and invests in future generations
  • A strong and competitive DIGITAL EUROPE that reflects European values and thrives globally in an open economy

Europe is often described as a champion for regulation. But how can we renew our way of devising policies? Rather than creating new legislation by default, we should think about innovative ways of regulating.  We should be scaling down outdated rules that inhibit innovation and think about providing guidance to achieve the desired objectives. Let’s consider regulatory sandboxes to experiment in a controlled environment, under regulatory supervision. Let’s bring policy and innovation into real life and renew our methods based on our traditions and build an innovative, competitive and stronger Europe.


Europe needs global leadership. Instead of focusing on what they don’t want, leaders need to articulate what they do want, and how to get there. In Europe, we share common values, but we also need a common vision and common goals across borders – as a leader, once you become defensive, you have lost.

Innovative leadership recognises that competition is global and that scale matters. We need clear incentives to encourage European companies to look past their own borders and compete in a harmonised European Digital Single Market and beyond.

Competition is healthy. We cannot accept that only one or two companies hold all the cards and stifle emerging businesses. However, it’s not about keeping international competitors out, but ensuring European businesses can compete, and win, on a global scale.

Europe’s strengths lie in manufacturing, the public sector, health and transport. We are ready to drive agile mission-based policy making to strengthen the position of the digital and digitalising sectors in Europe and push to maintain an open global market economy. DIGITALEUROPE calls upon all leaders to strive for:

A Europe where digital technologies, innovation and artificial intelligence can provide Europe’s people with competitive jobs, better health and better public services.

A strong unfragmented DIGITAL EUROPE that takes leadership in creating digital Inclusion, Green growth, Innovation, Trust, Agile mission-based policy making that drives prosperity and creates benefits for European society and leads globally in an open economy.

For more information, please contact:
Yann Finger
Director for Operations & Intelligence
Kivanç Akil
Associate Director for Events & Executive Coordination
Our resources on A STRONGER DIGITAL EUROPE – our call to action towards 2025
20 Feb 2019 Publication & Brochure
Success indicators for 2025
20 Feb 2019 Publication & Brochure
An inclusive and social Europe that promotes participation and builds trust
20 Feb 2019 Publication & Brochure
An innovative and sustainable Europe that brings benefits to society at large and invests in future generations
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