Europe’s digital future and the role of digital platforms

Europe's digital future and the role of digital platforms

Jean-Luc di Paola-Galloni, President of the ARTEMIS-IA, met with SciTech Europa on the sidelines of EFECS 2018 to discuss areas including the role of digital platforms in Europe, and the Digital Single Market.

EFECS 2018, which was organised by AENEAS, ARTEMIS, EPoSS, the ECSEL Joint Undertaking, and the European Commission, in association with EUREKA, was hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, in November. The event was an international forum with a focus on ‘Our Digital Future’ along the Electronic Components and Systems value chain in Europe.

SciTech Europa attended the conference as the Media Partner and there met with Jean-Luc di Paola-Galloni, Group Corporate Vice-President for Sustainable Development and External Affairs at Valeo and President of the ARTEMIS Industry Association, to discuss the role of digital platforms in Europe, the Digital Single Market, and the Executive Summary of the Electronic Components & Systems Strategic Research Agenda 2018.

Digital platforms are one of the enablers for the rapid digitisation of industry. What more needs to be done to ensure that all companies see the potential of digital platforms moving forwards?

Digital platforms, GAFAS such as Google for instance, may not be the only enablers for the rapid digitisation of industry, but they have made themselves unavoidable. This means that any company in the digital industry regardless of their area of speciality, will come into contact with them. As such, it is important that they learn how to work with them as partners, or as users, or even as suppliers or competitors in digital platforms.

The big digital platforms are accelerating the pace of digitisation in many different industries such as lifestyle, health, or mobility, or even heavier industries, which all have their own digitisation agenda. And while many of the GAFAS hail from the USA – to take Google as the example once more – there are other big digital platforms coming from Asia such as Tencent, for instance, which are bringing a complimentary strategic approach to what has been done in the USA. They are also very big players and have been able to tame some of the American players. In Europe, we should therefore recognise the benefits that they can bestow and so go on to make sure that, at all levels, we are able to work with them. However, this engagement should be done in such a way that ensures that any partnership with them is an equal one so that each business can maintain its own business model.

Large digital platforms will also have a huge impact in artificial intelligence (AI) by using the huge amounts of data that they keep and store, but this can also have its own challenges. In Europe, we are lucky to have such an institution as the European Commission, which is committed to protecting intellectual property (IP) and private data, and it is now crucial that industry strives to ensure that their business models include elements of data protection or storage that the big digital platforms do not yet have. By doing so, new business models on data will be secured, and while this will be a challenge, it also presents a significant opportunity for digital platforms in many of Europe’s industries.

Is industry aware of what needs to be done to make that happen?

Yes, I think so; certainly in as much as their innovation departments (and at the top management level) they are working to develop new strategies and to anticipate how they need to evolve in order to ensure that whatever product or service they offer will continue to have a market share in the future as other players enter the market.

What are your thoughts on current progress towards the Digital Single Market (DSM)? Do you have any concerns or specific hopes for the future?

I would certainly like to thank the European Commission on the work that has been done on the Digital Single Market; work which was begun by Günther Oettinger in the second Barroso cabinet of the European Commission and which has been carried on by Mariya Gabriel. The DSM has helped to unify the landscape and to provide the EU with the necessary structure in the area of digitisation.

A concern is perhaps that we need to ensure the scalability of our research funding programmes. Indeed, if we compare the EU to other continents it is clear that we invest much less, and while we can, and must, accept the availability of a lower level of financial assistance, we have to be careful not to let this difference become too pronounced in the areas where Europe has the ability to be a leading actor. That is, Europe needs to identify the arenas in which it can maintain its leadership position – whether this be in the mobility sector (automotive, rail, avionics), or health-related research and innovation – and ensure there is adequate investment being made available.

The level of mergers and acquisitions, investments, and hidden help through funds in many of the other big countries are much bigger than Europe is currently offering, and so we need to be very careful that we don’t fall too far behind.

My hopes for the DSM stem from the fact that we have an army of researchers and engineers in Europe, as well as extremely good education clusters, universities, spin offs, of laboratories, and that is in addition to R&D departments of industrial companies, whether they are SMEs, start- ups, or large companies.

It is thus important that we preserve this ecosystem, which also has the advantage of being more diverse than any other due to the international nature of the EU. However, China, USA, Japan, and South Korea are all now looking to integrate much more international and intellectual diversity into their own. When we also take the issue of ‘brain drain’ as scientists and researchers leave Europe for other countries which offer better packages, the need to preserve Europe’s ecosystem becomes even clearer, and one of the ways this could begin to be addressed is by beginning with education. For instance, not enough is being done, for instance, for women engineers, and this is just one example of how diversity can be better supported at a very early stage.

It should also be highlighted that maintaining this ecosystem will also be key to future growth and jobs, and while it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty the number of jobs it will create, we know is that it will be a significant amount, and this, then, also serves to reinforce the argument for an even larger increase in financial sustainability than we have seen in the past.

What do you feel are the most significant points to be made in the recently-published Executive Summary of the Electronic Components & Systems Strategic Research Agenda 2018 (ECS-SRA)?

It is thanks to the hard work of the three industry associations AENEAS, EPoSS, and ARTEMIS, within ECSEL, that this SRA was possible. Within it, they have mapped what is needed in all the different arenas with regard to electronics components and systems.
For me, as the new chairperson of ARTEMIS and as current President of the Private Member Board, it is important to have a good strategic vision of what the end user applications stemming from what has been already well-sustained regarding for the hardware, will be moving forwards.

A more focused approach on embedded systems is also absolutely strategic, and the need for this is already emerging – and will continue to do so. Furthermore, and this is something which also underpins the essential pillars of semiconductor industry, there needs to be a better focus on the whole value chain, from the hardware to the software. This, of course, also links the physical to the cyber physical system approach.

Where do you feel the future direction for technical innovation in Europe should lie and how will ARTEMIS continue to help guide this?

Firstly, the future of innovation in Europe will be bolstered by better preservation it. That is to say, there is a need to better defend what the innovators are doing for their own industry in Europe, but also to use innovation to our advantage in order to generate products and services which can also be marketed outside of Europe.

For this to happen, we need to build stronger links between the different stakeholders related to connectivity and digitisation, such as DG CONNECT and also to other areas, such as DG Trade, as well as with the member states themselves and the national departments dealing with external trade. It is also fundamental that we better reinforce the protection of our intellectual property.

Secondly, we need to further unleash the potential of innovation. In this sense, there is often the argument on the part of businesses that the physical and financial systems which reward innovation and both insufficient and inefficient, and so while there are both good and bad examples here, it is clear that we need to do more to protect the frontrunners in innovation.

In Europe there are still some countries that are learning to adapt schemes for innovation, and we need to sustain them. As the chairperson of a European association, I am focused on protecting new entrants or smaller players in this space because we have seen that, in many fields, they are able to bring very interesting added value. Estonia is a good example here: it is a very small country and has only recently become a member of the EU, but, because of its own experiences, it is bringing interesting insights and innovations to the field of cyber security.

On the other hand, there are other (larger and more well-established) countries in the EU that need to do much more and have not been big players in the research landscape, and so we need to help them, too.

ARTEMIS is involved in this by working with the other industry associations involved in ECSEL – EpoSS and AENEAS – and, as the core association in the embedded intelligent systems approach of architecture this is the view that we take for ourselves, for the sake of all the ecosystems around the digital space.

ARTEMIS will bring forward advances in numerous key arenas, such as cutting-edge artificial intelligence dedicated to systems of systems, for instance, a field which it is important for us to occupy, and, again, we are committed to providing the right strategic research agenda to help the focus on applications in different areas, whether it is in automotive, aviation, rail, shipping, the lifestyle industry or the medical health or nutrition arenas.

We are also working to support the vision for the future evolution of ECSEL. Of course, we have a very strong link with the Joint Undertaking office, DG CONNECT, the Member States, the European Council, and the European Parliament, and we will continue to work with them to address this very important topic. ARTEMIS will also play an essential role in harmonising the progressive unity as a private board member of the other associations.
This is very important because we will also be very active in what may be termed the ‘simplification’ of the future of ECSEL.

ECSEL is a very interesting programme, but now may be a good time to make it a little easier and more user-friendly for, in particular, smaller companies that are not structured to handle the many layers of very complex regulations, which, of course, are necessary, but which could be simplified in a smarter way in order to make them more effective. This could mean that the participation of member states would be clearer and more efficient, and we have time to be able to properly implement any changes as the next edition of ECSEL won’t begin for another three year.

To summarise: ARTEMIS will bey very much of a core part of the work to prepare the way for the future of ECSEL in order to ensure that it is well-adapted to the challenges of digitisation with regard to the public sector, member states, and industry.

Do you have any reservations about how the new European Commission and Parliament could impact the continuity of your work?

The three industry associations involved in ECSEL recently met with selected members of the European Parliament to voice what we see as both the challenges and opportunities before us, and to explain the need for the same time the kind of continuity in the financial scheme. This meeting was a success because it became clear that the European Parliament wants an even bigger budget for digitisation. Given that the finances of many Member States are not currently optimal, we understand that there is a real need for those funds to be used in the best possible way, and this ties into the argument around sustaining Europe’s industry because we need to ensure that, even if we have less funding than China, the USA, Japan or South Korea, there is enough being allocated to the fields that we want to cover. This message has been received by the Member States, and the European Commission and European Parliament are now fully convinced.

It is also important for us to have the support of Europe’s citizens – after all, it is their money that we are spending. This may not be too difficult in the digital arena, however, as there are now numerous applications in everyday life where digitisation and digital platforms already play a fundamental role, and so many citizens already understand the need to support this sector.

Jean-Luc di Paola-Galloni
ARTEMIS Industry Association

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