What does it really mean to be competitive at a European level? As Inside (formerly known as ARTEMIS) moves into the next stage of its evolution, this is a key point of discussion among our many members across the continent. Longstanding participant Paolo Azzoni offers a few insights from his own experiences, as well as why ‘digital sovereignty’ may not be the most fitting term.
Community, networking and cooperation
In addition to his role as Head of European Technology Programmes at Eurotech, Paolo serves as the chairman of the ECS Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda 2022. With this analysis of major ECS application fields and Europe’s current and foreseeable technological capabilities, he takes a nuanced approach to the question of competitiveness. “The message we tried to deliver with the ECS-SRIA synopsis, published in March this year, is that instead of speaking of digital sovereignty, we should talk of digital strategic autonomy. Why?” he asks. “For me, the word ‘sovereignty’ is demagogic. It is something we will never obtain. It is more reasonable and sustainable to talk about strategic autonomy in every area, not just digital.”
In other words, certain gaps in our value chain will probably never be filled due to a lack of knowledge, competences or capacity to catch up with other parts of the world. By focusing instead on areas in which Europe can be autonomous, we can continue to be at the forefront of their development while freely choosing the best technologies, solutions and materials from elsewhere when autonomy is more limited.
“It is clear that Inside will be fundamental to continuing research and innovation in these strategic areas,” continues Paolo. “Embedded intelligence is one of the domains where Europe excels, so this is something we should continue to work on to ensure that there is an evolution – otherwise someone will surpass us tomorrow. We must continue an effort with all the characteristics that these activities have in Inside: a community, a network and strong cooperation between European partners.”
Finding the added value
Within this Inside ecosystem, projects typically focus on the downstream area of the value chain and the eventual exploitation of added value by member organisations. “They let us make a first test of new technologies and create solutions from them,” Paolo explains. “This has a big impact on our competitiveness because if a project is successful, we are able to develop new products at the state-of-the-art in our markets. For Eurotech, this market is hard due to being focused on high reliability, not mass production. We really need to exploit the newest technologies and choose the one which is more reliable for a long time.”
Despite the difficulty, Paolo is pleased to report a number of successes over the years, demonstrating the valuable role that collaboration between Inside members can play in the (pre)competitiveness of Europe. With their Everyware Software Framework (ESF) and Everyware Cloud (EC), Eurotech has spent ten years pushing forward the technology level of system integration platforms and has now developed counterparts for these within the Eclipse Foundation projects Kura and Kapua. “Every project – pShield, nShield, Arrowhead, Arrowhead Tools, CPS4EU, InSecTT – has ensured the evolution of both Kura ESF and Kapua EC,” concludes Paolo. “In these projects, we could imagine new futures and architectures but also test them in real use-cases. This is something we try to investigate in all research projects we develop in this community.”