From international relations to state-of-the-art innovation, European competitiveness brings together a multitude of factors which are impossible to disentangle. How can we keep pace with other parts of the world, both now and in the future? Horst Pfluegl and Michael Paulweber of AVL List share their perspectives on the role of Inside (formerly known as ARTEMIS) and our member organisations.
Grasping the entire picture
When discussing competitiveness, the question of digital sovereignty almost always raises its head. In Horst’s view, however, this is a concept which Europe needs to reframe. “There’s always this fear that we’re only manufacturing cars and the US is making all the money with their software platforms. We actually have a lot of know-how which is more on embedded software but is also connected to things like the cloud. We need to try to combine these worlds and see that we can cover the whole range of technologies needed for future topics like Mobility as a Service. For me personally, digital sovereignty means that we in Europe can grasp this entire picture and not fear others.”
Michael nods his head. “We should not compete directly where we’re behind but rather focus on areas where Europe was always successful, like automotive and aerospace. For digital sovereignty, we have to work on two sides. On one hand, we need to strengthen our chip industry. On the other hand – and this is perhaps even more important – we have to create our own software ecosystems to keep pace with digitalisation in all areas. The digital revolution is happening here too and the work in associations like Inside is essential to the success of European companies – which ultimately secures our retirement funds and pensions.”
Fighting as one
Of course, true competitiveness goes far beyond individual companies and requires coordination between policymakers and countries at a European level. “We are competing with the US and China – really big players that Austria or even Germany cannot compete with alone,” Michael continues. “At Inside, we have to play a role and get the help of the European Commission to find common goals within Member States. From what I’ve seen, it is typically politicians and Member States who are responsible for setting up large technical projects, but they cannot really keep up with the fast pace of change like we can in the companies. This ecosystem is therefore important to giving them the information on what is required to be successful in five or ten years. You really can influence things, and that’s why I’m so active in Inside.”
“What we need for this,” notes Horst, “is both business understanding and money, which is what the US and China understand much better than us. The funding budget in Horizon 2020 is peanuts compared to what those two invest. For individual Member States it is not easy to finance the research development needed to support our future wealth. With Inside, we have a very good programme that supports valuable know-how in Europe into business, so we have to intensify the work in this direction. Platforms like Inside should be more attractive than local initiatives because if every country fights for itself, it is difficult to be successful.”