European Solutions for the Knowledge Era

Recently, President Obama visited Silicon Valey to meet with the “tech elite” of the San Francisco Bay Area. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo were some of the business leaders who attended the meeting. This encounter made me think about Europe’s approach towards technology and education.

What is missing in Europe’s approach to this important field? Mainly, common responses and strategic vision.

Internet regulation should be simple and clear, and perhaps it could better be coordinated by Brussels, and not in 27 different member states of the Union.  The more fragmented the European Digital Market is, the harder it will be to adapt to the coming economy. Recent studies have even suggested that creating a single digital market would boost Europe’s GDP by 4%.

However, more proposals are necessary to encourage the expansion of the knowledge economy and to bring the educational system closer to this reality. The following are some ideas:

1. Lower taxation can bring together private investors, risk capital networks, business angels… and thus help finance new projects. Today, taxes in Europe are far from being entrepreneur-friendly. Fiscal policies should be common in this field in order to make sure that they are reduced all over the continent. Ireland’s accumulated “know how” should be taken into account here.

2. An ecosystem of knowledge needs to be encouraged. The closer the universities are to the community, the more skilled their human capital will be… and the greater degree of entrepreneurship that will be expected afterwards. Universities need to be about involvement and engagement, not simply about theory and examinations. They need to explore partnerships and joint ventures with private firms in order to expand their activities and make their social impact higher.

3. A culture of innovation needs to be promoted. Our mindset needs to look at the American model and open up in its perception of entrepreneurs. It is important to embrace job creators as central elements of our societies. The education system can play a role here.

4. Physical proximity between all actors is very important. As we can see with the inspiring example of Sillicon Valley, it is very important to promote a geographical concentration that enables interaction and networking in a narrower area. All countries should take this approach by creating special economic zones (as is the case already in countries such as China, India, Poland or South Korea). Universities should definitely be present here, feeding the community with human talent and creativity.

The Union’s role in this area can be fundamental to help release the creative potential of all European individuals.

*Diego Sánchez de la Cruz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija plus a Postgraduate course on Political Communication from Universidad Pontificia Comillas/ICADE. Diego was an international exchange student in the University of San Diego, in California (USA), and completed a Seminar on Political Communication from George Washington University. Over the last years, he has collaborated with Public Affairs firms like Llorente & Cuenca or media outlets like El Correo Gallego.

Written by Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, alumnus of the Master in International Relations (MIR)