What can the European powerhouse bring to the table of the global tech scene?

When it comes to technology, Europe has historically sat in between China to its east, and the US to its west. Whilst Chinese firms’ state-subsidised model and the sheer scale and dynamism of US tech firms make them formidable competitors, Europe has its own competitive advantages on a global scale that should be brought to the fore.

The pace at which new technologies replace the old means that new modes of operation and new growth possibilities are never far away. The important, perhaps only, constant when it comes to tech is that organisations around the world will always have barriers to overcome in adopting new systems or ways of working. As companies look to become more efficient and clear room to grow, the unique position and capabilities of the European technology ecosystem will have become mission critical.

Leading the way in automation

The deep partnerships between software companies and industrial experts in Europe will be vital to the transformation of traditional and essential sectors of the economy. Whether it’s production capabilities, utilities or supply chains, the cogs of a strong economy have bowed under the weight of recent pressure. The need to become more digital is a reality now, and Europe has all of the tools at hand to deliver the transformation that’s required and that will influence these industries globally.

Manufacturing, for instance, is already undergoing significant positive change. The digitalisation of the shop floor, the collection and use of essential data in near real-time and the on-going analysis of equipment effectiveness are happening. The success of these initiatives is made possible by bringing together software and domain experts into the same collaborative environment.

We have seen great strides in the US when it comes to big platform development and implementation — the hyperscalers have that covered. The innovation in China is similarly successful, in particular making technology more accessible in everyday life. However, it’s only in Europe where centuries of global industrial leadership and new technology innovation can combine to change the operating and business models of traditional industries. The more that automotive, engineering and manufacturing organisations think like software companies, the more they will be able to reap the benefits of digital transformation. And the more that software companies can develop a deep understanding of the needs of industry, the better they can develop the right solutions to drive the change.

To put this change into a real life context, take the automotive industry, for example. If it can execute the safe and secure storage and transfer of vehicle usage data between manufacturer, maintenance companies, insurance companies, and banks, it can change its business model. It can produce innovative value-based service offerings or its customers and make its processes more efficient that should result not only in lower costs of production/operation, but also an overall reduction of costs for the end consumer.

By developing solutions that can exist on any cloud platform, guided by domain expertise, there are real opportunities for exciting innovation the region. This is helped by the fact that Europe is already strong in data privacy initiatives, thanks to the likes of GDPR.

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Sharing more data

To be at the forefront of their industry, companies need to be able to collect, connect, and configure data efficiently, effectively, and ethically. Too many organisations lack these basic capabilities and this needs to be addressed.

The adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 leveraged the huge market size and potential of the European Economic Area to influence behaviours in both China and the US. This shows that Europe does have the global power to help protect consumers and maintain data ethics in ways that other regions possibly can’t.

The ‘digital iron curtain’ between China and the US not only makes Europe a relatively neutral authority on data policy, but it also becomes an attractive prospect for tech companies with global ambitions. Europe can bring openness to the tech world as the ideal ‘middle ground’ between the two competing standards, carving out its own space in the process.

Changing culture

In order to do this, though, Europe has one hill to climb. All digital transformation involves an evolution of culture that companies will find is critical to their success.

Implementing an innovative culture requires a degree of risk-taking. It means ensuring that the company is focused on listening and learning rather than proclaiming omniscience. Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen the importance of being agile and responsive. Whether it is navigating the way out of a crisis, or taking advantage of new innovations or opportunities, the ability to understand a situation and act swiftly and appropriately is imperative to success.

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Looking to the future

For the European powerhouse to come to the head of the global tech table, we must see organisations not only embrace digital transformation, but also the unique nature of the software and industry ecosystem. We need more bold software companies that don’t rely on their peers in Silicon Valley or Zhongguancun for direction. European companies have their own strengths, and should play to them. We can certainly learn from the success of others, but innovation closer to home will be what truly drives us forward.

Written by Sanjay Brahmawar, CEO of Software AG

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