Driving innovation in Europe: insights from industrial and tech leaders

Innovation today is our competitiveness of tomorrow. To boost Europe as an innovation powerhouse, Europe needs to put the business case for innovation at the heart of policy frameworks.

Driving innovation in Europe

Reading time: 8 min

The European Round Table (ERT) launched its flagship report on Innovation, in which it urges Europe to put the business case for innovation at the heart of policy frameworks for future competitiveness.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it”

This quote from inventor Thomas Edison sums up one of the main challenges facing Europe when it comes to boosting innovation in the region.

A debate on innovation in Europe

ERT and Euronews organized a panel in Brussels on March 27th to launch the report, with the participation of renowned panellists in the field of innovation.

Driving innovation in Europe

Among the panellists, Dr. Ignacio Cirac, member of Telefónica Advisory Board, and Director of Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics outlined that although R&D in Europe is high, when it comes to move innovation to the market, the environment becomes too complex compared to other regions. And as he summarized “innovation has to be fast. Otherwise, Europe will not remain competitive”. In the same vein, Ann Mettler, Vice President Breakthrough Energy proposed a sort of “Complexity Reduction Act” in Europe.

ERT innovation flagship report to boost Innovation made in Europe

According to the report published by ERT “Innovation made in Europe. Setting the foundation for future competitiveness“, despite Europe’s rich history of innovation, world-class scientific universities, and leading companies in various industrial sectors, the continent faces challenges in effectively transitioning innovative ideas into viable enterprises, compared to other regions of the world. This is reflected in the distribution of innovation expenditures of the different regions.

Driving innovation in Europe
Source: Innovation made in Europe. Setting the foundation for future competitiveness. ERT 2023.

In its report, ERT seeks precisely to answer the question of how Europe can create the right conditions for faster and more ambitious innovation in the region. Or, in other words, what conditions need to be in place to make the process of bringing an innovation from the lab to the market more efficiently and faster.

Policy recommendations to boost Innovation made in Europe

The ERT Innovation Flagship report provides valuable policy recommendations for driving innovation in Europe. It is a timely publication given the current context of emerging policy approaches to boost more resilient and competitive economies.

The report emphasizes the need for a comprehensive and holistic approach to drive innovation beyond R&D, to encourage industrialization and mass commercialization. It takes an innovative approach in its analysis of the European innovation ecosystem, as it provides recommendations to policy makers made from the perspective of large companies. Particularly, based on the lessons learned from the innovation stories contributed by more than thirty European ERT member companies.

Three recommendations take absolute priority. Firstly, ERT highlights the need to rethink regulation, focusing on a regulatory framework that is coherent with political goals and kept up to date to accommodate innovation timely enough for quick commercialization. A coherent framework also includes fast approval processes and the facilitation of testing under real-life conditions.

Secondly, ERT also calls for a re-focus on robust Intellectual Property rights and international standardization to avoid delays in innovation and commercialization.

Lastly, ERT recommends addressing Europe’s weakness in realizing the scale-up of investment-intensive innovation. This could be achieved by de-risking technology development through public-private partnerships and innovation-oriented public funding, to move forward with the green and digital transition.

Recommendations ERT Report
Source: Innovation made in Europe. Setting the foundation for future competitiveness. ERT 2023.

Telefónica’s innovation story “A 5G testbed for Industry 4.0”

The report includes Telefónica’s innovation story, A 5G testbed for Industry 4.0. It describes a joint project between Mobile World Capital, Gestamp, and Telefónica to build a 5G smart factory trial and test advanced technologies behind Industry 4.0 in a 5G testbed context. The project was a technological challenge as the technologies used were in their infancy in 2019, including 5G, Edge Cloud -MEC, IoT, Artificial Intelligence simulation, and Digital Twin. The innovation story highlights the multisector cooperation required for successful innovation in the field of Industry 4.0.

Telefónica emphasizes that Europe’s industrial competitiveness depends on innovation and successful green and digital transitions. In this regard, Industry 4.0 and 5G play a critical role. The telecom sector can serve as a strategic partner in the digital transition for the industrial ecosystem, with cross-sectoral partnerships and co-innovation accelerating the journey to Industry 4.0, as demonstrated by Telefonica’s 5G trials and testbeds across Europe.

To bring innovation from the lab to the market, it is essential:

  • Introducing innovation-friendly frameworks that enable “out of the box” initiatives and provide business models with legal certainty.
  • Accelerating time-to-market by incentivizing and funding testbeds and sandboxes. This would facilitate testing innovative technology solutions and new business models, as well as supporting the scale-up of key technology-based projects.

Investment in STEM education is also crucial for industries to transform, and Europe needs to retain European talent and attract external talent.

Innovate or become history

As Dr Martin Brudermüller, Chair of ERT’s Committee on Competitiveness & Innovation and CEO of BASF SE summarizes “the biggest opportunities are embedded in holistic, integrated and business-driven innovation. That’s why we all share a responsibility to re-establish a lead on the technologies of tomorrow. Only by achieving that can we be sure that Europe remains the best place to live, study and work. We have to innovate – or become history.”

For more information visit the ERT Innovation microsite


Contact our communication department or requests additional material.

Telefónica Centenary logo Celebrate with us the Telefónica Centenary