EU at cutting edge of digital revolution

Innovation is a marathon, not a sprint, a Brussels conference has been told. 

Innovation is a marathon, not a sprint, a Brussels conference has been told | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

By Kim Revill

15 Dec 2017

Europe is set to be at the forefront of a technical and digital revolution which will massively transform lives, according to top business leaders and technology experts meeting in Brussels last month. 

The conference, organised by Huawei, in association with the Science|Business network, brought together business leaders, research innovators, policy makers and leading academics to discuss the ever-expanding future of digital technology and to highlight the challenges the industry faces.

Artificial Intelligence and 5Generation mobile networks have sparked a technological revolution explained Huawei’s Vice-President Western Europe Sales, Gaston Khoury, who added that his company was committed to continued investment in attracting and maintaining a high-quality workforce in the industry.


Expansion from 4 to 5G - which will improve request and response times in communication devices and AI - will have a significant impact. Research linked to finding cures for Dementia and Alzheimer’s are just two examples that are expected to benefit from new digital technological leaps, but the list is expansive. Driverless cars and trucks, 3D photography at the click of a button and immersion and interactive television viewing will all be possible through advancements in AI. 

The technological future will also include autonomous drones enabling sports fans to watch live action both at home and in the stadium, revolutionary mapping techniques in cars and eradicating the problem of plastic pollution.

There are also determined future plans to connect every electronic device possible to the internet which has already sparked the new buzz words ‘the Internet of Things’.

Speaking at the conference, entitled, ‘The Digital Transformation of Europe: How the Internet of Things, 5G and Artificial Intelligence will change Europe’ the European Commission’s Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General in for Research and Innovation said Europe was at the cutting edge of the new digital revolution and that the EU can play a major part by encouraging innovators into “blue skies research”.

But he added it was not always easy for new ideas to be heard. He said that a “tug of war” often existed between transference of skills in academia and technological and digital industries, a challenge which needed to be addressed. He also added that the EU was committed to helping small businesses and start-up firms gain a foothold in the technological world.

Mark Bishop, Director, TCIDA, Professor of Cognitive Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, said that longer and larger memory processing through 5G and AI is an exciting concept but warned that computers still lack a “human mind” and this could lead to legal and ethical challenges when it came to data handling and protecting jobs in the future.

Pearse O’Donohue, Acting Director, at the European Commission’s Future Networks Team, said improvements will mean people will be empowered in their day-to-day activities. “It is about putting the individual at the centre of the internet,” he said. 

But advancements in technology will inevitably lead to greater personal data sharing and this, he warned, would have to be monitored carefully to safeguard the rules of data protection to reduce fraud. He said, “Data should be respected, and we have to ensure that the individual is informed so that it is used legitimately.” 

He stressed there needed to be a balance to adopt safety measures in data protection while at the same time being mindful not to over legislate.

Daniel Cremers, managing director of the Technical University of Munich’s Department of Computer Science, said Europe was still behind the US in technological advances and questioned why huge corporations such as Google, opted to base their major headquarters outside Europe.

He also agreed that as well as a continued commitment to financing European initiatives, investors had to respond more quickly to encourage innovators by working more closely with European universities. “The network needs to be closer and firmer,” he said, “in order for Europe to be on a level playing field with countries such as the United States.”

Walter Weigel, Vice-President at Huawei’s European Research Institute, said his company was committed to ensuring Europe was at the forefront of technology and data quality. He said the challenge for investors like Huawei was to continue to fund research and be willing to take the risk on innovators. The message was, he said, “trust, transparency and privacy.”

Gaston Khoury said that the expansion of smart cities and factories will have a significant impact on the job market which will increase economic growth in Europe. He added that “innovation was a marathon not a sprint”. 

He summed up the mood of the conference with a Darwinian message. “It isn’t the strongest of the species who survives, not the most intelligent but it is those who are more responsive to change.”



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