Driving Europe’s digital road to economic growth

For the past few years, Europe’s financial crisis has dominated economic debate. The Lisbon Council attempted this week to shift the discussion at its Europe 2020 summit to what policies are needed to move beyond the immediate crisis and build the foundation for future prosperity.

Google supports this agenda. We have worked with the Lisbon Council to launch its Innovation Economics Centre of excellence committed to shedding light on and providing scientific evidence of the profound impact of the Internet and digital technologies. At the Europe 2020 summit, our European policy head Nicklas Lundblad explained how the Internet represents a core component of any European growth strategy.

Top European officials participated, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Commissioner Neelie Kroes. European startups and innovators including Simon Schaefer, founder and CEO of Germany’s leading startup lab Factory, angel investor Sherry Coutu, and Spotify's Head of Product, Tech, IP and Policy Mark Silverstein urged them to end the continent’s present fragmented regulatory regimes, that forces companies must obtain separate permission to access each of the European Union’s 28 national markets.

At the summit, a new Digital Single Market study “Productivity and Digitalisation in Europe: Paving the Road to Faster Growth” was released. Written by Bart van Ark, chief economist of the research association called The Conference Board, it argues that Europe’s productivity, which is key to growth,is falling far behind America because it lags in intangible investments (see chart below) and adoption of digital technology across all sectors of the economy. As van Ark stressed “ the potential of digitisation to accelerate growth will come primarily from the use of these technologies by industries in non-ICT sector.” This should be a vision for the next European Commission.

In the addition, Dirk Pilat of the OECD, presented new evidence on contribution of young companies to the economy. 42% of new jobs come from startups and high-growth firms, which shows that policymakers in Europe should focus on enabling entrepreneurship and experimentation, rather than focusing only on SMEs and incumbents.

The event underlined how Europe enjoys a giant opportunity for the Internet to support economic growth and employment in Europe - as well as the risks of Europe being left behind related to lack of the digital single market and global scale, digital skills gap, excessive regulation or risks of emerging digital protectionism in Europe.

Google is committed to doing its part. We’re supporting a range of initiatives that help Europeans -- entrepreneurs, startups, and youth -- tap the potential of the net to start a business, reach global markets, and learn new skills and become employable. In Germany, we’re helping the country’s famed exporters find new customers, grow their businesses and maximize their online presence through a suite of digital tools. In Italy, we’re bring Italy’s famous artisan producers online. In Spain, we’re working with partners to create a 21st century workforce by helping people of all ages acquire new digital skills including coding and computer science. All the efforts are meant to send a single important message: in order to prosper, Europe needs to embrace the internet.