By Stewart McDonald, Huffington Post UK
Technological change is happening fast. Very fast, actually.
This week the European Commission presented a set of measures to support national initiatives for the digitisation of industry, public services and cybersecurity – and it will boost investment through strategic partnerships and networks.
As the manufacturing sector in the European Union accounts for 2 million enterprises, 33 million jobs, 60% of productivity growth, and studies showing digitisation of industry would create an additional €110 billion of revenue for industry per year in Europe over the next five years, it makes sense for us to remain a part of the action.
Whilst I admit the EU may not be perfect, it has transformed us for the better. And it is clear to see the vast amount of positives that come from being a part of the digital market Europe has to offer.
With more than 30 national and regional initiatives on digitising industry, over €50 billion of investment coming in the next five years, adding onto the current €80 billion from the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020, it is clear that we can better shape the changes and advances in technology by working alongside our EU partners.
We are all, or are likely to know someone, benefiting from the EU’s digital innovation investments. Whether that is through individual research and innovation projects such as the €8 million given to Sunderland Software City – which has helped over 260 software companies create over 300 jobs – or with programmes funded by Horizon 2020, which promises breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.
In Scotland, and across the UK, Horizon 2020 is helping to produce and deliver world-class science and innovation. Be it funding for the University of Dundee to develop robotics to be used in medicine, training for engineers to prepare for a low carbon future at the University of Strathclyde or developing technology to help create solutions for healthy ageing at home across the UK. Horizon 2020 is exciting.
Now I know the Outers bang on about our membership fee, being able to make our own decisions and say we would be able to invest in our own technology if we not part of the EU. But are we really going to be able to use our net contribution of £8.5 billion to pay for new border controls, subsidising farmers, digital innovation, and so on? I think not. I’d much rather have all that and have access to €100 billion for just digital innovation.
Since 2007, the Government have invested £1.8 billion in innovation and have promised an investment of £26.3 billion between 2016/17 to 2020/21 for science and research funding. I do genuinely welcome the fact that this investment has returned between £11.5 billion and £13.1 billion to the economy, supported innovation in 7,600 organisations and created around 55,000 new jobs. But our ambition must go further.
The fact is, being part of the EU and having access to their pot of over €100 billion can help us further enhance our research and development, rather than relying on this government and their shortcomings when it comes to digital innovation.
And it’s not just about the money. The incredible potential of technology to help society is there to be harnessed.
Whether it’s Toyota’s home assistant ROBINA robot that can care for, entertain and help ageing societies so they can stay in their own homes longer, Google’s driverless cars that could save the lives of millions from car accidents caused by human error, or the VGo robot that goes to school on behalf of severely ill children and allows the child to see and hear the class, raise their hand and be called on by the teacher. The capabilities of digital innovation is truly astonishing and I don’t want to see the UK left behind.
Be it online or offline, we are better connected as part of the EU.
Digitisation assists in solving some of the immediate issues facing our society such as monitoring the environment and taking steps to reduce needless use of resources, providing a better education for our children and much, much more.
Take Estonia for example. Thanks to digitisation, they have attracted businesses with the country’s new e-residency policy, which allows companies to register in Estonia and take advantage of their online only-programmes for tax filings andcontracts, fast internet speeds and all the freedom that comes with being an incorporated business in the EU.
As a result, Estonia have been able to invest a larger percentage of GDP on primary education than the US and UK. This has allowed every school in the country to be online. School enrolment and literacy are 100% and all schoolchildren taught to code from their first year, as they look ahead to tomorrow’s world.
Estonia has demonstrated what is possible if we make of the most digital strategy that is available to us through the EU. Innovation and technology can do more than generate wealth and employment; it can enhance our civic and political life. Let’s stay with the action rather than close our doors to some of the most exciting technological developments of our time, by staying in the European Union.