Building Europe’s Digital Sovereignty (7 February 2022)


The Building Europe’s Digital Sovereignty conference looks to take stock of recent strides made on the continent, spark discussion and create momentum to continue building Europe’s digital sovereignty.

The conference will showcase how the European Union is capable of taking charge of its own destiny in the digital age, so as to defend its values and economic interests, and secure its autonomy.

Introducing the four pillars of Europe’s digital sovereignty

The conference is focused on the four pillars listed below:

(i) To ensure the European Union’s role as a protective power, Europe must strengthen the security of citizens, public services and businesses in cyberspace and set down an industrial data strategy that can stand as a bulwark against extraterritorial laws.
(ii) To ensure the European Union’s role as a standard-setting power that champions core values, Europe must shore up democratic institutions, promote the return to a fair playing field for businesses in the digital single market and put forward new rules and regulations in order to increase accountability among tech firms.
(iii) To ensure the European Union’s role as a power for innovation, Europe must attract foreign investors and foreign talent and foster an environment in which world-class tech firms are created.
(iv) To ensure the European Union’s role as a power for openness, Europe must encourage free and open standards, support building physical and software infrastructure that is open and shared in the global digital commons, and back such efforts from a technological and financial perspective.

Working to build Europe’s digital sovereignty

Protection and Openness

In an age when a growing share of digital resources (e.g. software, data and physical infrastructure) is increasingly offered or captured by non-European firms, the conference will highlight the digital commons as well as non-rivalrous and non-excludable infrastructure, which represent an alternative to the monopoly-dominated tech offering.

With Europe’s cyberspace facing a growing number of threats, the conference will explore developing a European cybersecurity model through EU legislative initiatives (such as revising the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems), introducing more solidarity mechanisms between Member States and building up an industrial base (through Gaia-X, secure cloud and the EU certification scheme of the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, or ENISA). In the cloud sector in particular, the industrial base is confronted with an expanding array of extraterritorial laws that threaten the security and integrity of the personal data of European citizens and businesses.

Régulation et Innovation

At a time when the digital revolution is posing challenges to both how our democratic institutions function and the security of European citizens and consumers, the conference will touch on the European Commission’s initiatives to increase protection for journalists and freedom of expression online (the European Democracy Action Plan) and to require greater accountability from digital service providers (the proposed Digital Services Act), with the goal of ensuring that what is illegal offline is also illegal online.
Taking advantage of network effects and new technologies, online platforms have accumulated substantial market power, resulting in a market highly concentrated around a limited number of players. In this vein, the conference will take up the proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA), which seeks to promote innovation and prohibit unfair practices on the part of online platforms acting as gatekeepers in digital markets.

Scale Up Europe

Day 2 of the conference will focus on the Scale-up Europe initiative, launched in March 2021 in collaboration with the European Commission, which brings together a cohort of 200 start-up and scale-up founders, investors, researchers and corporations, all sharing the same ambition: for the continent to become home to 10 technology companies each valued at more than €100bn by 2030. The next steps will be to build on the momentum and establish a world-leading European start-up ecosystem, which will require activating the gamut of financial resources and public policy instruments.

To achieve such goals, three areas of action have been outlined:

Develop world-class European disruptive tech firms, with support from the newly created European Innovation Council (EIC), which has financing of more than €10bn to target breakthrough innovations.
Make Europe attractive for tech talent. Having access to key skills is critical to the growth of Europe’s tech ecosystem. The conference will raise the question of strengthening European cooperation as regards visa processing. Another point of discussion will be how greater visibility can be given to talent acquisition programmes so as to put European start-ups on a path to hypergrowth.
Fund the final stages of development of scale-ups to support the emergence of world-class businesses of the future with deep ties in Europe. European venture capital funds are not consistently able to finance the largest investment deals. The conference will analyse public policy measures that would help start-ups and scale-ups to gain access to European financing mechanisms, including IPOs and funds of funds.