Each day, innovators across the globe wake up to a mission: make the world a better place. Whether it’s combating disease via big data and artificial intelligence (AI) or increasing healthy crop production with sensors, robotics, data-analytics and mapping tools, the tech industry is taking on the world’s greatest challenges with dynamic, creative solutions.
We must work across our borders and languages to address these challenges. Our digital world extends beyond physical barriers, allowing researchers to openly exchange knowledge; citizens to communicate with each other; and companies – large and small – to work on new ideas and scale them across the globe. And no regions are better matched for such collaborative and beneficial partnerships than the United States and Europe.
There’s no denying we have our differences, including our approaches to regulation and attitudes toward risk. But we share the key element for an effective partnership: core values.
Both the U.S. and Europe have a long history of defending individuals’ rights to privacy and self-determination, and both are firmly committed to free speech and democracy. These commonalities don’t negate our differences, but they are the basis on which we cooperate and trade.
Not all countries share these values. The challenge of our future will not be only about the economic benefits of innovation, but also about the value of the individual and democracy. This challenges our security and will define what type of world our children will inherit.
Innovators need a solid foundation on which to develop solutions. The better our companies can compete on an international scale, the faster we’ll be able to increase prosperity, security, equality and work on sustainability. And the first step is creating a level playing field together for doing international business.
Big tech companies are facing more government scrutiny, and there is a discussion on whether to break them up. But “big” is not intrinsically bad. Global companies drive innovation, fund research and invest in smaller companies.
And big companies that embrace transparency, welcome new ideas and acknowledge low barriers to entry in the market can deliver meaningful innovations at scale much faster than smaller players. This is what is needed from them, in order to strike the right balance for the common good.
To deliver change on an international scale, innovators need capital – an area where both the U.S. and the EU can stand to improve. While some countries spend more than 4 percent of their GDP on research and development, the U.S. spends 2.79 percent of its GDP on strengthening innovation, while the EU spends 1.97 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The U.S. and Europe can achieve far more by innovating together than by working alone. The U.S. can learn from Europe’s leadership in developing robots and drones. And in many ways, Europe seems primed for a startup boom, with many breakthrough technologies, such as photonics and sustainable food, moving into commercial deployment.
And the EU can learn from the U.S., too. The EU is slower to embrace new business models. Such caution inhibits technological growth; tech thrives when companies and cultures embrace the reality of risk and the possibility of failure.
The Netherlands ranks number one in Europe in the recently published WEF Global Competitive Index. At its core, the Netherlands’ approach is mission-driven innovation policy focused on energy transition and sustainability. At CES Unveiled in Amsterdam – a global event featuring the latest tech innovations of the Netherlands and surrounding countries – we saw some of these breakthrough technologies on display.
We must legislate with an eye to the future, crafting laws that allow our innovators to exercise the full breadth of their talent and our regions to work together freely. The U.N. General Assembly in September only reinforced how urgent the needs of the world are – and, accordingly, how vital it is that we harness every tool in our power to meet those needs.
Our hope is that together the U.S. and EU can push each other to new heights of creativity and ingenuity, creating a safer, smarter world that works better for all.
Mona Keijzer is state secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy for the Netherlands. Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer technology companies, and a New York Times best-selling author. He is the author of the new book, "Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation."