Europe in the age of digital

9 November 2015


Reported by Matthew McGuire, ESRC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (October 2015 - January 2016)

‘The Policy Fellowship taught me that it’s not about the technology itself; it’s how it’s related to people’

A participant summed up his Fellowship at a recent event hosted by Policy Fellow, Anthony Walker, Deputy CEO of TechUK. The event was part of the monthly 'First Friday' lunch series, which provides opportunities for Policy Fellows to host and participate in working lunches with other members of the network It considered technological innovation in Europe in a complex policy landscape, under the title Europe in the age of digital: Disruptor or disrupted?

TechUK counts 890 organisations in its membership, ranging from startups to multinational companies. Relevant issues for techUK’s members’ relationship with Europe include the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, the UK’s EU referendum, and policy changes following the recent general election.

US Companies and Europe

Anthony outlined debates over the purpose of European digital policy, involving a ‘standoff’ between those approaches that incentivise European growth and innovation, and those that seek to determine international competition. The different policy approaches in the US and European technology sectors were considered, noting the incentives for scaling innovations or for encouraging the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises. There was discussion of how a Digital Single Market would heighten the potential for greater innovation and adoption of new technologies.

Barriers to innovation

The participants also spoke of barriers to innovation closer to home. A question that ran through the meeting was why, if new technologies are available, there is not better uptake within organisations. In the context of the growing importance of business-to-business technologies, Policy Fellows explored how uptake might be increased – and current barriers to this. Discussions focused on barriers within the public sector specifically, including budget constraints, system design, and complex overlaps between procurement, ownership, and accountability. One participant stressed the importance of ‘visionaries’ in driving change, and suggested once an organisation has proven the value of implementing a technology others, can more easily follow.

For more information, please contact Dr Clare Moran at

(Thumbnail image from fdcomite, banner image from Casper Folsing, both via Flickr)