Europe’s digital leap

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It’s March 2024, and it looks like the EU Artificial Intelligence Act is soon to be formally approved. It’s an important regulation that many international groups have tried to pass, and many are still trying to figure out how to regulate this fast-moving technology. The AI Act doesn’t answer all the known questions and may pose new ones. As AI evolves and scales at an unprecedented speed, it’s crucial to understand the risks and the opportunities.

Regulation like the EU Artificial Intelligence Act is required, but overregulation could hamper innovation and limit the potential to thrive in the global market.  

So, let’s dive into Europe’s tremendous potential based on industrial expertise, strong values, and the ingenuity of its workforce. If Europe uses this potential to its fullest, it can become a true digital powerhouse in the era of AI.  

The opportunity ahead… and within  

I agree that the opportunity of AI is as big as the introduction of the Internet at scale in the 1990s – a true digital leap that can transform the way we work and live. However, we’re just getting started: according to Eurostat, less than 1 in 10 EU enterprises used AI technologies in 2023. My team at Schneider Electric and I have been working on an approach that enables our company and our customers, many of whom are in Europe, to embrace AI at scale for sustainability. 
For example, Citycon, the leading owner of shopping centers in the Nordics is using software with a machine learning (ML) algorithm that constantly analyzes data from energy generators, EV charging stations, batteries, backup generators, HVAC systems, lighting systems, UPS, combined heat and power (CHP), and utility metering. Thanks to data-based insights, Citycon is able to achieve a 335 tCO2/year reduction in emissions in one of its sites.

By combining a strong understanding of industry and business needs with cutting-edge innovation, it’s possible to unlock tremendous value through AI – productivity, energy efficiency, and sustainability. I believe this is the future not only for European companies, but also public infrastructure as well as individual homeowners in the new energy landscape.  

Strength in collaboration 

Europe stands at a critical juncture in 2024 and is facing pivotal challenges, from the recent energy crisis to the urgent need for climate action and navigating complex geopolitical dynamics. I believe that digital transformation and technology are key foundations of Europe’s resilience and the ability to prevent catastrophic consequences.   
It has never been more important to maintain strong partnerships between policymakers and digital business leaders across borders. This European-wide collaboration is also the key to positioning the continent as THE place for digital investment, both domestic and foreign. I believe Europe also has business leaders who know not only the power of digital technologies and how to deploy them at scale but can also tackle common roadblocks and challenges.  

The digital technology landscape is becoming more fragmented and competitive. Regulations like the EU AI Act only increase the complexity. As I meet global executives, I see the urgent need to simplify and create a level playing field for European companies. Every step in this direction will, in turn, lead to a faster digital transformation of Europe’s industries and improve the quality of lives for Europeans.   

Embracing new technologies for Europe's digital leap under the EU Artificial Intelligence Act

Human-centric digital acceleration 

There’s still much to do to digitize European industries, cities, and homes. But this will not happen if we focus only on technology.  

Europe’s workforce is rich in cultural, educational, and professional diversity. However, there is still a talent shortage in the digital field. If we want to build a strong and resilient society, ready to face the imminent challenges, we must invest in Europe’s remarkable talent and attract the best professionals in the field from around the world.  

Europe urgently needs more cybersecurity professionals, coders, software developers, and engineers. And we need more women in digital, too. We still don’t have enough strong female leaders who will set an example for future generations. As leaders, we must strengthen existing initiatives, such as Women in AI mentorship programs, while helping tech start-ups and inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM.  

I believe that engaging future generations of digital trailblazers requires a meaningful purpose. After all, we’re not pursuing digital transformation for the sake of cool tech and purely financial outcomes – there’s much more at stake as IoT, data, and AI are all interlocking parts of the solution to climate change.  

Right here, right now

As I look toward 2030, my call to action is clear. Working within the guidelines of EU Artificial Intelligence Act, Europe must unleash a collective force of innovation, priming its society for a digital future. Policymakers, tech companies, and citizens alike must embrace emerging technologies like AI to shape a resilient, sustainable future. For many, it still may sound like a long journey, but it doesn’t have to be. We get used to long debates and dreaming about the future. However, fulfilling the vision by 2030 isn’t simply a dream — it’s a shared responsibility that we must realize. Here and now.  

Join me at the Master of Digital event happening on 21st February 2024 in Brussels. Let’s meet and discuss how together we can make this acceleration happen.

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