The European Commission, the UK Minister for Europe and representatives of the senior management of Amazon, IBM, Spotify, and Uber united on a common vision about innovation-driven Europe. The debate, under the slogan #Regulation4Innovation, was hosted by MEP Eva Paunova of the EPP Group. „We need to make sure that the EU regulatory framework is fit for the digital age, for an information-driven economy and society“, stated Paunova setting the tone for the following discussion. The conference, which took place on 24 May 2016 in the European Parliament in Brussels, was moderated by Alex Barker, the Financial Times Brussels Bureau Chief.
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, headed the panel ‘Innovation-driven Europe’. He presented the Commission´s instruments supporting innovation – the innovation tool and the innovation deals, which provide guidance on introducing new technologies within the flexibility of existing legislation. „Innovation needs to be seen in a dynamic way – in 60/70% of cases no change of laws is needed for it to be accommodated“. Attila Narin, Head of Business Development at Amazon Web Services, presented the consumer´s perspective on the issue, emphasising the necessity of understanding how innovation can be used in practice. The panel was concluded by Alessandro Curioni, Head of IBM Research in Europe, who pointed out that „the real value of innovation is realized when real economic and societal needs and challenges are being met.“
The second panel of the conference, dedicated to ‘Competitiveness through smart regulation’, began with a statement by Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition. The Commissioner asserted that „you need both competition and a reward for innovators“, underlying the importance of rules protecting the freedom of innovators. Martin Lorentzon, Co-founder and Chairman of Spotify, expressed his strong support for the EU’s Digital Single Market initiative: „Spotify spent almost seven years to get the licences for music. The DSM and its on-going copyright project will make things so much easier to close those licences with 29 countries, levelling the playing field.“
Rachel Whetstone, Senior Vice President at Uber, voiced her company’s support for well-tailored regulation of safety and consumer protection issues and gave a number of examples of how Uber is increasingly serving underprivileged groups in Europe. “In the digital sector, any new legislation risks being outdated by the time it is implemented. Possible platform regulation is a prime example for that“, observed Niklas Maydell of Cleary Gottlieb, the law firm. The panel was concluded by David Roy Lidington, the longest-serving Minister for Europe in the UK. „Europe will only be competitive if we uphold and support innovation. For instance, we should seeplatforms and robotic changes as an opportunity not as a treat.“
Commissioner Vestager and MEP Paunova agreed that the conference should just be the first in a series of joint, high-level events to come that will be committed to continuing the dialogue between policy-makers and stakeholders in search for better and well-fitted regulation in support of innovation.
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