Europe's risk-averse culture risks condemning it forever to second place behind the US


Digital & Data Governance

Picture of Neelie Kroes
Neelie Kroes

Former EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda

Europe is facing a severe economic crisis, with a devastating effect on jobs, opportunities, and lives – particularly for younger people. To restore hope, we must invest in future growth and support a vibrant innovation culture, especially in ICT to foster the digital tools that promise to transform everything we do.

First, we need the right infrastructure. In today’s connected world, that means broadband, the platform for virtually every bright new digital idea. Yet a weak European telecoms sector cannot invest or innovate, and looks backward to old revenues like roaming rather than forward to new dynamic digital opportunities. Meanwhile, a fragmented telecoms sector does not benefit from the single market’s potential boost. That is why I have been so determined to make Europe a connected continent, to bring down barriers and end roaming surcharges here once and for all.

Second, we need the right human capital. Even in this time of unemployment, Europe does not have enough skilled workers to fill the available digital jobs. I want to see concerted action by both private and public sectors to fix this problem – and that should include opening up education and digital classrooms everywhere.

Third, we need the right mentality – one where it’s okay to innovate, okay to disrupt, and okay to fail. People shouldn’t be afraid to try out new ideas or break out on their own. Over 40% of potential European entrepreneurs are put off by the fear of failure; that’s about three times higher than in the U.S.

Changing that attitude would make a big difference. That is the goal of the Startup Manifesto (, a call to action to help improve the environment for European entrepreneurs, boosting innovation and growth.

Europe once led the world in all things digital. Now we need more than ever to recapture that lead. Let’s not turn our backs on that opportunity.

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