"European tech companies should stay in Europe"

Thomas van Zijl and Willem Jonker

Thomas van Zijl and Willem Jonker

Willem Jonker

Willem Jonker

Of the world's top 25 tech companies, only three are based in Europe. If it is up to Prof Dr Willem Jonker, CEO of EIT Digital, the share of European companies must increase and European Tech companies should stay in Europe.

Jonker says this in an interview with Thomas van Zijl en Annet van Soest in the Dutch radio programme BNR Zakendoen.

According to Jonker, the protection of European inhabitants is the main reason why it is important to keep European tech companies in the region. "Technology is not free of values. In Europe we believe in certain values which are different from the values treasured by other continents like China and the United States. One of these values is our perspective on privacy. That is why we have the new privacy rules General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming in. In Europe, we believe that the rights of European people should be protected. Individuals are more than just consumers. These values need to be instilled in the digital world. But if Europe is barely included in the top ranks of global tech companies, we won't see our values represented. If you're not sitting at the table, you're on the menu."

Money and markets

The paradigm is that most European companies choose to go to the United States where they hope to find money, investors and a large market. That is worrisome says Jonker.

"Companies go to the United states for two reasons: money and markets. The market in Europe is very fragmented. If you start a company in the Netherlands, you have a potential market of 18 million people. If you start a company in the United States, your market has 300 million potential customers. That is why we need a Digital Single Market here to ensure that startups can grow to be leading tech companies in Europe too. The problem is that due to national interests it is sometimes hard to find European coordination."

Van Zijl asks if European tech companies should not be obliged to stay in Europe because EIT Digital is doing so much for them, "You help in every possible way". This is not an option Jonker. Referring to EIT Digital's core activities: education, innovation and acceleration, Jonker believes that European tech companies can find digital talent, money and markets in Europe as well if they reach out. "Nowadays, innovation happens in ecosystems with different players, like startups, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, the government. Innovation has become more complex than ever before. We help companies and scaleups to navigate in the innovation landscape. Our partners like Philips, Siemens, Nokia, Deutsche Telecom and SAP work with us because they understand that innovations will only happen if they reach out.

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