What tourism tells us about future of European innovation

As the "fellesferie" (common vacation) is closing in Norway and other European countries, it is a good time to take a step back and look at the overall performance of the European innovation economy the last couple of years relative to our typical peers, namely the US and China:

r/europe - ELI5: Why are Europe's big tech platforms not as big as US and Asia?

Ooof... it's not looking great.*

Europe has a lack of major tech companies, a reduced share of world output and, as protectionism spreads, no hope of matching American or Chinese largesse on domestic industries. In a trading world, Europe had one superpower, the “Brussels effect”, by which EU regulations became the de facto global standard. The fragmentation of trade could deprive Europe of even that vote on the shape of the future. - Janan Ganesh, FT.

Europe's tourism industry, on the other hand, is booming. Wealthy Americans and Chinese flock to European cities for sights and the flair of continental European culture, as well as luxury products - think LVMH. In the short term, the European luxury- and tourism industry might boom, but it remains an open question if the "[...] the “soft” stuff might blind Europe to what is afoot in tech and other harder realms." In it's perceived popularity, Europe might double down on non-innovative industries, and fade further into irrelevance regarding the technologies shaping our future.

Ganesh points out that "the growing irrelevance of the continent, and the popularity of it through tourism — are linked." Because, as "Europe commands the interest of the world without trying, it struggles to understand how marginal it has become, and to respond." Looking at the current European political landscape, it is hard not to agree with Ganesh here.

Still, it's not all doom-and-gloom for Europe. There are many positive upticks in the European technology industry. Look at London (artificial intelligence and fintech), Tallin (small-scale startups, ease of doing business), Stockholm (Spotify, Klarna, SoundCloud etc. and game design) or Zürich for example. Pure economic measures aside, Europe also leads in worker life-quality, which attracts workers globally.

Show Comments