The European Union is a "valley of death" for economic business innovation, a commissioner for the bloc has told the World Economic Forum. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


EU is ‘Valley of Death’ for innovators, EC bigwig tells WEF


The European Union is a “Valley of Death” for business innovation, a leading European Commissioner told the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Bulgarian Iliana Ivanova, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, claimed that while the EU was positive regarding research and development more generally, the application of the results of such in the market has always been problematic.

“This is, in Europe, where we have the so-called Valley of Death,” she told a WEF meeting on January 16. “Where you have all these nice discoveries, but somehow they are not able to find their place at the market.”

Ivanova blamed that on a “lack” of available investment within the EU compared to other markets, claiming the likes of the US were more willing to fund the application of new innovations in industry.

“Persistently, for the past 20 years, we’ve observed a funding gap of about 100 billion [sic] per year in European research and innovation compared to others,” she said.

Ivanova added that the EU should be aiming for a ratio of research and development to gross domestic product of 3 per cent or more, which she said would bring it closer in line with the US.

The Commissioner went on to insist that the EU was trying to tackle this problem directly with projects such as the European Innovation Council, which is set to provide more than €1 billion in funding for the business development of “strategic technologies”.

She also claimed the EC was passionate about pushing Europe to the “front of the pack” when it came to Artificial Intelligence research, adding that Brussels was keen to act “really fast” to pursue such technology.

That sentiment was later echoed by EC President Ursula von der Leyen during her “special address” at the conference, which saw her attempting to convince political and business leaders that Europe has a “huge competitive edge” in that area.

“There are nearly 200,000 software engineers in Europe with AI experience. That is a greater concentration than in the United States and China,” Von der Leyen claimed.

“We can train artificial intelligence on data of unrivalled quality.

“This is the new frontier of competitiveness. And Europe is well positioned to become the leader of industrial AI – the use of AI to transform critical infrastructures to become intelligent and sustainable.”

Von der Leyen made her claims despite widespread criticism of the EU’s ongoing attempt to regulate AI, including through the recently agreed and controversial Artificial Intelligence Act.