Why the “Forum” Successfully navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution sits at the heart of the future success of the European economy and of Europe’s businesses as drivers of technology, innovation, growth and jobs. The stakes could not be higher: the changes will impact every business, sector and economy, while it will see exponential changes to how we live, work and communicate with each other. These changes must of course be seen in their global context and Europe cannot afford to fall behind, nor can be hamstrung by outmoded thinking, planning and regulation. Europe’s businesses alone cannot navigate this transformation - its complexity, speed and non-linear nature - successfully: they need a policy framework that will enable the transformation, both within the EU and in a global context, while simultaneously addressing fundamental societal issues like educating and supporting the workforce of the future that will look much different to that of the present. That is the challenge for the five coming years and more as we look towards a new European Commission (EC), European Parliament (EP) and President of the European Council at the EU level. Europe is at a cross-roads moment when “business as usual” is no longer an option. Those “new” institutions, together, with the Governments of the 27 EU Member States must work in partnership with business to find the right answers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These answers will no longer reside just in classic economic and sectoral regulation. It will require new ways of thinking, collaboration and policy-making that tackle major changes in society brought on by the data economy and the rapid growth in automation and artificial intelligence. As with any major socio-economic change, there are always those that will define it as a zero-sum game for Europe. There are siren calls for Europe to batten down the hatches and retreat into protectionist measures to counter unfair competition or state-sponsored breaches of the international rules-based system. This would be self-defeating as the system would collapse on itself and Europe is ill-prepared to compete if geo-political and economic muscle is the sole arbiter of business success. Europe has remained the bastion of the multi-lateral based system over the last few years as it has been buffeted around by the increasingly unpredictable and harmful forces. It must remain so, but it must also defend its socio-economic, environmental and security interests with a smarter regulatory arsenal - one that is representative of how Europe defines its citizens and business interests but provieds for an objective system without fear or favour based on geography.
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