AI, MedTech or energy – key topics of Masters of Digital 2024


AI, MedTech or energy – key topics of Masters of Digital 2024

On 21 February, the Masters of Digital 2024 conference took place, which DIGITALEUROPE organizes as its flagship event every year. This year’s edition was the third one that we were able to watch interactively.

The event was significantly influenced by the European Parliament elections, ahead of which DIGITALEUROPE launched an intensive campaign in support of European digital business. DIGITALEUROPE’s first step was the publication of a digital manifesto last November. On the occasion of Masters of Digital 2024, they published a further publication – The Single Market Love Story. The document shows the obstacles European innovative startups face in their efforts to break into the market and commercialise their products.

Digitalisation is an opportunity, we can’t hold it back

The key note of this year’s conference was delivered by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. He highlighted the role of digital technologies in building modern competitive economies and called for even deeper European cooperation. The prime minister also applauded the promotion of centers of competence in chips and semiconductors, one of which is in Belgium. Furthermore, he stressed the long-known truth that we are extremely powerful in the fundamental research in Europe. Yet, it is much easier to expand business and market products in the United States.

Individual panels covered a range of issues for which digitalisation is essential. Or the other way, they are essential for digitalisation.

The area of regulation is another constant in all such discussions. The compliance process brings huge financial costs and time delays that can hamper great innovative solutions before they are even brought to market. No start-up or established company, regardless of size, wants to spend its valuable resources on lawyers instead of IT developers. Similarly, fragmented procurement rules are an old sore point.

Topics that are shaping the world

Infrastructure and energy are other hot topics. They may not seem essential to creating a modern digital economy and society, yet their impact is profound. There are still huge disparities in Europe in terms of high-speed internet coverage. We can see this issue firsthand in many regions of the Czech Republic.

When it comes to the energy sector, its relation with digital solutions is reciprocal. On the one hand, we know that many of such solutions require energy to function. On the other hand, digitalisation is a key tool for increasing energy efficiency. Sensors, smart connections and artificial intelligence are the future of energy sector. Many voices have been raised about the need to move away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, but the question is whether these challenges do not run up against economic and physical limits.

Artificial intelligence has already been the evergreen topic of discussion in recent months. The panellists agreed that this technology has the potential to disrupt society and the economy in a similar way to the internet in the 1990s and 2000s.

Other so-called critical technologies are considered biotechnology, chips and semiconductors, and quantum technologies. Europe is already facing tough competition in the field of artificial intelligence. In addition to the obligatory United States and China, it also consists of countries in the Gulf region, especially the United Arab Emirates. Only the future will tell to what extent the recently adopted AI Act will become an opportunity or an obstacle for new AI solutions.

Healthcare, financial sector and cybersecurity

When it comes to healthcare, the most important factor is strengthening the trust of EU citizens. The EU must achieve this to help healthcare sector become as digital as possible and thus more efficient. Besides this, it also means creating a flexible yet secure environment to use the huge amount of health data. Finally, this is closely linked to cyber security. First and foremost is the education of the population and the expansion of basic digital skills that will enable the population to navigate safely in the digital space. However today, due to the lack of financial and digital competency of a large mass of the population, digitalisation is extremely complicated and cannot be used to its full potential.

We need a real single market

Attending the Masters of Digital 2024 event reinforced our impression. Europe is spinning in a vicious circle on digital issues.

On the one side, it knows exactly what its problems. However, at the same time, the implementation of solutions is in direct contradiction with the inherently protectionist, paternalistic and bureaucratic nature of EU institutions and individual European states.

Of course, we must take into account that there are differences between the 27 Member States. Different national administrations can use the European legislative scope in different ways. Unfortunately, the Czech Republic has long been in a situation where the undeniable legislative burden from the EU is compounded by its own obstacles, often caused by a specifically rigid interpretation of (not only) European legislation and regulations.

These are words that have been said hundreds of times. Yet, they need to be mentioned again.