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The session was moderated by Ms Lamia Kamal-Chaoui (Director, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities) and focused on how to make the digital transformation work for all firms, including SMEs. She talked that it is necessary to prevent a digital backlash and address urgently the digital divide. One of these divides concerned businesses. According to her, digitalisation gives a lot of advantage such as bigger productivity and growth for all businesses, but it is not benefiting all the firms in the same way, falling behind many small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Kamal-Chaoui presented data collected in the OECD survey.
Mr Marc Hansen (Minister Delegate for Digitisation, Luxembourg) started by saying that the first thing that a government should do is to create a dedicated ministry for digitalisation. Hansen talked that other important points are the development of the national statistics infrastructure and the financial support of R&D and innovation. According to him, the Luxembourg government invested in key infrastructures to make digitalisation possible, such as data centers and low-latency networks. He thinks that it is interesting to motivate projects in collaboration between national research institutions and SMEs.
Ms Natasha Friis Saxberg (Digital Strategist, Author and Board Member) talked that the digital transformation is done by looking at the core business and finding a way to upgrade systems, create a new experience for customers and collaborate with other businesses. Saxberg believes that big companies investment in new markets through startups is a viable way to the digital transformation. According to her, one of the advantages of doing that is the access to new emerging technologies by big corporations. Another point is the strategic input that can help calibrate the business. She said that the main obstacles for SMEs and startups are financial restrictions and their innovation is not compatible with the existing laws and frameworks. In addition, Saxberg stressed that digital transformation is not only about technology, but it is the necessity of systemic and cultural changes.
In his speech, Mr Nicolas Colin (Co-Founder and Director, The Family) said that he believes that the current innovation environment in the EU is toxic because entrepreneurs do not find the right conditions to succeed. According to him, talents, capital, and creativity are essential ingredients to have a fruitful place to raise startups and SMEs. He explained about the organisation that invests money on startups and provides support to overcome some specific European obstacles. Colin talked that there are many unicorns in the US and China, but almost none in the EU. He believes that some industries are easier to grow a startup to a large company. These markets find two main criteria: they are based on intangible assets (like contents and brands) and there are lightly regulated, which means they are not dealing with too much regulation. While the US invested in these ‘easy’ markets, Europe is stuck with more complicated industries that deal with tangible assets which require a lot of capital and more complex regulation. Finally, he thinks that it is necessary to find a European path to increase the number of technology companies and a one-way pass through to explore more SMEs.
By Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício