The future of Europe is at stake, and the reasons extend far beyond such obvious challenges as the migration crisis and the political turbulence that led to Brexit.

For the last 12 years, the European Union’s share of global GDP has fallen from nearly 32 per cent to about only 23 per cent. Although it is difficult to imagine the continent once again becoming the centre of global manufacturing, the EU still has the tools to reverse this trend to some extent. We could take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — a wave of digital-era changes — to push the region into a period of sustained growth, through a combination of long-term policies, innovation and cooperation between governments and businesses.

Central and Eastern Europe has the potential to play a very substantial role in the continent’s future. For the past five years, the region has registered impressive growth in Information Communication Technology (ICT) as a share of its GDP (for instance, in Bulgaria it rose from 1.3 per cent in 2012 to 3.3 per cent in 2016).

Instead of competing within the region’s smaller markets, we could create targeted intelligent specialisation areas, drawing on existing areas of expertise as well as creating new ones. This way one country’s industry will be able to expand into the broader European market, without having to compete within the region.

CEE’s start-up scene

Just a quick look at the Central and Eastern Europe’s investment market will show you that Poland has a very well developed start-up ecosystem in a number of sectors, but with substantial value concentrated in marketing automation. There is already one “unicorn”, Allegro, and two more potentially on the way, in SALESmanago and Growbots. These are two of the most promising verticals with established know-how and success in today’s Poland.

At the same time, the Czech Republic and Romania have become real pillars of European cyber security, with start-ups such as Avast Software, Bitdefender and TypingDNA, while my home country, Bulgaria, already has its own ICT success in the software development company Telerik, which was acquired by Progress Software, in 2014, for $262.5 million.

In Slovakia, the advanced engineering company AeroMobil is developing the world’s first flying car and is expecting to start taking orders this year.

Fostering these areas of strength further and supporting them with focused education and talents from within the region would make a huge difference both locally and for the future of Europe.

I am convinced that with more in-depth study we can easily make a list of several specifications for each country and create strategies for regional development.

The fourth industrial revolution, with its new technologies, is going to be the guiding light on our path to a better future.


The original: http://emerging-europe.com/voices/voices-business/polands-unicorn-slovakias-flying-car-and-the-future-of-europe/