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Innovation Summit encourages youth to jump in the fast lane
By: Jan Muehlfeit, Chairman of Microsoft Europe
15 October 2010

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Creativity is at the heart of stimulating innovation and fostering sustainable growth at European level.  When it is combined effectively with new digital technologies it can solve some of today’s greatest global challenges whilst at the same time generating new employment pathways in the region.

The 2nd European Innovation Summit hosted in the European Parliament was opened this week by the Vice-President of the European Parliament , the Commissioner for Education, Culture and Youth, Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, the Nobel prize Laureate, Peter Grunberg and myself as Chairman of Microsoft Europe to encourage more young people to push the boundaries and firmly embrace science and technology. Europe is an innovative continent, without a doubt the figures are testimony; 50% of patents filed are European in comparison to 25% in the US. However we must remove the existing bottlenecks to the implementation of new business ideas and build the foundations for growth. The framework, laid down by the ‘Innovation Union’’ recently, has put the right steps in place for a clear direction.

Developing innovators in the market is about stimulating worker mobility, fostering talent in universities and access to technology skills and resources. Commissioner Vassiliou stressed the importance of young people and the skills that would equip them for a fast changing society.  Interestingly, the importance and relevance to all professions of having a firm grasp of science, maths and a basic understanding of digital technologies was made exemplar to an audience of 200 students. This is critical considering that by 2015 it is projected that 700,000 technology positions will be unfilled. The real essence of the conference was upon the skills that can shape the future, a key facet that is set down in the recent strategy ‘Youth on the Move’.

Of timely connection to this debate, was the launch earlier on in the day of the ‘e-Skills Manifesto’ in the presence of MEP Edit Herzcog, Director of Government Affairs, Motorola, Lizanne Scott and Director, European Commission's Directorate General of Enterprises and Industry, Mrs Georgette Lalis. It was the occasion to reaffirm e-skills development in Europe as vital to employment, economic growth and inclusion. I firmly believe that any public official who values developing young talent and building a culture of innovation in Europe should read the Manifesto. Action-orientated measures were discussed as to how we can drive real innovation to the market when 57% do not use internet in the EU…we do see a wide difference from member states in terms of technology adoption and that most certainly does have an impact on the employability of our next generation and is a regional economic and social imperative for all.

The Innovation Summit brought the following calls to action to the forefront of my mind:

  • We must place a greater emphasis on public/private endeavours to bring science and technology to life in schools. Exposure to real-life innovations and inspirational role-models are crucial if we want to see a turning point in education

  • Enhanced political attention should be demonstrated to create an effective framework for sustained action and investment to stimulate more and diverse science and technology career pathways in Europe.

  • Digital skills will be the differentiating factor for how Europe transforms itself, indeed, professional training programmes across all sectors must adapt at a faster rate to keep knowledge for innovation alive in Europe.

Looking ahead, we as industry must work together with government and academia to equip a new generation of science and technology leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to pursue important discoveries, to harness the magic of software to improve lives, and to catalyse economic growth.

For an insight into the wider conference visit ‘Tackling the grand challenges-Policy meets Practice’. 

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