Dear Vice Minister Arnis Daugulis, dear Ericsson Vice-President Ms Sara Mazur, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you today. I speak frequently at events, rarely however at events with such a clear innovator focus as here, at Net Futures 2015.

Importantly, today's and tomorrow's debates will be about the factors and the pre-requisites for the development of innovation in Europe, aiming to help the emergence of new business models, to the benefit of a broad set of stakeholders, from the telecom, the industrial and the service sectors, including SMEs, but ultimately benefiting all of us - European citizens.

Innovation sits at the cross-section between research on one side and market opportunities on the other. I am here today because you are among the ICT innovation leaders who start from the treasures of European research and use them to create a product, a service, start a new business or grow an existing one.

Europe's diversity comes in handy here; the rich economic basis, the educational environment, the research facilities, all contribute to a fertile field for innovation across the board.

This environment has helped Europe to move and remain at the forefront in many sectors. It is a leader in network technologies. It is very strong on high performance computing. European industry also has a strong position in embedded digital systems for example, with 30% world market share. Europe has world-class expertise in building complex systems such as cars, trains and planes, highly complex machinery, sophisticated software. The list is indeed long.

But so are the challenges when it comes to the new digital era we have entered.

We see new actors that did not exist a few years ago and are now world leaders in their sector, and that are getting a grip on an ever wider section of economic activity. Indeed, there is no single product or service or market that will not be affected by the digital revolution. Digital technologies make products smarter, drastically improve manufacturing processes, transform business models, create markets and are essential in addressing societal challenges. But if we are not proactive enough, we may see that although many of the ideas to address these societal challenges will be stemming from Europe, the related products and services will come from other parts of the world.

Hence we need a strong digital sector AND we must facilitate the adoption of digital technologies in all sectors in Europe. ICT needs to make a significant contribution to Europe's industrial renaissance and it needs to help the emergence of a new economy. We need both an industrial renaissance and a further broadening of our economic base to new products and services specific to the digital age.

However, in order to reap the full benefits from ICT for our citizens and businesses, we need to act faster – get research into products and services and capture markets – we need scale and critical mass which can only be obtained through innovation and cooperation - cooperation between research, industry, the Member States, all of us...

To create these new ecosystems cutting across single industry silos, pushing through a true digital economy, I therefore see two vectors for ICT innovation:

First, ICT as an enabler to change existing business models. No business sector can remain untouched today by innovative ICT.

Second, ICT innovation must go deep. Deep into every business and business process as it enables new business models and new products we haven't seen coming years ago. Here are some key concepts that are at the front of our minds:

  • Cloud computing is a good example of a new development that can bring substantial opportunities for the EU economy. In fact, it's probably more of a "must" than an "opportunity" if we want European businesses to remain competitive. We have defined a strategy at European level. But the challenge is to ensure widespread cloud adoption in Europe through adequate investments and through the provision of secure and trusted cloud services. There is a lot to be done, and I hope that this conference will help us move forward on these issues.
  • Another trend I see is that of software defining everything: Whereas in the past functionality used to reside in hardware, today it is all software defined. A car engine's horsepower does not lie in the engine, but in the software running the engine.

It is important to recognise the implications of such radical change: Europe’s industrial competitiveness will in the future depend to a large extent on the capacity to develop high quality software and using the most modern computing technologies. This will contribute to reshaping entire business sectors such as automotive or network equipment manufacturers, where increasingly the value will be in software. Think of cars' performances being upgraded by downloading a piece of software directly into the on-board computer, as is already the case. Think of network equipment that has new software installed remotely to add new functionalities instead of climbing up a base station to add a new piece of equipment. Let's be very clear on the conclusion of this: software is not just the concern of the software industry. It is a cross-sectorial, a cross-industry priority.

In this respect, a good example of cross-industry thinking is FIWARE.

FIWARE is a European innovation, an open, multi-vendor alternative to existing proprietary Internet platforms. It is an innovative technology, with a broad library of generic components allowing easy connections to the Internet of Things, performing Big Data analysis, hosting services in the Cloud and some dozens of components more.

FIWARE results from the Future Internet Public Private Partnership, which was launched in 2011 as a 5-year, 400 Million Euro initiative.

It responds to customer demand for open platforms, which connect seamlessly and flexibly into existing environments and most importantly allow service and application innovation on top of them. FIWARE pervades many industry sectors ranging from agro-food to creative industry, but the sector benefiting most seems to be smart cities.

Open platforms enable open innovation: The FIWARE Accelerator has already some 400 start-ups or SMEs under its wings and by the summer this will grow to more than 1,000.

What is notable with FIWARE is the traction it has with industry, SMEs and developers and also among Member States as FIWARE has been picked up in strategies in Germany, Spain, Finland, Austria and Poland.

The FIWARE Accelerator is also a good example of our work on StartupEurope, the Commission initiative to grow Internet entrepreneurship in Europe. The Internet is a fantastic place to start off a business, but help and support so far was rather traditional, small-scale and fragmented.

It is time to change this and start networking all major European actors supporting Internet entrepreneurship, such as business leaders, accelerators and financial organisations to create a fertile European base for Internet business to strive and grow fast. Today and tomorrow's Net Futures event is a case in point.

Let me now come to another sector on a steep and promising growth path: the Internet of Things. I am sure that most of us here have a smart phone in our pocket. Very soon, we will have many more connected devices. A smart watch, a connected car, a smart home. Our cities will be connected, our farms too. This is what the Internet of Things is all about. A powerful source of transformation that can have a disruptive yet positive impact on our economies and societies.

Europe has today a unique opportunity to use the Internet of Things to rejuvenate its industry, deal with its ageing population and transform its cities into bustling innovation hubs. Europe can become a leader in this field, and European players can emerge as winners in the Internet of Things industrial revolution. I am committed to support this process and tackle remaining obstacles in the Digital Single Market.

The Internet of Things must be a key element of the Digital Single Market (DSM). To support the creation of a European IoT ecosystem, the Commission has proposed to interested stakeholders to create the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation. This initiative will help build synergies between the actors in the European IoT ecosystem, be they public or private. It will support convergence around common platforms and common standards. And it will provide us with advice to improve our regulations and our policies.

In a few moments, it will be my pleasure to host the official launch ceremony of the Alliance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, we have instruments in the EU to support innovations and prepare European industry to be at the forefront. I believe I do not need to explain to you our key programme Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020. This programme will see about 12 billion euros invested by the Union between 2014 and 2020 in ICT research and innovation. It is breaking new ground for delivering innovation and will mean that good ideas make the jump from the lab the market place. I would just like to highlight that considerable funding is foreseen for an open and administratively light scheme that supports SMEs in developing disruptive innovations. We are launching inducement prize challenges – and the programme is delivering support to public procurers so as to stimulate procurement of innovations – something that can help open up new market opportunities for innovators pushing the envelope.

All of these initiatives are based on one key belief: Europe needs to reach critical mass in investing in Future Internet solutions. Only by being ahead of the game as we successfully did in aerospace and automotive technologies, we can be sure that the EU will be a digital world player also the day after tomorrow.

For these digital technologies that know no borders we need a fully functional Digital Single Market that provides sufficient scale and allows all Europeans to benefit quickly from the latest innovations. The Commission is working hard on this, and held an important orientation debate on this this morning. We will present our strategy early May.

As part of this upcoming Digital Single Market strategy, we will need to address existing barriers to facilitate, amongst others, effective text and data mining for public research.

We will need to ensure free movement of data within the European Union, without which many new services, say in e-Health or in connected mobility, will not be possible.

We even need to ensure they can operate across Europe from a single location, without having to register 28 times and making sure e-commerce rules are fit for purpose. We will need to ensure cyber-security and answer tricky questions on data protection, to raise user confidence and ensure these new innovative services find their customers on a massive scale.

We will finally need find better ways of ensuring European start-ups have access to capital and finance to help them grow without being obliged to move out of Europe.

It is hard to square those circles, but we have to move on with this debate rapidly if we want to enjoy the benefits ICT can bring to our society and economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Net Futures Event is a perfect chance for all of you to reflect on these challenges and turn them into opportunities. I wish you a very successful conference.

Thank you!