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Trade and technology

Wind and wires: Can Europe stay ahead in green and 5G technologies?

Published 26 April 2022

In the global race to lead in critical technologies, Europe is playing catch-up in some areas while maintaining leadership in select sectors. To benefit fully from its existing competencies, the EU must maintain a technological cutting-edge, strengthen and expand industrial capacities, and diversify its international partners.

Europe's tech capabilities and global competitiveness are often overlooked in policy debates on the global tech race. The European Union (EU) is commonly portrayed by international media as lagging behind the United States and China. In some technologies, this depiction of competitive weaknesses is warranted: the bloc does not boast household-name digital champions such as Google or Alibaba, nor a standout global leader in consumer electronics and software comparable to Microsoft or Huawei.

Yet in other fields, such as renewable energy and fifth-generation mobile networks, the EU is in the race – and leading it. By unpacking European tech capabilities and industry competitiveness in wind and telecom technologies, this paper by Luke Patey, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, examines the market positioning of these firms to highlight European leadership in critical and emerging technologies. While the paper also points out the challenges Europe faces from rising competition – China in particular – it diverges from analysis focusing on the bloc's tech deficiencies, such as in AI and semiconductor manufacturing. Instead, Patey places a spotlight on what the EU can do to make up lost ground in different areas and maintain the global leadership it has already achieved.

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Luke Patey

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