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Innovation in Europe and Central Asia: From Horse Carts to Driverless Cars

MD Staff

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Adapting to advanced technologies is key to accruing the high returns that innovation can bring: GA Drilling. Photo: World Bank

When talking about innovation, countries in the Europe and Central Asia Region face challenges that lie somewhere between a horse cart and an autonomous car. In some parts of the region, people still use horse carts to move around while in other parts – sometimes even within the same country – people contemplate how to locally produce autonomous vehicles.

With this reality as a backdrop, the question arises: what can countries in the region do to use innovation and disruptive technologies to accelerate economic growth?

“Today we don’t need linear but exponential thinking to create a world of abundance” says Nicholas Haan, Vice President of Impact and Faculty Chair of Global Grand Challenges, Singularity University.

To hammer home this concept, he gives an example: if you take 30 one-meter steps in linear terms, they will take you 30 meters; if the same number of steps are taken exponentially, however, they will take you around the globe 2.8 times!

“Innovation is happening whether we like it or not. Today’s leaders must be innovators,” says Haan.

Like the rest of the world, countries in the Europe and Central Asia are at a crossroads between linear thinking and exponential technological change.

Reflecting on this, Vazil Hudak, Vice President of the European Bank Investment Bank (EIB) from Slovakia, concludes: “we need innovation to survive. Innovation must shape the future of Slovakia,” he says.

To address these challenges, government officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, and representatives from different International Financial Institutions (IFIs) gathered at the Regional Innovation Forum in Bratislava from March 22-24 to identify innovation and technology challenges facing the region, translate uncertainty into opportunity, and learn from regional and global experiences.

There is ample evidence that innovation and the adoption of existing technologies can accelerate economic growth. It has been shown that innovative firms grow faster – 15% faster in sales and 8% faster in labor productivity.

Yet, it is not easy to embrace change.

“Innovation and disruptive technology are extraordinary opportunities for accelerating economic growth, but they are also a source of anxiety for governments, firms, and people,” says Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia Region.

The recent World Bank report “The Innovation Paradox” highlights two failures that undermine the impact of innovation and technology adoption.

First, most firms in developing countries are slow to identify and adapt to more advanced technologies -thus fail to accrue the high returns that technology upgrades and innovation can bring. Second, governments find it challenging to develop innovation policies that can effectively facilitate a process of ‘technological catch-up.’

So, what needs to be done?

The first task for policy makers is to create an eco-system which will unleash innovation potential.

“Innovators don’t want zero regulation, they want the right regulation,” says Muller.

Policy makers have an array of instruments at their disposal – among them innovation grants, matching grants, venture capital, equity funds, loan guarantee schemes. In selecting the best mix, the key is finding evidence of what works and what doesn’t.

Igor Kočiš, an innovator and founder of GA Drilling, says a lot of innovators are leaving Slovakia because of the lack of funding for developing their ideas. His advice to policy makers focuses on funding.

“I think the best solution is to combine private money with public money,” says Kočiš. “Initial experiments should start with private money. It is faster to do this with your own money. Once you develop a prototype, public money should come in. After this stage you then go back to the private money for investment.”

The World Bank Group, in coordination with many clients in the region, has already recognized the importance of innovation for development and has worked over the last two decades to make innovation systems more robust. Over fifty projects have been financed by the World Bank that touch upon innovation in the region.

These initiatives cover a wide range of issues, from increasing innovative activities of firms and individuals in Georgia, to promoting high-quality, nationally relevant research and commercialization of technologies in Kazakhstan and in Serbia, to helping countries in the Western Balkans build a better eco system for innovation.

“The World Bank has accumulated global knowledge and expertise,” says Bagrat Yengibaryan, Director of the Enterprise Incubator Foundation in Armenia.” No government is willing to share failure, but the World Bank is. Thus, we can learn what works and what doesn’t. We don’t have to invent the bicycle all over again.”

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Deloitte Unveils 2018 North America Technology Fast 500™ Rankings

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Deloitte today released the “2018 North America Technology Fast 500,” an annual ranking of the fastest-growing North American companies in technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech sectors. SwanLeap claimed the top spot with a growth rate of 77,260 percent from 2014 to 2017.

SwanLeap, is a leading end-to-end transportation technology provider for logistics managers and supply chain decision-makers. Founded in 2013, SwanLeap uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce costs for corporate shippers and improve their supply chain performance. Its new technology is helping clients secure an annual average transportation savings of 27 percent. SwanLeap is one of the two Madison, Wisconsin-based companies in the top 10 this year.

Awardees are selected for this honor based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2014 to 2017. Overall, the 2018 Technology Fast 500 companies achieved revenue growth ranging from 143 percent to 77,260 percent over the three-year time frame, with a median growth rate of 412 percent.

“Congratulations to the Deloitte 2018 Technology Fast 500 winners on this impressive achievement,” said Sandra Shirai, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. technology, media and telecommunications leader. “These companies are innovators who have converted their disruptive ideas into useful products, services and experiences that can captivate new customers and drive remarkable growth.”

“It is both humbling and validating for SwanLeap to be listed as the No. 1 fastest-growing company on the Deloitte Fast 500,” said Brad Hollister, CEO and co-founder of SwanLeap. “Our team has worked relentlessly to deliver unprecedented clarity and control to a fragmented shipping market through technology powered by artificial intelligence, curating cost-effective and personalized supply chain recommendations in real time. We are grateful to our employees and customers for making this achievement possible.”

The Technology Fast 500’s top 10 include:

2018 Rank Company Sector Revenue Growth (2014 to 2017) City, State
1 SwanLeap Software 77,260 percent Madison, Wisconsin
2 Justworks Software 27,150 percent New York, New York
3 Shape Security Software 23,576 percent Mountain View, California
4 Periscope Data Software 23,227 percent San Francisco, California
5 Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. Biotechnology/
pharmaceutical
17,847 percent Pasadena, California
6 Viveve Medical Inc. Medical devices 16,887 percent Englewood, Colorado
7 iLearningEngines Software 14,848 percent Bethesda, Maryland
8 Exact Sciences Corp. Biotechnology/pharmaceutical 14,694 percent Madison, Wisconsin
9 Podium Software 13,381 percent Lehi, Utah
10 Markforged Electronic devices/hardware 12,687 percent Watertown, Massachusetts


Silicon Valley has largest share of winners

Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 winners represent more than 38 states and provinces across North America.

California’s Silicon Valley continues to produce fast-growing companies, leading regional representation with 18 percent of this year’s Fast 500. The New York metro area also fared well with 14 percent of the companies; New England and Greater Washington, D.C., areas followed with 7 percent each, and Greater Los Angeles accounted for 6 percent. Following is a summary of the 2018 ranking by regions with a significant concentration of winners:

Location Percentage of List Fastest-Growing Company in the Region Overall Company Ranking Dominant Sectors in Location
Silicon Valley 18 percent Shape Security 3 Software 77 percent
New York Metro Area 14 percent Justworks 2 Software 56 percent; Digital content/media/entertainment 23 percent
New England 7 percent Markforged 10 Software 40 percent; Biotechnology/pharmaceuticals 29 percent; Medical devices 20 percent
Washington, DC iLearningEngines 7 Software 75 percent
Greater Los Angeles Area 6 percent Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. 5 Software 65 percent

Software continues to dominate the list for the 23rd straight year
Software companies continue to deliver the highest growth rates for the 23rd straight year, representing 64 percent of the entire list and six of the top 10 winners overall. Of the private companies on the list, 34 percent identify themselves as part of the software as a service (SaaS) subsector, 17 percent in the enterprise software subsector, and 9 percent in fintech. Since the creation of the ranking, software companies have consistently made up the majority of winners, with a median growth rate of 412 percent in 2018.

Digital content, media and entertainment companies make up the second most prevalent sector in this year’s rankings, accounting for 12 percent of the Fast 500 companies and achieving a median growth rate of 385 percent in 2018. Biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies rank third at 11 percent of the list with a median growth rate of 411 percent.

The Technology Fast 500 by industry sector:

Sector Percentage Sector Leader Median Revenue Growth (2014 to 2017)
Software 64 percent SwanLeap 412 percent
Digital content/media/entertainment 12 percent Remark Holdings Inc. 385 percent
Biotechnology/pharmaceutical 11 percent Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. 411 percent
Medical devices 5 percent Viveve Medical Inc. 396 percent
Communications/networking 3 percent xG Technology Inc. 394 percent
Electronic devices/hardware 3 percent Markforged 410 percent
Semiconductor 1 percent Aquantia Corp. 206 percent
Energy tech 1 percent Momentum Solar 693 percent

Four out of five companies received venture backing
In the 2018 Fast 500 rankings, 80 percent of the companies were backed by venture capital at some point in their company history. Notably, 25 of the top 30 companies on the Technology Fast 500 in 2018 received venture funding.

“Software, which accounts for nearly two of every three companies on the list, continues to produce the most exciting technologies of the 21st century, including innovations in artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and robotics,” said Mohana Dissanayake, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP and industry leader for the technology, media and telecommunications industry, within Deloitte’s audit and assurance practice. “This year’s ranking demonstrates what is likely a national phenomenon, where many companies from all parts of America are transforming the way we do business by combining breakthrough research and development, entrepreneurship and rapid growth.”

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Quantum Technologies Flagship kicks off with first 20 projects

MD Staff

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The Quantum Technologies Flagship, a €1 billion initiative, was launched today at a high-level event in Vienna hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Flagship will fund over 5,000 of Europe’s leading quantum technologies researchers over the next ten years and aims to place Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution. Its long term vision is to develop in Europe a so-called quantum web, where quantum computers, simulators and sensors are interconnected via quantum communication networks. This will help kick-starting a competitive European quantum industry making research results available as commercial applications and disruptive technologies. The Flagship will initially fund 20 projects with a total of €132 million via the Horizon 2020 programme, and from 2021 onwards it is expected to fund a further 130 projects. Its total budget is expected to reach €1 billion, providing funding for the entire quantum value chain in Europe, from basic research to industrialisation, and bringing together researchers and the quantum technologies industry.

Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Europe is determined to lead the development of quantum technologies worldwide. The Quantum Technologies Flagship project is part of our ambition to consolidate and expand Europe’s scientificexcellence. If we want to unlock the full potential of quantum technologies, we need to develop a solid industrial base making full use of our research.”

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, added: “The Quantum Technologies Flagship will form a cornerstone of Europe’s strategy to lead in the development of quantum technologies in the future.  Quantum computing holds the promise of increasing computing speeds by orders of magnitude and Europe needs to pool its efforts in the ongoing race towards the first functional quantum computers.”

In the early 20th century, the first quantum revolution allowed scientists to understand and use basic quantum effects in devices, such as transistors and microprocessors, by manipulating and sensing individual particles.

The second quantum revolution will make it possible to use quantum effects to make major technological advances in many areas including computing, sensing and metrology, simulations, cryptography, and telecommunications. Benefits for citizens will ultimately include ultra-precise sensors for use in medicine, quantum-based communications, and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to improve the security of digital data. In the long term, quantum computing has the potential to solve computational problems that would take current supercomputers longer than the age of the universe. They will also be able to recognise patterns and train artificial intelligence systems.

Next steps

From October 2018 until September 2021, 20 projects will be funded by the Flagship under the coordination of the Commission. They will focus on four application areas – quantum communication, quantum computing, quantum simulation, quantum metrology and sensing – as well as the basic science behind quantum technologies. More than one third of participants are industrial companies from a wide range of sectors, with a large share of SMEs.

Negotiations are ongoing between the European Parliament, Council and Commission to ensure that quantum research and development will be funded in the EU’s multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2028. Quantum technologies will be supported by the proposed Horizon Europe programme for research and space applications, as well as the proposed Digital Europe programme, which will develop and reinforce Europe’s strategic digital capacities, supporting the development of Europe’s first quantum computers and their integration with classical supercomputers, and of a pan-European quantum communication infrastructure.

Background

Since 1998, the Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme has provided around €550 million of funding for quantum research in Europe. The EU has also funded research on quantum technologies through the European Research Council (ERC). Only since 2007, the ERC has funded more than 250 research projects related to quantum technologies, worth some 450 million euro.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship is currently supported by Horizon 2020 as part of the FET programme, which currently runs two other Flagships (The Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project Flagship). The FET programme promotes large-scale research initiatives to drive major scientific advances and turn them into tangible innovations creating benefits for the economy and society across Europe. Funding for the Flagship project comes from Horizon 2020, its successor programme Horizon Europe and national funding.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship is also a component of the Commission’s European Cloud Initiative launched in April 2016, as part of a series of measures to support and link national initiatives for the digitisation of Europe’s industry.

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Russiagate and the current challenges of cyberspace: Interview with Elena Chernenko

MD Staff

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PICREADI presents an interview with a prominent Russian expert in journalism and cybersecurity Elena Chernenko, Deputy head of Foreign Desk at the Kommersant daily newspaper in Moscow. The talk is about hackers, Russiagate and current challenges of the cyberspace.

 

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