Last February, European Commission has published a new paper, the Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU (SRIP) Report that follows up how Europe could harness dynamic innovation to ensure more robust economies and inclusive, sustainable societies.
Based on indicator-based macroeconomic analysis and deep analytical research on important policy topics, the Report analyses Europe’s performance in science, research and innovation and the driving factors behind that performance. The main outcome of the report is to show that Europe can lead the next wave of breakthrough innovation in fields where digital technology meets the physical world, such as digital manufacturing, genomics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IoT).
Previous edition of the Report, published in 2016, has provided several findings: first, the need to strongly improve the track record in getting research results to market and technologies developed in Europe; second, although Europe generates more scientific output than any other region in the world, Member States fall behind on the very best science. Third, Europe punches below its weight in international science cooperation and science diplomacy.
The 2018 Report actually presents different findings. First of all, although Europe is the leading economy in terms of public investment in R&D and the number of researchers (Europe has 7% of the world population, 20% of global R&D and 1/3 of all high-quality scientific publications), it lags behind the United States, Japan South Korea and even China in private and overall R&D investment levels. This gap has been increased in recent years and, as a partial consequence, there were a lower level of investments among European stakeholders compared to the United States.
Another point is Europe’s limited ability to convert its strong scientific base into technological development. For example, even in most performing European areas, there are a lack of patents in big data or IoT compared to other economies. On top of all that, there is a structural problem in labor and goods market: more stringent conditions for enterprises than in the other advanced economies and the lack of competition limits reach innovation-led entrepreneurship. In this regard, the OECD estimates that around 16% to 19% of all available capital is sunk into unproductive companies in Italy and Spain.
These aspects affect also the ability to foster transformational entrepreneurship from small-sized companies to global giants: in 2017, there were zero number of EU companies in the global top-15 companies by market capitalization. Therefore, despite a good result in more traditional entrepreneurship indicators Europe suffers a gap in the number and relative importance of rapid high-growth companies. This, in turn, influences European capacity to invest in intangible assets.
Moreover, although important national differences persists among Member States, nowadays they are more nuanced, notably in terms of investment levels: for example, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic have significantly increased their R&D investment intensity over the past decade. On the other hand, countries like Romania, Portugal and Spain have exhibited disappointing R&D investment-intensity records.
Finally, it is important not to omit the persistency of national gap also in terms of scientific and technological outputs (countries like the United Kingdom the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium are leaders in this area) that reflects the lower efficiency of the national R&I systems in the laggard countries in transforming R&D investment into scientific and technological output. In fact, top-30 leading regions invest 4,2% in R&D and account 36% of total R&D investment.
With this scenario in mind, the Report suggests a set of policy to promote innovation in Europe: boosting investments in intangible assets and rethinking public support for R&I and ensuring innovation-friendly regulation are central in this project. Therefore, it is important to complete the internal market to promote the development of born-in-Europe “unicorns”, to boost the access to risk capital with the creation of a pan-European Venture Capital and to develop tools to relocate resources from unproductive companies to innovative ones with the aim to open up European science and innovation to the world.
According to Don & Alex Tapscott, authors of the book “Blockchain Revolution, “Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Based on transparency of network, blockchain is incorruptible (a huge amount of computing power is needed to override the entire network), and it could solve the problem of trust.
In energy sector, blockchain technology shows a lot of promise. For example, it is possible that blockchain is used to execute energy supply transactions or to provide the basis for metering, billing and clearing processes. Other possible areas of application are in the documentation of ownership, the state of assets (asset management), guarantees of origin, emission allowances and renewable energy certificates.
Therefore, it is possible to use blockchain to map and keep track of how much clean energy is produced. It is important because, nowadays, clean electric energy is generated from the sun, wind, or other renewable sources, but it is indistinguishable from those generated by fossil fuels. According to Jesse Morris, an energy expert at the Rocky Mountain Institute, tradable green certificates don’t work. Data management based on blockchain could fix this by combining business with sustainability and participation. This kind of technologies seems promising in energy sector because of its peculiar design. Although this has been a matter of centralized power plants, there is a growing number of smaller distributed energy producers that generates networks of peers such as electricity producers (for example, rooftop solar panels and electric-vehicle batteries) and consumers, connected via the grid, that depend on shared sets of data.
According to this scenario, actual energy system is fundamentally based on a central provider that collects information on how much energy is produced by every renewable-power plant. In a second step, intermediaries brokers deal between buyers and sellers of these certificates and another player is responsible for monitoring the purchase. It is clear that the complexity of the system and the lack of transparency concern a lot of potential buyers or sellers.
For example, according to Jemma Green, cofounder and chair of Power Ledger, a startup developing a blockchain-based platform that allows producers to trade energy peer-to-peer with consumers, it generally takes 60 to 80 days for an electricity producer to be paid. This is an example of above-mentioned inefficiency that “rewards only who holds privileges”. With a blockchain-based system, producers can be paid immediately because players could simply trade energy with one another.
Blockchain technology has the potential to radically change energy as we know it, by starting with individual sectors first but ultimately transforming the entire energy market. For example, Power Ledger has demonstrated that it is possible turning an apartment building into a microgrid based on a shared system of solar panels and battery storage. LO3 Energy set up a neighborhood microgrid in Brooklyn. Grid operator TenneT TSO and German storage company Sonnen are working on a community-based model for solar power and battery storage.
However, as Jemma Green says, “blockchain technology adds a level of sophistication to the market by enabling those more granular transactions” and the traditional energy system has not yet implemented a method to deal with that. A likely solution is given by Energy Web Foundation, a global non-profit organization focused on accelerating blockchain technology across the energy sector. Energy Web Foundation will be a test bed for promising use cases: based on Ethereum, Energy Web Foundation will validate transactions will rely of 10 major energy companies that have signed on as affiliates (such as Shell, E.On, Eneco, Ptt, etc.). In the longer term, the aim is not only tracking renewable-energy certificates but also equipping homes and buildings with a software that automatically trades power to and from the grid based on real-time price signals.
Sono sempre più le esperienze di utilizzo della blockchain nel settore energetico. In questo campo, l’obiettivo non è solo arrivare a mappare i certificati energetici ma soprattutto ad equipaggiare ogni edificio con un software che, in modo automatico, vende e compra energia dalla rete in tempo reale in base ai segnali di prezzo.
By 2050, it’s likely that two-thirds of the world population will be living in urban areas, according to the World Urbanization Prospects. The 2014 Revision realized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. In accordance with the paper, all world regions are expected to urbanize further over the coming decades even if at different speeds. So, investing in developing urban areas that can create opportunities for people is becoming more and more important.
Another key study, realized by 2thinknow, a data innovation agency established in 2006 in Australia that analyzes innovative cities, have ranked the most high-tech cities in the world. Based on 162 standard City Indicators from the City Benchmarking Data, their analysts collect quantitative and qualitative data about cities.
The theory is based on the fact that innovation moves from an idea to implementation and, then, to communication. According to this, indicators are grouped into three areas:
- Cultural Assets (measurable sources of ideas, i.e. walking city, education level, sports stadium, youth activities);
- Human infrastructure (soft and hard infrastructure to implement innovation, for example policing, waste management, GDP per capita, political transparency, and so on);
- Networked Markets (basic conditions and connections for innovation such as Government IT policy, neighbors market size, smart device, foreign direct investment, …).
These three macro indicators produce a total score that allows to assess all cities into four award categories:
- Nexus Cities that indicate a critical connection for multiple economic and social innovation pre-conditions across multiple industry segments;
- Hub Cities shows dominance or influence on key economic and social innovation segments, based on current global trends;
- Node Cities are globally competitive cities with competitive performance across many innovation segments;
- Upstart Cities are not globally competitive but with broad improvement across multiple indicators can achieve next status.
Table 1 shows the most innovative cities in the world according to Innovation Cities Index 2016-2017 realized by 2thinknow:
||San Francisco – San Jose
In third place, we find Tokyo (score of 56). The capital of Japan reaches a peak in venture capital investments system. Undoubtedly, 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are an extraordinary engine of innovation in different sectors. For example, Tokyo is developing innovative ideas in the field of driverless taxi service, hydrogen cars, electronic passes, facial recognition technology, multi-language device, security systems and even artificial meteor shower.
New York ranks second (score of 59). Tech companies employ hundreds of thousands of people and LinkNYC, the network of free WiFi hubs that covers the entire city, has over 500 kiosks (named “Links”) in the city for public use. The aim is to cover all the boroughs with 7,500 Links because “Internet access is not a luxury,” de Blasio said. “It’s not something optional. It’s something everybody needs.”
At the top, there is London (score of 60): despite Brexit, the city has continued the race in developing a smarter and more innovative public transportation system. The massive renovation to London’s Underground known as Crossrail will reach completion in 2018 at a cost of $20 billion. In addition, London is a sort of global headquarter of startuppers and programmers from all over the world: according to 2thinknow, the city hosts the larger number of innovators that almost any other city in the world.
And Italy? In the Top 100, there are only Milan (29th) and Rome (51st) with a score of 49 and 46 points respectively. To enhance the quality of innovation in Italy, a more participated approach in designing commons as transportation, culture and urban renovation is needed.
Lo studio condotto da 2thinknow sulle città più innovative dal punto di vista tecnologico mostra ancora una volta quali siano i modelli vincenti da seguire in questo campo. Un monito, soprattutto per l’Italia, che piazza solo una città, Milano, nelle prime cinquanta posizioni.
In the last months, the theme of blockchain has raised in importance in the debate worldwide. Not only in terms of “Bitcoin Bubble” but also as the “next big unlock”.
Blockchain technology is a sort of backbone of a new type of internet. Don & Alex Tapscott, authors of the book “Blockchain Revolution” affirm: “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Based on transparency (data is embedded within the network, that is public by definition) and incorruptible (a huge amount of computing power is needed to override the entire network), blockchain could solve the problem of trust. According to Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of Ethereum, in the western countries, the majority of people trust public institutions, banks, organizations and corporations such as Facebook, Google and so on but in the rest of the world, there is a problem in this respect.
Initially, Bitcoin was the raison d’etre of the blockchain as it was originally conceived. By design, decentralization is a key aspect of this technology design, as well as the peer to peer relationship which is changing traditional transaction model, enabling the development of smart contracts (a digital protocol that automatically executes predefined processes of a transaction without requiring the involvement of a third party, as a bank). According to this, new bitcoins are provided by miners that compete to win bitcoins by solving computational puzzles in a decentralized way because the possibility to win bitcoins is a form of game theory to reward who decides to join the network. Therefore, Bitcoin is managed by its network, not by a central authority as in the case of traditional currency.
It is now recognized to be only the first of many potential applications of the technology.
Blockchain technology shows a lot of promise. Other than being used to execute energy supply transactions, it could also provide the basis for metering, billing and clearing processes. Other possible areas of application are in the documentation of ownership, the state of assets (asset management), guarantees of origin, emission allowances and renewable energy certificates. Blockchain technology has the potential to radically change energy as we know it, by starting with individual sectors first but ultimately transforming the entire energy market.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., taking advantage of small and secure transaction costs guaranteed by blockchain technology, companies are developing a way to use blockchain technology to enable solar panel owners to swap the output of their panels with their neighbors. That project brings together blockchain technology provided by Samsung for a microgrid developed by LO3, a start-up based in New York that develop microgrids using blockchain to enable local energy trading.
Despite skepticism about the viability of blockchain technology, it could be useful for company. A project to evaluate the use blockchain technology to help integrate renewables into the grid is developing in Germany: grid operator TenneT TSO and German storage company Sonnen are working to make it real.
Sonnen is working on a community-based model for solar power and battery storage. Using a blockchain solution designed and developed by IBM (built with Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation), and residential storage batteries from Sonnen, the TenneT project intends to ascertain the extent to which these technologies help reduce the need for emergency measures.
Philipp Schröder, Managing Director and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Sonnen said in a statement that “The future of power generation will be composed of millions of small, decentralized power sources, including both prosumers and consumers. The blockchain technology is what makes mass simultaneous exchange between all these parties possible in the first place, and is thus the missing link to a decentralized, completely CO2-free energy future.”
We are living in an age in which a growing number of people have understood the need for retreat from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy. The importance of renewable energy is increasing steadily, so wasting less wind and solar power because of inability to transport it, it is a crucial element in the process of better integrating decentralized renewable energies and ensuring energy supply.
 Nowadays, research estimates that there are more than 700 cryptocurrencies already available
 Another problem solved by blockchain technology concerns privacy thanks to public and private keys.
 TenneT is a European electricity transmission system operator (TSO) with its main activities in the Netherlands and Germany.
Oltre che per le transazioni finanziarie incentrate su Bitcoin, la blockchain sembra potersi applicare anche in altri ambiti come quello energetico. In questo campo, uno dei progetti più avanzati prevede l’integrazione dell’energia rinnovabile prodotta in modo decentrato all’interno della rete elettrica.
Nowadays, experts predict that a tipping point in robotic deployments is imminent all over the world. For decades, robotic automation has been developed in several industries, including the automotive and manufacturing sectors and now much of the developed world isn’t prepared for such a radical transition. From the first industrial revolution, to the 1500s, the worry and fear surrounding tech stealing our jobs have been, mostly, overstated.
In the next 20 to 30 years, every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation. It’s sure that automation will cost workers thousands maybe even millions of jobs. In addition, unfortunately, displaced workers aren’t always the ones who benefit from the new industries automation makes possible.
According to Dr Jing Bing Zhang, one of the world’s leading experts on the commercial applications of robotics technology, “automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people”.
Data is clear:
- according to a new report from consultancy firm PwC, automated bots could take nearly four in 10 (38%) jobs in the U.S., and take 30% of jobs in the Germany, 30% in United Kingdom , and 21% Japan.
- Then, in a recent report, the World Economic Forum predicted that robotic automation will result in the net loss of more than 5 million jobs across 15 developed nations by 2020, a conservative estimate.
- Anotherstudy, conducted by the International Labor Organization, affirms that as many as 137 million workers in Asia, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, approximately 56% of the total workforce of those countries are at risk of displacement by robots (in particular, workers in the garment manufacturing industry).
In this scenario, the jobs more likely to be taken over by robots include those in the transportation and storage (56%) sectors, as well as manufacturing (46%) and retail (44%). Against this background, history teaches us that the net result is generally positive.
In an interview for fortune.com, Douglas Peterson, General Manager of the Americans for Universal Robots confirms that robotic automation is already present in different sectors. For example, in machine tending sector, where robots replace workers loading and unloading plastic objection moulding machine all day long. Further, robotic automation is present in pick and place, packaging and in other simple operations such as placing a bead of glue around an object and driving screws down on in a light assembly type applications.
In Mr. Peterson’s view, next markets will be fast food industry, where robot could cut flip burgers, shoes industry (robots measure the shape of your foot and cut a sandal or custom flip-flop of your foot) and assisting surgery where robots can utilize their robotic arm to hold a camera and lighting around the surgical operation.
The rise of technology has made millions upon millions of jobs obsolete throughout history. Chainsaws, for example, have reduced the number of people necessary to harvest wood.
Automobile production robots have reduced the number of people necessary to make cars. And farming technology completely transformed the way labor was employed throughout the 20th century. Just as in the examples provided, technological automation of dangerous and repetitive tasks frees up labor resources to be used doing more productive and creative tasks. The causes of long-term chronic unemployment have nothing to do with technological automation.
So, it will be necessary thinking innovative ways to deploy the robot in the manufacturing environment in order that workers can think of other ways to improve the process around the machine. Awareness and training is key to exploding this market of collaborate robot (learning about robotics and machine tools is fundamental): reskilling is the key concept. It’s important to provide sustainable mobility and job rotation in order that workers can learn new skills and develop new competences in different fields.
The landscape of work is changing right in front of us: however, an important question isn’t whether robots will take our jobs, but what we will do when they do.
Lo sviluppo tecnologico, nella storia, ha portato spesso alla graduale trasformazione del modello produttivo tradizionale, e la diffusione dell’automazione non fa eccezione. Il passo necessario da compiere per evitare un passaggio traumatico risiede nell’istruire gli individui così da metterli nelle condizioni di fornire un lavoro a valore aggiunto maggiore.
 M.G.Losano, Il progetto di legge tedesca sull’auto a guida automatizzata, Diritto dell’informazione e dell’informatica 1/2017, p. 1.
 T. Dunlop, Why the Future is Workless, University of New South Wales Press (February 1, 2017).