The US and EU face many similar challenges in the digital age which affect both the business sector and society as a whole. We see this moment as a chance to shift the focus of the transatlantic relationship toward greater collaboration and proactive problem-solving, which will also help to address domestic issues on each side of the Atlantic. Both parties can benefit if their cooperation embraces learning-based collaboration and the realization that their goals, values, and societies are more intertwined than ever. We are promoting a transatlantic technology infrastructure that will enable industries to innovate and grow internationally in lock-step with both users and governments.
Smart Sister Cities: A Classic Partnership in a New Era
While the US and EU have many values in common, there are significant cultural differences with respect to the adoption of technologies. The US embraces new technologies with excitement, while Europe prioritizes caution and careful testing. Therefore, we recommend an update to the very successful “Sister Cities” program, growing them into “smart” trial tech cities and retaining their mission of cultural exchange while testing new innovations in a controlled and intentional environment.
While the recent experiences of tech start-ups provide a motivation for changing policies, the opportunity to test new technologies will benefit numerous industries. Innovations in green technology, energy, transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture could all be jointly tested on both sides of the Atlantic without regulatory obstruction while building relationships and confidence in those markets. For example, new drones and adaptations of the technology could be tested in rural areas, where safety risks are lower, permits and exceptions are easier to obtain, and innovations can bring much needed economic stimulus. Subsequent regulation can then be based on real events and experiences, which should appeal to governments and companies alike.
The program is by no means compulsory; instead we envision a voluntary step which brings multiple stakeholder groups together. Governments, academic institutions, and communities would all benefit from the unique opportunity to share lessons through public-private partnership, and test runs will create best practices and regulations based in concrete empirical evidence. When complete, successful projects will create a path to responsibly expanding innovations regionally and nationally while retaining trust. Ultimately, the cities selected for participation will become national leaders – connecting their citizens to the world and providing them with unique access to new technologies, improvements to infrastructure, business growth, and tourism opportunities. In summary, business, society, and politics will continuously work together and influence each other in this partnership.
Smart Regions: Implementing New Technologies to Foster Growth and Discovery
The growing technology industry, anchored by universities providing intellectual capital as well as research and development expertise, contributes over 7% of US GDP as well a combined 8% of GDP in major G-20 countries. Growth prospects in the technology economy are promising for job creation, as new business services facilitate the entry of small and medium sized businesses, which create the majority of new jobs. However, remaining competitive in the tech arena presents a significant challenge, as other governments are investing heavily in innovation.
Forward thinking cities, such as Amsterdam and Kansas City, Missouri, have taken critical first steps to implement innovations and foster growth, uniting infrastructure with information technologies to increase efficiency. US and EU governments can collaboratively advance these concepts by establishing “smart states” and regions around them. By supporting public-private partnerships through critical investments in infrastructure and by building on the successes of smart cities, newly proven technologies, such as drones and smart grids, can be broadly implemented. This will bring innovation into rural and rust-belt areas and position smart cities as the capitals of growing economic hubs. This connectivity will broadly benefit US and EU corporations, rural communities, and consumers, while improving transatlantic relations through mutual investment and a more educated and skilled workforce. Although investments in infrastructure are expensive, costs will be offset by increased efficiency, economic growth, and effective public-private partnerships.
Smart Diplomacy: Reinvesting in Science to Build Integrated Relationships
The current instability in institutions on each side of the Atlantic has put many programs, specifically scientific initiatives, at financial risk. Now more than ever, cooperation in scientific research is vital to the transatlantic relationship, with academic institutions and individual researchers providing stable, thoughtful international leadership. For example, despite tensions between the US and Russia, cooperation on the International Space Station continues. Long before the resumption of US – Cuba relations, scientific exchanges on public health and vaccinations took place above the political fray. Scientific diplomacy has long been a cornerstone of foreign policy. We propose a model of transatlantic sub-national engagement between users, local governments, scientists/researchers, and companies to revitalize scientific diplomacy in the 21st century.
Just as many EU and non-EU member states came together in 1954 to create the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), modern opportunities exist for transatlantic actors to cooperate on scientific initiatives. Horizon 2020 provides a framework for research exchange and nourishes innovation through direct funding – offering a best practice example which can be replicated or expanded to a transatlantic scale. Transatlantic actors face many common challenges, from climate change to cybersecurity, and jointly exploring new technologies in these areas can form a core of cooperation to 2030 and beyond. A modernized “Sister Cities” program can serve as the bridge within this framework to promote scientific cooperation and social exchange.
We also recommend expanding cooperation to students and practitioners in various fields in the mold of CERN and through transatlantic exchanges as described in Section 3 Bridging the Atlantic: Towards a New Education Agenda of this memo. Such initiatives would help to broaden and diversity the actors that actively participate in the transatlantic partnership, and should aim at promoting professional skills, scientific exchange, and language proficiency, which is lacking in the current EU apprenticeship exchange program. These new partnerships will generate tremendous value through developing talent. Participants in corporate-sponsored programs gain access to real-world learning and a fast-track to professional careers, corporate sponsors gain an avenue to engage talent and develop transatlantic workforces through a rich exchange and transatlantic partnership. Ultimately, these initiatives will raise the profile of science diplomacy, creating a forum for thought and analysis and initiating bilateral projects.