The US and EU face many similar challenges in the digital age which affect both the business sector and society as a whole. We perceive this moment as a chance to shift the focus of the transatlantic relationship toward more 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 a 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 Government.
1. 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. The difficult adaptation of disrupting platforms like Uber and Airbnb in Germany prove the point and should inform future decisions. 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 offer 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 and innovations can bring much needed economic stimulus.
This program is by no means compulsory, but rather is a voluntary step to bring multiple stakeholder groups together. Governments, academic institutions, and communities alike would benefit from the unique opportunity to share lessons through public-private partnership, and test runs will create best practices and regulations based in concrete evidence. When complete, successful projects will create a path to responsibly expanding innovations regionally and nationally while retaining trust. Ultimately, the cities to choose to participate 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.
2. 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 as 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 widely implementing 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.
3. Smart diplomacy: Reinvesting in science to build integrated relationships
Current instability in institutions on each side of the Atlantic put many programs at financial risk, especially scientific initiatives. 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. Despite cold relations 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 occurred above the political fray. Scientific diplomacy has long been a cornerstone of foreign policy. We propose a model of transatlantic subnational 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 to create the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), there exist many avenues for transatlantic actors to cooperate on many initiatives, and a modernized sister cities program can serve as the bridge to promote scientific cooperation. Transatlantic actors face many common challenges, from climate change and sustainable development to public health and alternative energy. For example, cities such as Freiburg and San Francisco could partner to test new green technology initiatives like passive housing or solar roofing.
We also recommend expanding cooperation to students and practitioners in various fields in the mold of CERN vis-a-vis transatlantic blue-collar workers exchange and student research and internship programs. Such initiatives would help to broaden the spectrum of demographic groups 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.
Jill Beytin is originally from San Francisco and studies Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany.
Jason Cowles is a current M.A. candidate in International Relations at Freie Universität Berlin and is committed to revitalizing public diplomacy in the 21st century.
Nina Maturu is a business strategist, who holds an MBA and Master in Public Policy from the University of Michigan.
Julia Schuetze is a Euromaster Transatlantic Track student and a working student at Wikimedia Deutschland e.V.
Eric Swenson is the Director of External Relations for MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois.
Inga Trauthig is working as a political consultant in Berlin after earning her Mlitt in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Caucasus Security Studies from the University of St. Andrews.