Today in Europe we are living in an exciting time, with incredible potential to affect positive change for our future. Technology is the fuel of the future, and as a member of the European Internet Forum (EIF) steering committee, I have the privilege of experiencing first-hand how technological developments, from advancing AI to the internet of things, are already making the world a better and more connected place. The EIF’s mission is to help ensure that Europe remains at the forefront of this global tech transformation and benefits fully from it through enhanced global competitiveness and social progress.

Europe has a fantastic history of embracing technology, after all, in 1899 it was the Italian Guglielmo Marconi who sent the first international radio signal between England and France. In recent history, the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was designed by another Italian, Federico Faggin, while the German Karlheinz Brandenburg invented the MP3 audio file format. Without these innovations, the world would be a very different place.

To follow in these footsteps we must plan now for future developments, ensuring we invest in a proper regulatory framework to support technology and its continued growth, and pay heed to the importance of cybersecurity and data protection.

In a world with an ageing labour force and increased competition for limited natural resources, technology can bring us the productivity gains needed to achieve long-term, sustainable growth. Indeed, the European Commission estimates that our digital economy is set to grow €415 billion per year, if we can successfully support digital businesses. Now is the time to collaborate and work seamlessly with tech leaders so we can continue to propel Europe forwards.

This is particularly true for AI and cognitive technologies, which European business leaders are already embracing and actively using. According to TCS’ AI and Robotics: The Global Trend Study, 91% of European respondents already use AI and almost 60% said they view AI as important to remaining competitive by 2020.

We must plan now for future developments, ensuring we invest in a proper regulatory framework to support technology and its continued growth.

Most importantly, European businesses are setting themselves up for the future – in 2016 European businesses invested $80 million on average in AI and robotics, more than any other region globally.

The European Parliament is dedicated to championing and supporting technology innovators and leaders who are transforming our world for the better. One of our biggest hurdles now is ensuring that we upskill and train our citizens for the digital future, creating the conditions for future jobs and growth. One way we are already doing this is through the New Skills Agenda, which aims to improve the quality and relevance of skills formation, make skills more visible and improve intelligence and information for better career choices.

Cognitive technologies have massive potential to improve the lives of all European citizens and it’s the responsibility of the policy community to work together with business leaders to realise the opportunities ahead in a strategic 6 and responsible way. The countries who lead in this transformation will benefit most from it. As this report shows, Europe has a head start – but in a competitive global economy this advantage may not last for long. Let’s seize the moment now.

This is a foreword from the TCS report “Leading the way with artificial intelligence: The next big opportunity for Europe”. Read the report here.