This year Europe celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which helped to establish the European Economic Community. Reflecting on this diamond anniversary, and as the Strategic Partner to the European Business Summit, I’m inspired by the tremendous growth and prosperity of the European region, driven largely by a progressive and innovative business community.

Opportunity for Europe

With political uncertainty in Europe, combined with the almost unbelievable pace of digital advancement, there is no question that challenges lie ahead. Also, I see many exciting opportunities. Probably the single largest opportunity is the digital economy, which the European Commission estimates will grow by €415 billion per year, if we can successfully support digital businesses.

European businesses have long been digital leaders. The impact of AI & Robotics, particularly on skills and jobs, as well as ethical and liability issues, have been considered in Brussels for a number of years. Our most recent Global Trend Study on AI highlights just how much of a positive and innovative outlook European businesses have on the ways in which technology can enhance the quality of work and overall job satisfaction.

In a major endorsement of digital innovation, European businesses invested $80 million on average in AI & Robotics in 2016 – more than any other region globally. By comparison, North American firms, which are traditionally the biggest AI investors, spent $64 million. Asia-Pacific and Latin American companies spent $57 million and $56 million, respectively.

By 2020, European companies envision 51% of their AI spend will go towards improving existing business processes, 49% transforming them – heralding new ways of working and creating opportunities to pursue new ventures outside of the existing business model.

European businesses are uniquely poised to drive innovation and affect transformation. This is because these businesses largely trust advice from cognitive systems. European employees are receptive to the advantages of technology and have far fewer concerns than their counterparts in other regions, thereby helping to power new developments and ways of working.

Embracing AI

During the many years I’ve worked with European businesses, what has struck me most is how leaders genuinely embrace the ways in which AI can improve productivity and the quality of their work. For them, it’s not about cutting costs. It’s about introducing new tools that help businesses improve on quality and create new opportunities. It’s a new way of thinking and a new way of working. The rate of innovation is only going to keep getting faster. This is why it’s imperative that all leaders plan for an agile, digital future.

To prepare and upskill employees for the future, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is closely following the New Skills Agenda – the European Union and Member States’ agenda which looks into redefining skills and qualifications for a future world. We’ve already shared our Harvard Business Review report on “The Robotic Revolution” at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos and, along with our Strategic Partnership here at the European Business Summit, we’ll continue to engage with European policy makers in this area, to ensure digital skills and training keep up with digital innovation.

This is one of the most exciting times for leaders in Europe and around the world. Digital technologies and applications, forged by innovations, such as AI, enable more informed and better decisions and impactful solutions than ever before. As business and technology industry leaders, our responsibility is to listen to the needs of governments, businesses and individuals and help guide each other along this journey.

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