The first Think NEXUS Workshop took place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center , Washington D.C. on 10th July 2019, in parallel with the GCTC Expo. During the Workshop the 3 Expert Groups had their first round of face-to-face discussions, which were focused on fostering next EU-US collaboration over NGI thematic areas.

Regarding the Policy Expert Group roundtable, the group started the day by identifying the topics / areas which were considered of relevance for the discussions. Thus, the first exchanges within the policy group tackled the identification of the main challenges the internet will have to face in the next 5 to 10 years (see image below).

Furthermore, this meeting enabled Experts to identify a first set of key challenges that are to be further explored within the next developments.

Main outcomes:

  • NGI cooperation support schemes

As a first observation, Experts noted that EU and US innovation support schemes were intrinsically different when considering NGI. Transversal cooperation between research, industries and policy makers has no equivalent in the US. Moreover, most bilateral cooperation schemes do not provide funding for the other part, i.e., the EC finances EU stakeholders and US agencies their nationals. Thus, joint or coordinated funding schemes are lacking for allowing EU/US cooperation, notably concerning entrepreneurship support.

Key parameters:

     – Trust management in complexities environments;

     – Security intelligent trade-off (efficiency / security); and

     – Pilot Project in the field of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs)

 

  • US and EU standardization bodies’ collaboration across NGI technologies

As the NGI initiative explores new fields and technologies that are creating new international standards. These NGI-related technologies could confer with the opportunities to EU and US standardization bodies to set cooperation mechanisms breaking out silos and, thus, fostering the fast-tracking of standards, benefiting both sides in the international competition.

Key parameters:

     –  IoT developments and NGI principles integration; and

      Standardization bodies cooperation mechanisms.

 

  • Developing a common language on Artificial Intelligence

AI is a major technology the NGI builds upon. As such, the development of solutions generate a new field of ruling for policy makers. However, the semantics behind AI-technologies and applications are not shared between both sides of the Atlantic (and event within each region itself). Cooperation on AI taxonomy could confer the opportunity to better tie EU and US developments and mutual understanding, thus fostering this technology’s growth.

Key parameters:

     – Translating AI developments in understandable terms for policy makers;

     – Algorithm fairness & transparency; and

     – Identifying the data per AI applications.

 
  • Building cooperation upon shared values

NGI thematic covers a wide range of parameters linked to citizens’ rights (data privacy, security, trust etc.). These themes are of concern for both EU and US authorities, which are facing similar and growing challenges on these questions – essential for their democracies.

The questions of trust and security in online voting systems as well as the ‘social cybersecurity’ (tackling aspects such as misinformation, etc.) of citizens were notably deemed as relevant within EU/US collaboration schemes, in line with the values these regions share.

In conclusion, the Expert Group agreed that there are many options for transatlantic collaboration, and it was discussed which topics and areas are most suitable for collaboration initiatives.

Key parameters:

     – Trust management in complexities environments

     – GDPR / Californian policy

     – Security intelligent trade-off (efficiency / security)

     – Pilot Project in the field of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs)[1]

     – Digital divide

 

Stay tuned to know more about the outcomes of the Expert Group discussions!

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/pilot-project-co-creating-european-ecosystem-distributed-ledger-technologies-social-and-publi

 

The first Think NEXUS Workshop took place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C. on 10th July 2019, in parallel with the GCTC Expo. During the Workshop the 3 Expert Groups had their first round of face-to-face discussions, which were focused on fostering next EU-US collaboration over NGI thematic areas.

As the Science and Technology (ST) Expert Group met physically for the first time in the lifespan of the project, it was necessary for all members to get presented to the overall vision of the Think NEXUS project and meet each other. Nevertheless, these introductory meeting had some key desired outcomes defined prior to the meeting:

  • Differences and similarities in EU/US visions and identification of future challenges, roadblocks and breakthroughs;
  • What are the main differences and commonalities between EU and the US approaching Internet and associated technologies?;
  • Identification of bodies involved in NGI Research, experimentation, funding, regulation…; and
  • Identification of possible interactions and collaborative actions.

Moreover, the overall approach of this 1st Expert Group meeting was to allow all members to brainstorm mainly based on the pre-defined set of questions. However, it was obvious that in many cases additional topics popped out during the discussion.

One of the first key topics that all Expert Group members raised, is the fact that overall S&T polices need to synchronize with technology developments as in many cases policies are considered to be obsolete. Moreover, the need of a joint funding scheme between EU and US should be of high priority as both regions need to collaborate and not to compete to each other. Another point relevant to policy makers, is that there seems to be a communication/coordination bottleneck between policy makers from both regions and funding agencies, which need to be addressed.

Adding to the above, most Expert Group members agreed that current networks are struggling to support NGI related research experiments as they are commercial focused and need to be significantly updated. In parallel with the previous statement, all members concluded that Joint Experimentation Testbeds & Networks are needed while the need of engaging big players (platforms such as Google, Amazon, etc.) to offer infrastructure for research is vital.

An agreement also reached among all experts regarding to which are the key NGI technologies and also which are the most important characteristics that these technologies should have, in order to serve the purpose of the future internet.

Last but not least, all Expert Group members agreed to the fact that standardisation bodies, industrial representatives and user representatives should also be included in the NGI discussion.

In conclusion, the Expert Group agreed that there are many options for transatlantic collaboration, and it was discussed which topics and areas are most suitable for collaboration initiatives. Thus, topics that are not too reliant on the involvement of competing companies (e.g. that address world-wide societal challenges, or that focus on low-TRL fundamental research) are promising candidates. The meeting led to a fruitful discussion of numerous important aspects that helped both sides to understand in more detail the initiatives, the players, and their focus on the other side.

Overview & Outcomes (in a nutshell)
  • Key Technologies: IoT, Digital ledger technology, Big Data, Trust & Identity, Cloud computing, Edge, AI, Real time control, Smart Infrastructures, 5G, Cloud to Edge, Edge to Edge Communication Technologies, Intelligent Operating Systems
  • Characteristics of Technologies: Enable mobility, more visual, less complex, more secure, autonomous deployment systems, data-centric services, distribution of computation elements (decentralised), distributing computation
  • Organic & Intelligent Internet
Key Suggestions (in a nutshell)
  • Formal Collaboration Mechanism between EU and US is needed for getting great results
  • The need to engage Standardisation bodies, Industrial Stakeholder Groups and User Representatives Groups
  • Policies need to synchronize with technologies
  • Identify Key Application Areas: Connected Healthcare, Global Challenges, Disaster Relief
  • Need for a joint branding: introduce NGI terminology in the US funding environment.

Stay tuned to know more about the outcomes of the Expert Group discussions!

The first Think NEXUS Workshop took place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center , Washington D.C. on 10th July 2019, in parallel with the GCTC Expo. During the Workshop the 3 Expert Groups had their first round of face-to-face discussions, which were focused on fostering next EU-US collaboration over NGI thematic areas.

During the first Innovation & Entrepreneurship Expert Group discussion, the experts were incentivized to participate actively, being able to provide their point on view freely, being encouraged to address friction points in terms of bilateral collaboration. Some of the most relevant aspects that were considered during the round table are:

  • Concept of innovation.  Definitions matter; it’s hard to have effective understanding and build on concepts without them. One of the basic discussions that took place was about the vision of ‘innovation’ itself, and the role that private and public sectors should play in it, which slightly differs in each ecosystem – Innovation of the market versus technological innovation. Innovation in the USA has a clear go-to-market implication.
  • Role of public administration. Public agencies struggle to manage a landscape where technology changes at so rapid pace that is not realistic to consider the government as a thought leader in innovation. However, there are 2 potential aspects where policy can have a significant role: 1) allow innovation to happen, as regulation can get in the way of disruption; 2) identify how to bring society into the equation, highlighting the social issues and making them relevant. Technology sector may face the risk to lose the trust from the citizens if cases like privacy breaches and unauthorised exploitation of personal data continue. Policy should be adapted to a local vision.   In the case of Europe, the EC has a much stronger influence over the innovation ecosystem as a consequence of the weighty public funding instruments, such as H2020 – near EUR 80 Billion investment programme in research and innovation, and its regulatory strategy (e.g. the General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR). A few experts consider this should not be the way to go as this top-down approach may create inefficiencies in the system and leaks in terms of resources.
  • Future of Work. Europe and the USA often have a different interpretation of the achievements/KPIs when it comes to the market impact of innovation. One good example is the discussion around the ‘Future of Work’ – creating new and better employment opportunities and jobs should be a top priority when adopting new technologies, or it is efficiency what matters the most?
  • Single Market. While the US already works as a unified market removing key differences between online and offline worlds, breaking down the barriers to cross-border online activity, the readiness of the European ‘Digital Single Market’ vision still lags behind. Up until now, EU citizens and businesses have often faced barriers when using online tools and services. These barriers mean that consumers have restricted access to some goods and services, businesses cannot reap all benefits from digitisation, and governments and citizens cannot fully benefit from this digital transformation.
  • Cultural gaps. Regardless the multiple efforts towards a EU-US collaboration, there is a cultural divide that prevent an effective and stronger Transatlantic partnership. Europe has already achieved a mature level of collaboration among its member countries, often facilitated by common frameworks. However, when it comes to working with US partners, there are a number of significant differences in terms of culture, such as:

Semantics: as already mentioned with the concept of innovation, there are misalignments in terminology between regions. Key actors often use different vocabulary and some relevant US-born concepts are not yet mature enough in Europe – one good example of it is the concept of ‘unicorns’, i.e. privately held startup companies valued at over $1 billion.

Communication: the ways in which Europeans and American drive communication is different – especially through email and remote conference calls. US partners tend to be more straightforward and keep a more active exchange after an initial meeting, while European are slower movers, with a tendency to longer messages and meetings.

Entrepreneurship in universities: the culture of entrepreneurship in universities still lags behind in Europe compared to the USA. The exploitation of knowledge from research to market in the form of spin-offs and new startups is something that is gaining traction more and more in Europe, while it is a mature practice in the USA, which goes even further and looks at STEM education in high schools – educating students in four specific disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

Culture of failure: One of the defining differences between entrepreneurial cultures in the United States and Europe is their respective approach to “failure”. Europe has an attitude problem towards entrepreneurship because of its high potential for failure. By contrast, celebrating failure has achieved cult status in Silicon Valley – “fail often, fail fast”.

Partners in both ecosystems interested in fostering a bilateral collaboration must understand this cultural divide and make efforts to adapt to each other to meet halfway. One of the proposals suggested was to educate US partners into the European mind-set.

  • Joint narrative. The USA and Europe’s continued leadership in technology and innovation risk falling behind China, Russia and emerging economies in the mid-term if we are not able to develop an Atlantic narrative. It is crucial to identify shared ‘pains’ and propose strategic plans that will allow us to target priorities and objectives towards the Digital Economy and the evolution of Internet. It is important to recognize — and then reinforce — the fundamental principles and programmes that can underpin like-minded cooperation and global competitiveness in Focus Areas such as 5G and Artificial Intelligence around privacy, openness, trust and diversity.
  • Collaboration scheme. One of the main conclusions of the Expert Group was the lack of a proper and agile platform for collaboration between regions around technology innovation. A balanced instrument -not 100% sponsored by public or private funds, as this approach does not fully fit neither region- that could support and drive non-partisan leadership on forward-looking Transatlantic partnerships around innovation and entrepreneurship. Current efforts in EU-US collaboration are polarised in two streams: 1) frameworks for applied research and infrastructure, where the Next Generation Internet has great allies in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); 2) think tanks with in-depth focus on policy-making and economics, such as the Atlantic Council[1], the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), among others.

Stay tuned to know more about the outcomes of the Expert Group discussions!

[1] Cf. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/