A European industrial renaissance can create millions of new jobs
Data indicate accelerated investments in digital technology and sustainability could swell employment
At the dawn of a new competitive era, a commonly held myth in economics is being tested.
The assumption that new technology has a detrimental effect on employment as automation displaces workers is a phantom that has stalked every industrial revolution.
Yet in Europe, our research indicates that in a new era of post-pandemic competition accelerated investment in technology and sustainability could add up to 5.7 million net new jobs by 2030.
Not only do the data point to a positive link between innovation and employment growth, but in Europe they also suggest that combining digitalization with its world-beating green credentials is a game-changer. Many of these new jobs will enable organisations to accelerate their digital and sustainability transitions, a twin transformation set to generate new business and growth.
There is no better time to build on this advantage because the continent could struggle to keep up with North America and Asia: European businesses expect recovery to take six months longer than in other regions.
We are at a critical moment.
The pandemic is not yet fully behind us, but companies must go beyond preparing for the rebound. They must reinvent themselves to capture the market momentum expected in the next 2 to 3 years.
In a new era of competitiveness, business leaders must embrace new strategic models that combine digital and sustainability, spawn new cross-industry ecosystems, and create “next-generation” workforces wielding new skills.
Europe is leading in certain industries, but challenged in others. Thus, the depth and breadth of the transformation required will vary.
We must consolidate in industries where we are already global leaders – such as automotive, consumer goods, utilities and chemicals. We must reinforce those where we have a strong but not leading position – such as aerospace and defence, life sciences, communications and media, and mining. We already see a great momentum, with good examples across many industries – such as the energy sector innovating in the energy transition area, automotive in the future of mobility, manufacturing in smart products, and consumer goods in sustainable products, just to name a few.
And for the sectors where there are very few European companies among global leaders – such as in high-tech and digital – we need to clearly review and decide where European companies can play a leadership role as we see the next technology disruption coming. A much deeper transformation will indeed be required, with massive investments in those new disruptive technologies that enable new business models and redefine markets.
The tech menu will be different in each sector and business area. Software platforms, AI and battery will transform mobility; data, AI and blockchain will change how health services are provided; digital twins, 5G, IoT, 3D printing, robotics, and augmented and virtual reality will reinvent manufacturing.
Europe’s advantage is its global leadership in sustainability, and our research shows momentum: 88% of its companies plan to raise investment in digital transformation and sustainability.
But the silo mindset once characterising competition must give way to collaboration through cross-sectoral ecosystems providing common purpose to companies, academia and governments.
And most importantly, this industry renaissance cannot be successful if businesses do not urgently reskill their people for markets dramatically reshaped by technology and sustainability.
The good news is that European businesses are prioritising reskilling, with 86% of companies planning to upskill/reskill up to 25% of staff in the next 3 years.
Europe is at a crossroads. It has a unique opportunity to lead in the post-pandemic economy.
However, this will require making investments today – in the right cutting-edge technologies, in emerging high-potential ecosystems and, crucially, in people.
This is the way to strengthen our competitiveness and our ability to grow, which will result in the creation of a significant number of jobs in Europe.
by Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO – Europe, Accenture