That is one of the main results of the Digital Engagement Report 2021, an in-depth analysis of all 27 European nations’ digital priorities published by ESCP’s European Center for Digital Competitiveness.

The year 2020 was characterised by the Covid-19 crisis, but the digital priorities of European heads of state and governments shifted only slightly in reaction to it. Compared to the 2019 analysis carried out by the European Center for Digital Competitiveness by ESCP Business School, topics around e-government and digital education, which were crucial for solving the crisis, received very little additional attention. Most emphasis was placed on digital infrastructure topics such as industry 4.0 and 5G. At the same time, future technologies like quantum computing and robotics were largely disregarded by most European leaders. “Europe’s future wealth will be determined by its competitiveness in the technologies of the future. When it comes to chip technologies, for example, we already see today what significant negative effects a lack of such capabilities can have. We finally need large-scale investments in digital future technologies such as quantum computing and robotics,” comments European Center for Digital Competitiveness Founder & Director, professor Philip Meissner.

Leaders also largely neglected entrepreneurship and digital education

In the last year, industry 4.0 and 5G had the most digital engagements (103 and 64, respectively) – a trend reflected in digital engagements by the leaders of Europe’s two biggest economies: Angela Merkel had the most digital engagements with regards to 5G, while Emmanuel Macron put industry 4.0 in the spotlight.

Future digital technologies, conversely, were largely disregarded. Across all European states, quantum computing had nine engagements, while robotics had four, amounting to merely two and one per cent of all engagements, respectively. “The last year has shown that digital future technologies are key factors in solving our most pressing problems, such as dealing with pandemics, preserving our digital sovereignty and tackling climate change,” adds European Center for Digital Competitiveness Founding Supporter Christian Poensgen. However, crucial areas in this regard, such as entrepreneurship (38 engagements) and digital education (34 engagements), remain a low priority for European heads of state and government.