I know first hand at DeepMind both how challenging and rewarding this process can be - it’s about digging in and building technologies that benefit everyone. It’s about creating robust processes, building shared norms across the industry, and getting the right mix of people in the room. This is an evolving and complex process, and no one has all the answers. That’s why it’s so important that we come together as a community, continuously listening and learning from each other.
In a way, I am all for creating a viable path for social entrepreneurship but equally against totally de-risking that path because in essence, that is not entrepreneurship, that is the redirecting of public goods to create social value on a micro-level of individual action (that is often not rewarded well).
Meeting social challenges - from climate change to energy efficiency to ending income inequality - is a collective effort that requires finding innovative solutions at all levels. It does however start at the macro systemic level with policy makers. Private investors can and are currently playing an important role in funding innovation to solve social problems but the onerous in doing so at scale is with policy makers and their ability to integrate social value into incentives mechanism for innovation.
Infarm’s experience with our latest fundraisings (completed over Zoom!) demonstrates how the pandemic has, in some ways, broadened the horizons for European startups, by opening up the European tech scene to impact-focused investors from around the world.The crucible of the pandemic has shown the resilience of the European tech ecosystem, with an incredible number of milestones reached and records broken in the past year in terms of raises and valuations. We’ve seen that European startups and scaleups, some whom we’re happy to have partnered with, are able to deliver on ambitious expansion plans, despite the logistical challenges and continued uncertainty caused by macro-economic factors like Brexit, pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and lockdowns.
We are continuously improving our EU investment landscape, working alongside VCs and other investors, listening to the evolving needs of startups, and harvesting the incredible potential of Europe’s research base for example by partnering with the European Research Council. But with the EIC’s budget of 10 billion euro over seven years we cannot achieve everything. So we need to find ways to compete with the US and China on making bigger investments in next generation technologies.
Not only in Europe but also outside, in the US, India, Australia… More and more countries have come to recognise the risks that large tech platforms can bring to our lives, our mental health, and our democracy. We see more and more alignment on the idea that platforms have power beyond anyone else, and with that come responsibilities. That’s why the EU-US Trade and Technology Council that we launched a few weeks ago is so important.
For the first time, minds have met on key issues like how to approach AI or how to address the shortage of semiconductors. It was a very successful meeting and promising for the future. Clearly the challenges are huge, but they’re not too big for our democracies, especially if we come together.