For decades, the European economy has been characterized by and celebrated for its industry, from manufacturing to construction and energy generation. Even today, industry accounts for 80% of Europe’s exports and private sector innovations. But when looking at this year’s Future 50, a collaboration between Fortune and Boston Consulting Group, which ranks the businesses with the greatest capacity to continually reinvent their businesses and sustain long-term growth, observers can find a sobering situation: Only four European companies make it to the list. And, excluding information and communications technology, there is only one digital-native European firm on the list, and it’s not an industrial one: It’s Spotify.
This is a significant observation, but maybe not so surprising. Actually, the situation seems even more dire when you consider the gap in competitiveness in artificial intelligence between European countries and global leaders, namely the U.S. and China. In short, Europe is at a crossroads. Missing today’s opportunity to digitize its industry with A.I. will have grave consequences for the continent’s long-term competitiveness, and for local employment. Immediate action is needed.