Innovation has been one of the EU’s main priorities in the last ten years. There have been several high-level reports under the Barroso commission (the most well-known being the famous Esko Aho report). So why is it that the real innovators are in the US, China and the Middle East? Where are the European leaders of the inevitable sustainability revolution?
This is the question that hit me when I was reading Tom Friedman’s weekend op-ed “Texas to Tel Aviv” in the New York Times.
In this article, Friedman paints a portrait of two men who are revolutionising the energy policies of their countries: American oil man T.Boone Pickens and Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi.
Pickens, one of America’s richest oil billionaires, is now a firm believer in peak oil and one of the biggest investors in wind and solar power. His new “Pickens plan” is one of the hot debate issues in the US presidential campaign.
Agassi has laid the foundations of a new sustainable car transport system based on renewable electricity in his country and has convinced Denmark to follow Israel’s example. Agassi’s Project Better Place is one of the best examples of innovative out-of-the-box entrepreneurial thinking I have seen in a very long time.
Friedman could have added Zhengrong Shi, China’s “solar energy king” and one of the richest new billionaires in Asia.
So indeed, the question has to be asked. Do we have European eco-innovators? Or is all the EU’s talk about innovation just a load of …? A quick search in the Aho report shows that Europe’s “Mr Innovation” apparently has never heard of sustainable development or climate change. Any conclusions?