Despite their obvious differences, the reigns of Louis XIV and President Emmanuel Macron will have one thing in common; their ambition to make France the world’s centre. Whereas the former used grand architecture to deliver his ambition, Macron’s choice of science and technology may have a much greater societal impact.
Viva Technology was billed as the greatest European technology show – and for good reason. For a start, the magnificent setting of Porte de Versailles Convention Center didn’t disappoint. The idea was that the summit would inspire a diverse rendezvous of innovators, investors, entrepreneurs and other like minds.
At its launch, President Macron delivered a passionate speech to envision France at the nucleus of the global innovation agenda. Since his election, there is newly-found confidence in the country’s leadership. The view was that it would be folly to underestimate his ambitious program or the ability to deliver on its promises.
The occasion was fitting for his political fanbase, especially millennials, who as France’s largest electorate will define her future socio-economic landscape. Unlike most political speeches, full of rhetoric, but of little substance, Macron embraced the digital revolution and committed to transforming past government policies that were inadequate in tackling economic stagnation.
Macron’s speech charted a path to Europe’s technology future to attract a network of venture capital and financiers. “This is a new era; a new mindset that we need to embrace. France will implement reforms and develop the talents to succeed. We will make France an attractive place to work, live and invest,” said Macron.
From another perspective, it was a call to action for France’s European partners to join hands and, as the Brexit deadline looms, perhaps a direct challenge to replace the UK’s current technology lead in the EU. France’s largest technology companies have already signed up as partners in this endeavour: Sanofi, EDF, Orange and Airbus are working with start-ups to develop new innovations, and view this path as the best opportunity for France’s future.
A merger of ideas between old and new could be disruptive; such collaboration could decrease the risk of failure, embrace new challenges and provide capital to achieve sustainable outcomes.
Collaborating with the Emerging Markets
Beyond that, Macron extended support to Africa’s own digital revolution. “I would like to thank President Kagame for the great work that he is doing in attracting, inspiring and guiding the rest of the continent”, said Macron, as he added that innovation and digital were part of a broader solution to eradicate poverty in the emerging markets.
In Africa, digital technology is developing at an astonishing rate. The emergence of a dynamic ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, and support structures was recognised with the launch of a new €75 million fund – Digital Nation Africa (DNA) – to invest in emerging technologies.
La Grande Vision Technologique
Addressing other challenges, Macron singled out tax evasion and cybercrime. The protection of personal information was a priority. In order to succeed in the digital revolution, nations must be smart and enforce laws that protect citizens, with a clear framework for compliance, to create trust in government and democracy.
In regard to tax evasion, a new social model was inevitable, to embrace equitable values with common tax rules, regulatory, social and employment policies that would sustain innovative technologies, such as a European Digital Tax. Macron further noted that the US model wasn’t sustainable due to a lack of transparency and political accountability. Conversely, the Chinese model is over-centralised and doesn’t comply with European social values of data privacy and human rights. To guarantee the positive impact that technologies such as artificial intelligence could have on humanity, Macron proposed a sustainable, common framework for innovation.
Global Impact through Innovation
Still recovering from the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, Europe is beset with non-progressive government policies and stagnation. The ascendancy of the Asian superpowers China and India has challenged Europe’s role in the world. In Macron, Europe’s innovators may have a found new voice and the kind of energetic leadership to champion their dreams of sustainable employment and growth. To achieve this aspiration, a revolutionary approach to economic policy-making is needed.
In this regard, history may repeat itself. In the 17th century, as European countries fortified their cities to protect against their enemies, the Sun King made an intrepid decision in contradiction of his courtiers’ advice. He destroyed Paris’ defence walls and set out to rebuild grandiose structures in classical and baroque architecture to emphasise her symbolic importance as a seat of power, in much the same way that Rome represented the might of the Roman Empire. It was a risky masterstroke that showed his political astuteness in repositioning Paris, as well as France as the global centre for the arts and architecture.
Today, Macron’s words communicate a powerful, symbolic vision. His future actions will undoubtedly affirm to its European rivals that France was indeed strong and determined to reclaim its place as the global gateway to innovation. Only, this time it would be through the advancement of science and technology.