For Stronger Tech, Europe Must Spend More on Defense and Research

This commentary was originally published in Science|Business on February 2, 2023.

In its effort to increase the strength and competitiveness of its technology industries, the European Union has been moving toward a policy of “strategic autonomy.” In theory, that’s good; EU member states are vital U.S. allies, so what strengthens Europe could also strengthen America. But the way this policy is developing raises concerns, and risks repeating old mistakes.

That the European Union should want more autonomy right now is no surprise. It is probably fair to say that the last 12 months have revealed a shocking level of dependence by many European countries for commodities and technologies critical to their security. Most of all, the war in Ukraine has laid plain the near-total dependency of some countries on Russian gas and oil. But when it comes to science and technology, the way the European Unionhas reacted has an exclusionary element, embedded in a transactional approach to S&T cooperation. For instance, efforts to limit participation of Swiss and British researchers in EU R&D projects may substantially reduce the European Union’s capacity for broad advances in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing and communications.

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Charles Wessner
Senior Adviser (Non-Resident), Renewing American Innovation Project