First satellite in UK

Tech leader says Brexit ‘won’t halt digital single market’

Willem Jonker

Willem Jonker: ‘we will not be stopped by borders’ (pic: Terry Murden)

A European digital industries leader speaking in Edinburgh has offered a defiant message to those fearing the impact of Brexit, saying the industry has “no borders”.

Willem Jonker, chief executive of the innovation institute EIT Digital told a gathering of digital industry specialists that Europe was missing out to the US and Asia in building businesses of scale, despite having the talent to achieve great things.

Attending the opening of the EIT office in Edinburgh, the organisation’s only satellite office in the UK outside London, he told 100 guests that the challenge was to build “the digital single market” in Europe connecting technology, institutes and finance.

On Brexit, he said: “I think digital and education have no borders. So we will not be stopped by borders. We are committed to make this a success.”

He said that too often great ideas and businesses had been developed in Europe but had all too often been sold to the Americans.

Ivan McKee

Ivan McKee: ‘innovation is intrinsic to our culture’ (pic: Terry Murden)

EIT Digital is a €100 million initiative aimed at encouraging market uptake of research-based digital technologies.

The new office, at the University of Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre, will help deepen relationships between Scotland and the EU, increase innovation and investment in R&D.

It will also encourage knowledge exchange between universities and industry, develop skills in Scottish businesses, and promote Scotland’s offer to investors and talent. 

At the opening ceremony, Innovation Minister Ivan McKee, said: “Our vision is for a Scotland where innovation is an intrinsic part of our culture, our society and our economy. For decades, Scotland has participated in European projects, led strategic partnerships and welcomed people from across the EU and around the world.

We have always valued the resulting skills, diversity and talent that is brought into our economy and society.

“Regardless of the outcome of Brexit, Scotland will continue to be an outward-looking, open and welcoming country. This project will allow academia and businesses to work together to drive innovation.

Stephen Ingledew

Stephen Ingledew: ‘innovation is a team sport’ (pic: Terry Murden)

“It also enables Scotland to raise the profile of its digital assets across Europe, helping to attract both inward talent and investment while connecting Scotland’s businesses to experts and potential collaborators.”

Stephen Ingledew, chief executive of FinTech Scotland, said technology was now as important to Scotland as whisky and salmon and stressed the importance of working as a team.

“Innovation is a team sport and we need players ready to play all over Europe,” he said.

EIT Digital is one of eight Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. It has 10 centres across Europe, including one in London.

The Edinburgh satellite intends to host a new Doctoral Training Centre, with a focus on Fintech, and Cyber Security via a new programme supported by the Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Unit and ScotlandIS, plus other areas of national strategic importance.

Its students will be supported by universities across Scotland with the first students expected to start later in 2019.

It is funded by Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Funding Council and EIT Digital.


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