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High-Tech and Leadership Skills for Europe

Working Together to Increase the Talent Pool for the European Single Market

European Conference

  26th January 2017 from 8:30 – 16:30 h
  Crowne Plaza Hotel, Room Klimt, Brussels

Registration closed

Report on Talent for Europe – proposal for a European high-tech leadership skills agenda for 2020 and beyond

This report identifies key areas where investment is needed to ensure that Europe has a sufficient talent pool of high-tech leaders in the future. There is a broad agreement to tackle the high-tech leadership skills issue and mobilise stakeholders in an EU-wide effort to scale up the supply of talent.  The “high-tech leadership skills agenda for 2020 and beyond” is addressing these issues and is providing guidance for action under six strategic priorities.

High-tech leadership skills are required to achieve successful technological innovation crucial in developing Europe’s competitiveness and innovative capacity. The modern economy depends on individuals with the ability to design new business models and to seize opportunities making best use of new technologies to deliver value. The T-shape metaphor describes “future ready” professionals who are adaptive innovators with the necessary high-tech talent and leadership skills.

Our estimates reveal that there are around 800,000 high-tech leaders in EU. Using a conservative growth scenario, we believe that an average of 43,000 new digital leaders and 7,000 leaders in the KETs (key enabling technologies) domain per year are needed. Europe needs to generate 50,000 new high-tech leaders per year or a total of 450,000 until 2025. They should be provided with relevant education and training opportunities and exposed to the necessary leadership role and experience. Shortages of high-tech leaders create a severe risk for enterprises and SMEs in Europe of missing out on crucial innovation opportunities and leaving them to be taken up by their competitors.

Policy recommendations

The recommendations and actions address Europe's challenges and opportunities in developing high-tech leadership skills and talent along six strategic priorities:

  1. Regular monitoring of the supply and demand of high-tech talent, benchmarking policies, best practices sharing and improving of measurement and forecasting methodologies.
  2. Establishing "Software Universities" and fostering programmes for research, education and training in software-based innovation. Technical universities and business schools should be more active in industry-related digital talent development, aligning curricula and programmes more closely with emerging skill requirements, and winning acceptance as training providers for professionals and executives in industry. For SMEs, curriculum improvement should be based on an agile methodology of incremental innovation. In addition, focused high-tech leadership courses and modules taken at appropriate points in time - as ‘pills’ or ‘tapas’ - can help create the future e-leaders, and build national software industries in the Member States.
  3. Setting-up a platform-based ecosystem of digital services supporting diagnosis including self-assessment building on available tools. An online ecosystem of tools using European standards such as ESCO and the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF), constantly refined by customer feedback through a one-stop-shop gateway, could help align national systems with Europe-wide initiatives.
  4. Making better and strategic use of funding, including government-driven public and pre-commercial procurement of innovation and more relevant lifelong learning incentives. Compared to the US state-driven public procurement of innovation services is less developed in Europe. It can shape and create markets thereby enabling the state to take an active role in fostering long-run innovation led economic growth.
  5. Launching large-scale joint activities including a quality leap industry/university innovation leadership skills education and related training programmes. The EU should initiate and provide co-funding for a European joint training programme of universities and industry and of worldwide recognition for the creation of a larger pool of high-tech and innovation leaders, comparable to other ambitious programmes such as Airbus or CERN. Creating and implementation of such a joint industry / university innovation should build on the experiences of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) which was set up in 2008 to spur innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe to overcome some of its greatest challenges.
  6. Ensuring a longer-term policy commitment and action plans across Europe and promoting multi-stakeholder partnerships campaigns on high-tech leadership skills including role models and success stories to motivate students from an early age. The ‘shared concept’ for a digital skills strategy presented at the launch of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition in December 2016 is providing a good inspiration and initial platform for this type of partnership and cooperation.

Altogether, these recommendations provide a roadmap for action at all levels in Europe, for industry, academia, government and other national stakeholders and EU institutions with a timeline for key actions. Around 1000 experts from all over Europe were involved in the process of contributing to this work. 

Documents are made available at