April 18. 2024. 10:17

The Daily

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Talent’s geopolitical role in shaping Europe’s future


Having already entered the fourth industrial revolution, talent has emerged as a crucial geopolitical factor, playing a pivotal role in how states serve their national interests as it is linked with innovation, driving countries towards growth, economic power, international influence, and societal well-being, writes Panagiotis Kakolyris.

Kakolyris is vice president of the European Network of Political Foundations and Co-founder of the Strategic Governance Lab at the University of Peloponnese.

Research consistently warns that if Europe fails to catch up with other major regions, such as the US, China, or even India, regarding key technologies, it will be vulnerable in all aspects of growth and competitiveness. As a result, this will compromise its strategic autonomy, a concern that is becoming increasingly relevant.

Europe’s startup landscape epitomises this talent challenge. While the continent remains fertile ground for innovative ideas, many mature startups gravitate towards the US. On American soil, these enterprises thrive, evolve, and become industry giants, even unicorns, fueled by a combination of European and global talent.

Despite Europe boasting many high-performing corporate entities, European companies exhibit slower growth, lower returns, and less research investment than their US counterparts. Such trends echo Europe’s risk of being sidelined from the technological forefront, particularly in information and communication technology and other disruptive innovations.

An alarming revelation from the European Investment Bank underscores this narrative: an estimated 75% of Europe’s high-tech companies are acquired by non-European entities at an advanced stage of development. This exodus of talent amplifies concerns when the momentum of the 4th Industrial Revolution is at its peak.

Europe’s loss of talent to global competition poses an existential geopolitical challenge. How sustainable is this model of primarily consuming external innovations without making significant contributions? What dependencies will this create for the European Union, and to what extent will it weaken its global standing and influence?

The answer is clear.

The EU must cultivate talent through enhanced research funding, foster competitive environments, champion creative collaborations between Member States, and invigorate dynamic ecosystems.

While crucial European initiatives are underway in this direction, their effectiveness in reversing current trends remains uncertain. The potential reelection of Donald Trump in the United States, coupled with the geopolitical instability in our wider region, underscores the need for more intense efforts in this regard.

Beyond policy, a paradigm shift in talent perception is also necessary. The new approach of “atypical excellence” offers this fresh perspective to talent identification, cultivation, or acquisition.

This concept transcends conventional talent metrics, emphasising a more encompassing view that appreciates individual uniqueness, soft skills, and the intrinsic ‘X Factors’ we each possess. It celebrates human creativity beyond formal qualifications, which remains valuable but needs to be more.

Atypical excellence embodies a more inclusive and holistic concept of talent. At its core, it reframes failure as a valuable lesson, fostering empathy and acceptance.

It celebrates visionary thinking, relentless and continuous learning, and a penchant for the unconventional, guiding individuals beyond the confines of traditional frameworks. It is a place of acceptance and acknowledgement of people’s genuine abilities to support and drive personal, corporate and societal growth.

This form of excellence defies a single definition. It is an ongoing journey of discovery and revelation, encouraging individuals to step out of their comfort zones, transcend formal boundaries, and enter the creative zone of the atypical. As the Dutch historian and visionary Rutger Bregman aptly notes, it requires continual evolution, anchoring and fostering optimism and a forward-looking mindset.

In our challenging times, infusing our teams with this ‘atypical excellence’ is imperative, leveraging overlooked skills. Europe must create and grow a culture anchored in adaptability, embracing novelty and solution-oriented mindsets.

It encourages companies to tap into individuals who may lack formal qualifications but possess the inspiration, dedication, and determination required, along with a diverse array of knowledge and skills that collectively fulfil the requirements of a position.

In this era defined by a talent war, talent’s geopolitical dimensions are becoming increasingly prominent. This moment calls for a reevaluation—shifting from a narrow, microscope view to a broader, human-centric perspective.

“Atypical excellence” offers a fresh perspective, guiding Europe towards resilience and competitiveness in the global talent arena.