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Q&A: Google’s head of European public policy explains potential impact of upcoming EU legislation


Nicklas Lundblad has been integral in shaping Google’s policy strategy for some time now. He joined the tech giant in 2007, building the public policy team in the Nordics, after which he was recruited to build a long-term policy research and strategy team in Mountain View.

He spent three-and-a-half years in Mountain View building and leading this team before returning to Sweden in 2013, taking on his current role as head of Google’s European public policy team.

With a PhD in informatics under his belt, his academic background puts him in good stead for working in the technology field. He is also an adjunct professor in innovation at The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences in Sweden.

As if this wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Lundblad is the author of three books on information technology and policy.

I spoke to him about the tech space in Europe and what policy decisions we should expect to see over the coming year and the potential impact they will have on the digital sphere.

Q: Where in Europe are the biggest and fastest-growing tech hubs?

NL: There are many exciting tech hubs across Europe. In Stockholm, where I live, we see many dynamic new companies garnering global attention. And London of course has a well deserved reputation for digital startups. But we see these clusters emerging all across the continent in places like Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Warsaw and Vienna.

As digital technology becomes increasingly essential to all kinds of businesses we will find more and more ecosystems emerging. It is an exciting time to be a European passionate about technology!

Q: What key decisions are set to be made in the coming year that will impact the digital economy in Europe?

NL: The digital single market package of legislation coming out of Brussels will shape the digital economy in Europe for the next decade and beyond.

The EU has set a worthy goal of creating a one set of rules for the digital economy across 28 member states. These rules cover everything from whether you can watch the iPlayer when on holiday in Spain to consumer protections when shopping online and the sharing economy.

We are expecting a number of major developments on the strategy this year and we very much hope the EU will set a pro-innovation framework that will help our digital economy to grow even faster.

Q: What does Europe need in order to propel its tech sector forward so it is on a level pegging with the US?

NL: Our ambitions for the tech sector in Europe should be around what can make the sector as successful as possible. The success of other markets should seek to inspire us and as a guide for what kind of public policies are most impactful to help the sector grow.

There are fantastic, dynamic startup ecosystems across Europe that we should all be very proud of. Of course we want more to grow. Making the digital single market a reality will be a huge step in the right direction.

One area where there is wide agreement is that equipping more Europeans with digital skills will help our companies grow even faster.

The European Commission estimates 90% of jobs will require digital skills. We all can do more to support this skills growth and so Google recently pledged to train two million Europeans in digital skills.

Lundblad will be speaking more on these topics at ‘What drives Europe’s digital economy‘, a summit by Europe’s research alliance for a digital economy – Readie – on 21st – 22nd March in London.