Portugal takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union next January with several challenges and opportunities, capable of making this six-month term a memorable season. Especially when it comes to common market’s digital legislation, the bustle is already guaranteed: it’s the temporary Portuguese leadership that will deal with the first developments towards the implementation of new rules replacing others created 20 years ago – that is, a near-eternity for the tech cluster. Formally presented this Tuesday (15), the Digital Services Act (DSA) intends to introduce new rules in areas ranging from content moderation, online advertising and algorithms configuration transparency, while the Digital Markets Act (DMA) intends to anticipate potential illegal practices and provide an audit tool for companies that have more than 10% of the market within the common economic space. Both propositions can be checked on the European Council’s website official announcement.
DSA announcement landing page
It has been known since before her inauguration, that the current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wishes to modernize the digital legislation of the common market. Something that was crystal clear, for example, in her recent opening speech at Web Summit 2020 – a definitely global event, but whose opening narrative was decisively European. Ambitiously, the German politician opened the world’s largest technological meeting by recognizing there are still many obstacles to digital entrepreneurship in the European Union and many startups end up leaving the European space to ensure their growth. For this reason, she reiterated three fundamentals of change that, in her understanding, will make the EU the global leader in digital excellence in the “20s” that are coming. Such pillars affirm that the (European) practices and values of the offline world must also be respected online; that companies must have a unique set of fundamental digital rules across the European Union; and that they must have equal conditions and opportunities.
All of these principles are reflected in the brand-new proposed legislation. DSA aims to strengthen the EU’s single market, facilitate the expansion of startups and scale-ups through unifying rules in the economic space and clarify the responsibilities and obligations of digital services, while DMA will directly address the economic power of major online platforms with the intention of restraining (and demanding) certain behaviours, even before regulators have evidence of real damage to the market.
The proposals point to unquestionable benefits for society and democracy in Europe (reduction of fake news, illegal products and services and hate speech), but it is too early to know what their systemic implications will be on people’s daily lives and, above all, on businesses’. These are epic challenges in political, legal and geocorporate terms, capable of generating an impact both in large technological companies and in early-stage startups.
Although the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated (also) at the Web Summit 2020 that this debate “is not about where you come from, but about what you do and the role you have in the market”, the potentially geopolitical discussion it’s already set. The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), positioned at the top of the North American ranking of the Global Go To Think Tank Index, published last November the study “Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act and the new competition tool – European initiatives to face US technology companies“, whose approach highlights how the different international perspectives and interests on the subject will be heard with a huge echo while Portugal leads the temporary presidency of the European Council.
CSIS (left) and Oxera / Allied for Startups (right) studies
On the other hand, the study “The Impact of the Digital Services Act on business users”, released last October by the British consultant company Oxera in partnership with the international association Allied for Startups, suggests another angle: that the emerging digital entrepreneurs in Europe have a vision on defending their autonomy and free initiative similar to that of North American big techs. After collecting the perspective of 1,000 startup & SME founders from the travel and tourism, gig economy and creative industry segments in Germany, Bulgaria, Ireland and Spain, the study concludes that DSA can achieve positive results if 1) it continues to limit the platforms’ direct responsibility for content and products made available by third parties; 2) it allows platforms to take their own voluntary actions to detect harmful or illegal content; 3) it elaborates obligations with known penalties, in order to increase customer confidence and provide legal certainty; 4) it expands the consistency of rules applied across the EU; 5) it avoids overloading discouraging information to users, such as detailed verification of product lists, qualifications or content copyrights; 6) it doesn’t prescribe governance solutions that prevent platforms from implementing scalable technical solutions, such as artificial intelligence tools; and 7) it avoids rules based on the size of each platform, such as numbers of users or the value of facilitated transactions.
These are perspectives both legitimate and potentially fracturing when facing the Council of the EU intentions, ready to feed a lively debate right at the moment of Portugal’s protagonism in its rotating presidency. So the question emerges: how will the well-known Portuguese pro-innovation and digital transformation position, expressed so favourably over the past few years, be used as a parameter in the legislative developments of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act? A theme that we’ll closely follow-up throughout 2021.
* Beta-i’s Co-Founder, Communication & Knowledge Principal
The Lisbon Tourism Summit (LTS), organized by Beta-i and sponsored by Turismo de Portugal, will take place on Sep 30th and goes fully online. The 2020 edition focuses on a more sustainable approach on the tourism sector, “a segment that more than ever requires deepening in strategic themes such as circular economy, mobility, artificial intelligence and energy efficiency so that it is possible to actually talk about sustainability“, emphasizes Gonçalo Faria, one of Beta-i’s Innovation Programs director.
LTS counts on the participation of several national and international speakers, with the emphasis on the sustainability designer, sociologist and businesswoman, Leyla Acaroglu. Awarded as Champion of the Earth by the United Nations, Leyla is also author of several books and TED Talks. Check what she has to say as, in her own words, a sustainability provocateur:
The Lisbon Tourism Summit is an integral part of Turismo de Portugal’s innovation strategy to manage the growth of this industry in the country over the past few years. Beta-i is a strategic partner in this because, in addition to LTS, it also organizes The Journey – an open innovation program that facilitates collaboration between leading companies in the tourism industry (such as Grupo Barraqueiro, Vila Galé, Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua and Unicre) with technological solutions from startups around the world. The results of its latest edition will be presented within the LTS: there will be more than a dozen project presentations, involving startups from Europe and Asia.
Digital transformation still has a long way to go before becoming ubiquitous in society and companies. The belief that all the market is fully on digital mode, is actually a myth.
B2B relations might consider more environmental, social issues in their procurement and compliance processes;
Core business technological reinvention is an unavoidable must. Really. At last.
These are some of the key impressions from “Learnings in times of a pandemic – A quick poll on personal mindset changes” ran by Beta-i during the peak of quarantine and self-isolation stress in Europe (May to June). We’ve asked some of our corporate clients, closest startups and other stakeholders (investors, think tanks) about these new perspectives. And you can access the full results here:
With a focus on agile implementation, SOL Tomorrow is currently looking for startups to collaborate in the Portuguese capital restarting activities. The program, which will operate on a totally remote basis, has applications open for startups with solutions already tested or being implemented, with a focus on technologies applied to social issues and the city economy.
For Miguel Gaspar, responsible Councilor for the Economy and Innovation, Mobility and Security Division at the Lisbon City Council, “this is a special edition of the main open innovation program in the Portuguese capital. We will seek to respond to the multiple challenges we are experiencing and will continue to face in the recovery period from the economic crisis created by COVID-19, while stimulating the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and affirming Lisbon as one of the most innovative cities in Europe. In addition to having the participation of a diverse set of public and private partners, in this edition we decided to involve all areas of the executive power, bringing innovation to all activity sectors”.
According to Manuel Tânger, co-founder and Head of Innovation at Beta-i, “together with the Lisbon Municipality, we want to give an immediate answer to the most urgent challenges in a city where millions of people are restarting their routines. The SOL Tomorrow program wants to support startups that have almost immediate implementation solutions on topics such as mental health, job training and social isolation, to grow together with partner organizations and provide answers to the problems caused by the pandemic ”.
How it works
Over the course of three months and after the selection process, the best startups proposals will participate in a two-day online bootcamp to start developing implementation projects with the partners, adapted to the five key areas’ challenges previously established by partners: (i) economic and tourism recovery, through the creation of new practices of involvement with tourists and local communities, new forms of contactless payments, etc; (ii) new work paradigm, by reducing the physical presence in the city management functions, optimizing the public space for commercial activities, etc; (iii) remote work and learning, through the ability to check the city’s infrastructure remotely, e-Learning resources for children and adults on topics related to the crisis, etc; (iv) City resilience and confidence building, through real-time information on compliance measures with the sanitation of public and private spaces, overcrowding management technologies, etc; and finally (v) social emergency and unemployment, through topics such as digital and virtual integration of the elderly and digital education for people in vulnerable areas.
From July until September, each solution kick-started in the bootcamp phase will then be tested and implemented in real context.
According to Vanessa Romeu, Director of Corporate Communication at LIDL Portugal, “COVID-19 brought completely new challenges to the retail sector, and since the first day, as a company, we have been committed to creating solutions to support those who need it most. As such, being part of SOL Tomorrow makes perfect sense, as we are extremely concerned with helping to find lasting solutions to the new challenges our customers are experiencing”.
Marco Fernandes, CEO of PME Investimentos, points out that “Initiatives such as SOL Tomorrow are of the greatest importance due to the capacity to promote new ideas and new businesses, even more with a strong component of social innovation and sustainability. In the current context of the gradual revival of economies and activities from Covid19 negative impacts, a program like this gains even more relevance. It´s a great pleasure for PME Investimentos and for our 200M and Social Innovation Funds to be partners along with other such relevant public and private entities. We hope to support the entrepreneurs to achieve their goals and leverage their ‘tech for good’ projects, help building a more innovative and inclusive country ”.
Inês Sequeira, Director of Department of Entrepreneurship and Social Economy at Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa and Founder, Director of Casa do Impacto, highlights that “we hope the solutions presented in this program can be applied to the context of the city of Lisbon and our organization in a really effective way. For us, it is very important to find startups and entrepreneurs with the capacity to create impactful projects that respond to real challenges that organizations like Santa Casa live on the ground. We look forward to bringing a new look to some of our organization’s processes and some of our approaches. Our association with SOL Tomorrow brings us closer to new solutions and pilots with SCML equipment and services, inserted in a program that makes these partnerships agile and efficient. ”
Miguel Aguiar, B2B Corporate Innovation & Transformation Manager at NOS, says that “we have been partners of Smart Open Lisboa for some years and what we have seen is that through these programs we are able to interact with a series of entrepreneurs, being startups or partners. Our main objective at SOL Tomorrow is to find new models to help our customers adapt to this new standard and overcome their new challenges”.
And according to Ana Caldeira, Director of Innovation and Project Management at Turismo de Portugal, “we hope that together with all partners we can validate and implement startup solutions that are safe both for the inhabitants of the city of Lisbon, as well as for tourists visiting us on daily basis. In the face of the pandemic, we want to continue to provide safe and authentic experiences for Lisbon residents and travellers”.
SOL Tomorrow is one of the vertical programs of Smart Open Lisboa, an open innovation initiative by CML managed by Beta-i, with a focus on validating and integrating innovative solutions created to improve life in cities. In the long term, the initiative aims to be a platform for communication and collaboration between different stakeholders – the city, its citizens, companies and startups – and a framework to accelerate innovative solutions.
New world, new challenges: Kicking off with this post, we’ll be sharing during the next days and weeks some Questions & Answers in a chat with Beta-i’s CEO, Pedro Rocha Vieira. You’ll get to know more about the big picture of what’s happening at Beta-i right now. A new moment, a 10-years retrospective, our new brand, future scenarios, our startup support and our global reach.
But let’s start by talking with Pedro about this very moment: the breaking news 🙂
Pedro, what’s changing at Beta-i and what’s happening under this repositioning and restructuring
Well, after 10 years of hard work in different areas, we managed to fulfil this first-decade mission: we were, and we proudly are a key player in the establishment of an innovation ecosystem in Portugal. We contributed to the mindset transformation process which has been happening in the Portuguese ecosystem over time, and we managed to be recognized as one of the leading startup accelerators in Europe.
However, now we are no longer in the phase of feeding this innovation ecosystem at its base, but rather helping to give it greater strength within the economy as a whole. Lean approaches, new in-company processes and especially, the collaboration between corporates, public services or other institutions with startups is an inescapable movement.
That’s why we’re undergoing this cycle of change, in order to continue to be relevant at a different level. In the last 3 years, we started to work to become a different type of consultancy firm, totally focused on bringing the startup way of working and making business growth to large organizations and vice-versa, as well as deploying our ecosystem building experience on different geographies. We now have clients and projects in almost 20 countries, on 5 continents. This is a matter of fact, not a vision – but to be very honest, this was still not exactly understood by the market. That’s why we are leveraging our approach.
Therefore we reorganized and redefined our areas, focusing essentially on the collaborative innovation territory. We have a team of experts and different frameworks to converge global startups, large companies, universities, researchers, investors, mentors and governments competencies to work on innovation programs and develop pilot projects with impact on the economy.
How important is this new positioning in the current context?
We were born in times of crisis and now we are “reborn” again in a new period of crisis – and this evolution was made at the right time to respond to current needs.
If 10 years ago we contributed to the generation of new ideas and entrepreneurship approaches to stimulate the economy, today the challenges are different. It is necessary to connect the old with the new economy in a logic of collaboration and win-win – from facing up and coming competitors as a target to be crushed, to see them as a potential partner. This is a paradigmatic shift. It is necessary to support startups as an economic agent of change, helping them to collaborate with companies. And put companies to collaborate with other companies, too – it’s mandatory to be aware that only together we can build this new future. And we’re all experiencing that, at this very moment, due to the pandemic.
So this Beta-i repositioning ends up giving us the necessary approach to face the current challenges and promoting collaborative innovation where everyone benefits, which naturally also includes the people impacted by the developed solutions.