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Europe is Ready to Match Silicon Valley’s Innovation

November 19, 2019, 6:39 PM UTC

The U.S. and China have been the two pillars of innovation for the last few decades, but now Europe is ready to match that technological prowess, said TechLeap.NL special envoy Prince Constantijn van Oranje. However, panelists at Fortune’s Global Forum in Paris noted that the global political landscape is making that goal difficult.

“With time, yes, we’ve been extremely complacent with the pampering of Silicon Valley,” founder of Spitzberg Partners and former Minister of Defense for Germany Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said. “It took us a while to understand where the opportunities are.”

The panelists acknowledged that there’s been a lull among serval European countries when it comes to developing new technology. Still, Guttenberg noted that its rich history, with manufacturing as one example, can be applied to new advances including AI, automation, and blockchain.

But despite the desire to reinvigorate Europe’s technological achievements, efforts have been stymied by global politics.

Guttenberg explained movements like Brexit encourage isolationism rather than working as a regional force, and global conflicts make it harder to know where and how to invest.

Increased tension between current tech superpowers U.S. and China leave those in Europe overly cautious and, in some cases, even worrying that they’re next. With friction and an ongoing trade war between the two countries, Samsung’s President and Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn added that European investors face new complex challenges.

“I’m quite sure, with the way things are going with the U.S. and China, that the U.S. will want to squeeze Europe,” van Oranje said. “Even if the next president is a Democrat, I don’t know if much will change there.”

But it’s also served as a motivator. As the U.S. proves to be a less reliable collaborator, European companies are taking an innovate-it-yourself attitude. Guttenberg said that Europe can no longer rely on Silicon Valley “doing our homework for us.”

More must-read stories from Fortune’s Global Forum:

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—The disruptive e-commerce revolution is benefitting big cosmetics brands
—How businesses are again pulling governments forward on climate change
—When it comes to rare earths, the U.S. still depends on China
—CEOs could be our best hope for fighting climate change and income inequality
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