No “Big Tech” in Europe

An interesting repeated motif in the anti-trust conference I attended yesterday in Brussels was the assertion that there is no big tech in Europe like there is in America and that Europe is sandwiched between big country (China) and big tech. The question I kept wanting to ask is “why is there nothing you recognise as 'big tech' in Europe?”

I did ask a few of the speakers this question and they seemed slightly bemused by it. The most stupid answer was someone who should know better saying Europe had spent all its energy on regulation and none of it on innovation – you may guess that was someone from the merger industry!

It's not like Europe has never had big tech. The dominant technologies in mobile phones arose from a European context and I can think of several other examples of world-monopolising technologies which have arisen in Europe in previous generations. I don't think it's overregulation either, although I defer to subject experts on that.

What I do wonder is whether the legacy big tech of the mobile & consumer electronics industries has a resulted in the regulatory capture of European standards by the winners of that event, and that has led to the stifling of each new technology wave as it has commenced in Europe. What innovation has happened has then moved elsewhere to avoid the problem, usually by acquisition.

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