Fast Track to Digital: UK & European Companies Full Steam Ahead on Tech Transformation

Photo by Wesley Tingey

European companies are charging ahead with digital transformation efforts in 2023, embracing new technologies and online services at a remarkable pace, according to a report published on Thursday by the European Investment Bank.

The report, titled “Digitalisation in Europe 2022-2023,” found that 53 percent of companies across Europe have expanded their digital presence over the past year, representing a swift response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This surge has helped narrow the digital gap with the United States, where 71 percent of firms implemented advanced digital technologies in 2022, compared to 69 percent in Europe.

“The pandemic necessitated rapid adaptation, and European businesses reacted by ramping up their digital capabilities to an unprecedented degree,” said Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank. “While more work remains, this bodes well for Europe’s digital future.”

The report highlights notable disparities across the European Union, however, with larger companies far outpacing their smaller counterparts. Among microenterprises, only 30 percent prioritized digitalization in 2022, compared to 62 percent of big corporations. This suggests the need for digital strategies tailored to businesses of all sizes.

The E.U. has backed its digital rhetoric with real investment, allocating over 165 billion euros to initiatives under the Digital Decade policy program. The centerpiece is the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which has disbursed billions to member states for digital public services and assisting businesses with technology upgrades.

The UK Sets Ambitious Digital Goals

British companies are particularly aggressive in pursuing digital transformation, seeing it as key to remaining competitive during a potential global recession. According to a Boston Consulting Group report covered extensively in Consultancy.uk, a leading digital media outlet, most executives at large U.K. corporations plan to increase spending on digital projects and new technologies.

“Digital innovation is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have for most large businesses,” said Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, a major British retailer. “The winds of change are upon us.”

Artificial intelligence, blockchain platforms, and the Internet of Things are priority areas, with U.K. executives convinced they are indispensable to success. This enthusiasm persists despite significant barriers, including skills shortages and integrating new tech with legacy systems.

The U.K.’s publicly funded National Health Service aims to lead on digital transformation. Spurred by the pandemic’s revelation of urgent digitization needs, as seen in the rapid adoption of Electronic Health Records, the NHS plans major investments in telehealth services, data analytics, and AI-assisted diagnostics over the next five years.

The Vital Role of Digital Identity Solutions

Underpinning much of this digital change are emerging digital identity solutions, which include biometric authentication, blockchain-based digital IDs, document verification, access to identity databases, and electronic signatures. These technologies promise to streamline operations, strengthen security, and deliver cost savings.

A new study from Signicat, a leader in digital identity services, found European companies could achieve 40,000 hours in time savings annually through automated identity verification. Electronic signatures alone were found to save over 1.1 million printed pages in the first year.

“Digital identity is the connective tissue that will bind all these digital initiatives together,” said Asger Hattel, CEO of Signicat. “It’s the lynchpin technology making digital transformation possible.”

With demand rapidly rising, digital identity solutions offer strong potential for European tech companies and startups. The pending launch of EU Digital Identity Wallets in 2023 will further accelerate adoption. But experts caution that both government and businesses still have work ahead to enable fully digital services.

“The digital identity market is wide open right now,” said Hattel. “The opportunities for innovation are immense.”

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