We are working on a smart, green and healthy metropolis of the Future. In the Global Giants scenario, there are a number of forces that help with that. At the same time, there are also threats. What should and can we do to take the right steps in this scenario?
Profit-driven technological revolution
The combination of harmonized international standards with free trade creates an optimal climate for breakthrough technologies. Europe invites large companies to jointly formulate innovation missions, on which it then focuses its innovation funds and the funds and measures from the Green Deal. Companies invest heavily in the use of new technology. The leaps in the field of robotization, artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, new production techniques and high-tech materials are almost impossible to keep up with. The technological revolution is bringing many benefits to users, but it has also shaken established business models, sectors and value chains: from logistics to business services and the financial sector. All this innovation is in the service of efficiency, speed and cost reduction. The social contribution and social impact that technology can make is of secondary importance to companies.
Technological development is leading, and when it is economically attractive or with the aid of subsidies, it is used to take steps towards a climate-neutral and circular economy. A large number of companies no longer invest in climate-damaging or linear processes, because it simply does not yield enough for them. At the same time, there is a danger that companies will pay less attention to local issues and their local footprint. And is the government in the balance: are we forcing them to take this into account or are we scaring them off too much? The following applies to citizens: those who can afford it, have their house made more sustainable and buy organic food.
Technology is also used in the field of health to stay healthy more cheaply. Europe is enforcing companies to respect the privacy of citizens. As a result, some services from tech companies are not available in Europe. Emergency buttons have been built into European rules, making it easy to temporarily put security above privacy in a crisis. Where Europe stands for a European free data market, large platforms want to monetize data by quickly conquering the market. Citizens only participate indirectly in this debate and countries and regions can hardly take their own course. The danger here is that people will turn away from this digital society.
Despite the benefits and prosperity that technology offers the MRA, not every resident benefits equally. Dichotomy has arisen in terms of access to technology and labor market perspectives. Talent moves internationally and the MRA is an attractive place for them. At the same time, not all people can secure a place in the labor market. It is not self-evident for companies to commit to this. This means that local authorities must play a greater role in this. Especially when it wants to maintain prosperity throughout the metropolis.
Winner takes all companies and regions
Large, international, mostly technological, companies are more steering than ever. They know how to attract the best international talent and capital and can therefore innovate and grow even faster. Although startups in the MRA have plenty of room to experiment in this liberal climate, they are bought up by the big tech giants at the first signs of success. It is ‘eat or be eaten’.
Consumers want the very latest, preferably for the lowest possible price. The small retailer has disappeared from the shopping street, outcompeted by the large retail parties and web shops that are benefiting from the low prices on the global markets.
Governments try to please multinational companies and give them a lot of influence. This is being done successfully in Europe, which means that we still play a significant economic role. Large differences do arise between rich and poor and between urban and rural areas. This is also the case within the Amsterdam region. Due to the permanent change to largely working and distance learning, the more rural and suburban residential areas have become relatively more popular among digital nomads, especially when significant investments were made in connectivity. For companies it is less important to be located in the city, their employees can now log in from anywhere.
Yet agglomeration benefits still lead large companies to the European cities of significance. In this scenario, urban regions try to attract companies that make a positive contribution, but they realize that this may mean that parties can opt for regions with fewer requirements and more tax benefits. Due to the strong international connectivity and infrastructure, the digitized service economy in the region and the offering of attractive location factors, the MRA is a popular location for (European) specialized head offices. The MRA is also still important in the international trade of food and fresh products. Due to its success, the quality of life and the infrastructure of the region are under pressure. The conversation about economic growth versus widespread prosperity is hardly on the agenda anymore.
A positive business case
In the Global Giants scenario, it is large companies that rule, while Europe mainly focuses on perfecting the internal market and quickly reaching political consensus. The companies mainly focus on a positive business case in the short and medium term. Only if it strengthens their competitive position, for example in the battle for consumers and talent, do these companies invest in clean and fair products and processes. Renewable energy or circular raw materials, for example, increase security of supply and price stability and therefore have value for companies. A focus on the environment and climate can benefit companies in the war on talent or in tapping new target groups, but it is not an end in itself. To accelerate transitions in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, governments can help companies make the business case positive, provide access to start-ups and remove scientific knowledge and obstacles.
The Global Giants scenario is part of the MRA scenarios.
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