CEO briefing 2014—Europe: Growth in a digital world

Read Europe’s C-suite views on economic growth, and how they can leverage digital technologies to rebuild competitiveness.


As business confidence returns globally, the 2014 Accenture-Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) research takes a look at how the European Union (EU) can benefit from the digital revolution and use it as a powerful lever to rebuild competitiveness.

We surveyed executives from the five largest EU economies—Germany, United Kingdom (UK), France, Italy and Spain—and found that their enthusiasm for leveraging digital technologies is less than that of C-suite executives outside the EU. For example, just 25 percent German executives say digital technologies offer a means of growing sales. This is alarming, especially, when 68 percent of the US executives and 77 percent of Chinese executives are focusing their investments in new digital technologies as a means to drive growth.

Our study also reveals that EU has high penetration rates across broadband, mobile and smartphones as well as strong e-government services. Thus, it is in a good position to exploit its strong performance in technology adoption to shape its economic future and competitive differentiation.

Read the global survey results.

Key Findings

The study reveals:

  • EU executives’ optimism for the world’s economic prospects is more muted than their global peers: While 44 percent of the executives globally are bullish on the world’s economic outlook, this figure rises marginally to 48 percent for UK but falls to 30 percent for Germany, and 31 percent for both France and Italy.

  • Missing the boat on digital competitiveness: 61 percent of the respondents globally recognize the importance of digital technologies to improve the customer experience. However, the figure is only 49 percent for Germany and 51 percent for Italy.

  • Ambitious growth strategy in UK and Germany: Globally, 36 percent of the respondents aim to sell new products or services to new customers, and this rises to 50 percent amongst UK-based executives and 53 percent for those based in Germany.

  • Increased investment in R&D: Globally, 80 percent of the executives surveyed plan to increase their R&D investment in 2014, and the figure rises to 96 percent for Germany, 94 percent for Italy and 90 percent for UK.

  • Focus on emerging markets: Almost 82 percent German executives plan to shift focus from the BRIC countries toward other rapidly growing emerging markets, as do 74 percent of UK-based executives.


Given the battering European economies have taken in the wake of the financial and subsequent Euro crisis, most companies are more focused on rebuilding their businesses rather than prioritizing investments in cutting-edge technologies.

In a world where customers expect increasingly personalized engagement and intensifying competition in emerging markets, the pressure is on for European companies to adopt a new approach—one that may lead them to embrace digital technology—or be left behind.

We believe that as Europe has some of the world’s most advanced economies, industries and technology infrastructures, the digital technologies provide a unique opportunity for it to boost economic growth and drive competitive differentiation.

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