Seizing Europe’s Data Innovation Opportunity

Seizing Europe’s Data Innovation Opportunity

Damir Tomicic, CEO of Axinom, kindly invited by the Center for Data Innovation joined a thoughtful discussion in International Press Center in Brussels about the future of data policy in Europe, Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and the Cloud, including opportunities to build and expand on successes to increase the use of data throughout the public and private sector.

The list of distinguished panelists included Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Liam Benham, Vice President of Government Affairs, IBM, members of the European Parliament Michal Boni, Kaja Kallas and Victor NegrescuBeatrice Covassi, Deputy Head for the Data Value Chain Unit, European Commission, and Lenard Koschwitz, Director of European Affairs, Allied for Startups.

Pictures Copyright © The Center for Data Innovation, Brussels.


Damir Tomicic shared his thoughts on data innovation opportunity and his experiences with the panelists and the audience. His comments were much appreciated and contributed to an excellent discussion while receiving very good feedback from participants.

Here is the short summary:

Damir Tomicic, CEO, Axinom

I look to cook. If you check out my social media feeds, you’ll find lots of photos of dishes I’ve created. It occurs to me that cooking, once you’ve mastered your knife skills, is essentially an act of entrepreneurship. We experiment to find the right combination of flavors and textures and provide a new experience for our tastebuds. Along the way, a lot of experiments are, at best, eaten out of obligation and, at worst, just thrown away. If there was some kind of rule that we needed to know what something would taste like before we cooked it, we certainly wouldn’t have innovations such as SouVide.

Such is the task of an entrepreneur and innovator. We experiment with different potential solutions to problems and pathways to greater efficiency. Those experiments might be about the business model, technology or some combination that pairs the right consumers with the right solution. All too often here in Europe, we hamstring innovators with our low tolerance for failure. It’s often said that Europeans are “risk averse” but that’s nothing but common sense in an environment that insufficiently rewards sucess and overly punishes failure.

I don’t pretend to be a lobbyist or regulator, well versed in all the ins and outs of current proposals coming out of Brussels. I can only give my own impressions and share my experiences. My impression is that most innovation happens in the US where this experimentation is allowed to occur. Sure we hear about data breaches and companies that have stepped on their own tails but, over time, the innovation economy works through these challenges and we all find ourseves consumers of innovation from outside our borders. As a result, some of the best innovators in Europe simply leave to find an environment more condusive to their craft and that’s a shame.

The generation before mine experienced the change from mainframe computing to personal computing and all the innovation that happened during this process. My generation felt in love with the internet and changed the world for the better. It is hard to believe how fast the people in the world became a connected global community. So much happened in past 15 years and this trend is not losing its momentum. I strongly believe that the upcoming generation will experience even more exciting change and the wave of innovation while focusing on data opportunity.

So called “Big Data” and “Internet of Things” (IoT) are some of the most exciting new areas for innovation, promising better healthcare, less pollution, more efficient energy consumption, decreased crime and so much more. One of my favorite stories comes out of Portland Oregon. The city used technology to optimize the timing of its traffic signals and was able to eliminate more than 157,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions in just six years – the equivalent of taking 30,000 passenger vehicles off the roads for an entire year. And then there’s Helsinki.  With more 1,200 open data sets, the ability for startups and seasoned scientists to identify new opportunities and create new tools out of all that information is a huge part of Helsinki’s success story. 

This isn’t just some big company phenomenon but an incredible opportunity for enterepreneurs to facilitate European wide improvements in all aspects of the economy. At Axinom, we’ve been experimenting with data to provide our customers with a more personalised, engaging viewing experience for video-on-demand and live video streaming scenarios. While an ecommerce experience can be targeted by immediate signals of context like geolocation, clickstream behaviour, site-searches, cookies and campaign referrals, true personalization relies on data to drive the experience. And for our customers, Big Data is part of the equation.

By involving the collection, management and analysis of multiple sources of data, both structured and unstructured, from millions of consumers around the globe, Axinom empowers customers to personalise the consumer experience across channels – from personalised EPG to content recommendation  – and create personalised content streams for every single consumer on every single device in every single usage scenario – at home, in a hotel, hospital, plane, bus, train, and cruise ships.

It’s not as though we’re blind to all the possibilities in Europe. There are numerous research programs funded by the commission. The challenge has always been that seeking funds means following some complex set of rules that ultimately change the research. What’s needed is fewer rules and more experimentation. One of the best ways to facilitate innovation is to get out of the way and create an environment of increased flexibility for entrepreneurs in Europe.

We all know it’s a rule that you should have white wine with fish but if we never deviated from the rule, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Pesce al Sugo de Vino Rosso.