It may seem an odd question, but it is one that occurs to me as I sit in a Zaragoza auditorium at the opening of Innovate!Europe, the first outing for a conference that is intended to stir the up and invigorate technology innovation across the continent, as well as put small business people together with local venture capitalists.
I shall try to avoid being political about European Governments and the huge cock-up they have perpetrated over the `constitution' (which is really a Treaty document which would have caused no fuss at all if it had but been called that rather than the `C'-word), but one of the things that emerged from the first morning's presentations and discussions was simple. Europe is a fractured collection of small markets based on countries that can often barely pretend to like each other. There may be talk of a `single European market', but for many politicians it is empty rhetoric that they would not in their worst nightmares actually want to see happen.
The upshot is that European start up operations are ham-strung before they start by the sizes, attitudes and cultures of markets available to them. Some complain that can't sell in their own market - because they are local to that market. Others complain that it is all but a waste of time trying to sell into some other national markets (no names no pack drill, but George Bush hates them) because they are not of that market.
At the risk of slipping into dewy-eyed nostalgia, I can remember the old days of British company management. And no, it was not all wonderful way back then. In fact, it can be argued that most British company managements were (sorry, technical term coming....) crap. They often couldn't pull the legs off a gnat, let alone pull staff and departments into a coherent team capable of working to a common goal. Actually producing something worth selling often came a poor second to political infighting over petty issues such as who got to eat in the `executive dining room'.
Needless to say, buying anything from such companies was not often high on the agendas of other businesses around the world that should really have been thinking otherwise. Many of those companies are long gone, and as this model is now being played out amongst European nations one can only start to surmise on the prognosis if the rest of the model plays out as it has done before.
It was hardly surprising, therefore, that one of the common themes to emerge from the conference was that it is far easier for European companies to sell into the US markets than their own backyard. It is easier because the US is seen as a single homogenous entity (OK, that is a gross over-simplification but it is reasonable perception when compared to the Little Englanders, Francais Petit and the rest of the parochials,). What is more, when they are successful they are often snapped up by US companies that see the opportunities presented by exploiting the hell out of the acquired technology. In turn, the VCs that have put up some money get a quick kill - not a bad thing in its own right, but perhaps a short-term option that doesn't reap the full rewards that might be possible from a later IPO.
OK, that promptly points to another parochial problem - which stock market to use for such an IPO. It is no wonder that, despite the fact that Europeans are actually rather good at innovating in technology, the European VC community is relatively speaking rather puny.
What to do about it? Well, of course, if I knew I sure as hell wouldn't tell anyone till I'd exploited the idea, but if European companies are not to get swamped by the coming Chinese invasion of our markets then the parochial barriers will have to come down, or be pushed down. There is an entirely different argument to be had as to whether any of this is a good idea at all, and that we should go back (or is it forward?) to a slower, more aggrarian style of life and eschew all this high finance and high tech rubbish. There's a bit of me that actually quite likes that idea (and yes, I appreciate the irony of writing that on a laptop PC for uploading to a blog). Let's just note that my own private protest at the conference took the form of using a notebook and pen - real, trustworthy technology that has no Microsoft IP in it at all!
And what has this to do with the stated aim of Banks Statement to cover infrastructure issues? Well, maybe the way enterprise IT infrastructures are heading is a model European markets can exploit - loosely-coupled but all contributing to the same fundamental strategies and goals, ready to change and adapt at a moment's notice.
Well, one can dream..........