August 30, 2022

Lighting the Path

Framing a Transatlantic Technology Strategy

Executive Summary

The world’s leading powers are engaged in an unprecedented technology competition. Autocratic regimes are advancing a vision for technology use—a techno-totalitarianism that entrenches authoritarian rule—that directly opposes the interests of democratic states. This vision, which includes control over key economic inputs, the domination of supply chains, breakthrough capabilities in emerging technologies, and unfettered surveillance, threatens to upend a decades-old rules-based system that promotes economic competitiveness and freedoms, supports democratic values, and protects fundamental rights.

How this technology competition unfolds will shape the global economic, political, and military balance for decades. Collaboration among the world’s tech-leading democracies will be essential to maximize the odds of a favorable outcome. Perhaps the most important factor in this dynamic is reimagining the long-standing transatlantic partnership to meet this challenge.

To succeed, the United States and Europe must compete or risk ceding the competition to autocracies. They must be guided by a strategy that matches the moment. Yet no such strategy currently exists. This report aims to light that path by developing the contours of a transatlantic technology strategy.

This framework has a two-part approach. First, it identifies persistent friction in technology policy between the United States and Europe. The transatlantic partners must align approaches, when possible, and manage disagreement in the relationship to pave the way for a cooperative agenda. Second, this report advances a promote and protect agenda to ensure U.S. and EU economic security and long-term technological competitiveness. The report covers seven areas in which transatlantic cooperation will be key: artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, clean energy technology, information and communications technology and services (ICTS), quantum information science and technology (QIST), semiconductors, and standard-setting.

This report offers concrete, actionable recommendations to maintain the transatlantic partners’ technological edge, ensure economic competitiveness, and protect democratic values. Ultimately, the report charts a blueprint for transatlantic success in a wide-ranging and consequential technology competition.

Summary of Recommendations

Lighting the Path lays out recommendations to secure the United States’ and Europe’s technological leadership and economic competitiveness and promote technology use in line with the interests and values of democratic countries. The study offers U.S. and European policymakers recommendations to deal with rifts in the transatlantic technology relationship, build the foundation for cooperation, and advance a protect and promote agenda across seven critical technology areas.

MANAGE RIFTS IN THE TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONSHIP

To better collaborate on technology policy, the United States and Europe must work to manage rifts in the relationship. A profound disagreement centers on data governance and privacy, where Europe is well ahead of the United States in codifying its views into law and policy. The United States lacks global influence on data protection and privacy issues and may struggle to mitigate associated national security risks because of its patchwork of laws.

To prepare the United States for data-driven economic growth and technology competition, Congress should:

  • Enact a national data protection and privacy law.

To pave the way for enhanced cooperation in data governance and in competition and antitrust policy, the United States and Europe should:

  • Focus on privacy-enhancing technologies.
  • Adopt Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) common principles on government access to data to harmonize transatlantic policies.
  • Stand up a transatlantic competition policy group.
  • Include start-up investors in competition dialogues.

CRAFT AN AFFIRMATIVE AGENDA

Talent, research and development (R&D), and shared goals should underpin a transatlantic technology strategy. To foster a collaborative innovation base, the United States and Europe should:

  • Prioritize talent.
  • Invest in joint R&D.
  • Identify technologies of shared strategic interest to guide cooperation.

CRAFT A PROTECT AGENDA

Alongside advancing an affirmative agenda, the United States and Europe must strengthen their protect tools. To enhance transatlantic coordination, the United States and Europe should:

  • Align export control and investment screening processes.
  • Collaborate on monitoring and enforcement.
  • Pursue ad hoc coalitions of countries that impose export controls on chokepoint technologies judiciously.
  • Start a transatlantic dialogue on outbound investment controls.
  • Advance a new multilateral export control regime.

ADVANCE SECTOR-SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS

The transatlantic partners must lead in critical technologies, including in AI, biotechnology, clean energy technology, ICTS, QIST, semiconductors, and standard-setting. To enhance their advantages in these fields, the United States and Europe should carry out the following steps in the following areas:

Artificial Intelligence

  • Develop joint regulatory sandboxes.
  • Ensure the compatibility of underlying standards that guide the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s AI Risk Management Framework.
  • Develop a joint AI research initiative to inform standard-setting activities.
  • Pair the technical standards and innovation agendas.

Biotechnology

  • Invest in systems and processes for predicting and mitigating risks.
  • Collaborate on reforming the regulatory regimes that govern the biotechnology field.
  • Establish ongoing U.S.-EU dialogue on ways to manage biosecurity risks.
  • Partner on developing norms and standards across the biotechnology field, particularly in areas with sensitive data concerns.

Clean Energy Technology

  • Map shared risks stemming from dependence on raw materials.
  • Develop shared approaches to counter distortive industrial subsidies from competitor nations.
  • Collaborate on strategies to mitigate reliance on foreign clean energy technology suppliers.
  • Share best practices on innovating financing for clean energy.

Information and Communications Technology and Services

  • Incentivize open radio access network (RAN) development and deployment.
  • Coordinate open RAN risk assessments.
  • Craft a transatlantic 6G strategy.
  • Conduct research on improving the energy efficiency of data centers.

Quantum Information Science and Technology

  • Collaborate on research security best practices in the QIST field.
  • Bolster transatlantic capabilities and collaboration for assessing QIST developments and trends.
  • Identify potential bottlenecks and vulnerabilities in the QIST supply chain.
  • Build new and ongoing bilateral and multilateral partnerships to boost QIST collaboration.

Semiconductors

  • Coordinate economic security policies.
  • Counter distortive industrial semiconductor subsidies from competitor nations.
  • Maintain close coordination and information exchanges on their own semiconductor development and strategies.
  • Avoid a subsidies arms race to reduce risk of World Trade Organization (WTO) litigation.
  • Establish subsidies guardrails, such as placing restrictions on investments in China.

Standard-Setting

  • Leverage the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) to coordinate the promotion of certain standards.
  • Reform standard-setting organizations to bolster their integrity.
  • Provide incentives for companies to participate in standard-setting activities.
  • Take leadership contests seriously.
  • Bolster standards expertise by expanding and training a workforce engaged in standard-setting activities.
  • Appoint standards coordinators to centralize issues that pertain to standard-setting and to streamline transatlantic cooperation.

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Authors

  • Carisa Nietsche

    Associate Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Carisa Nietsche is an Associate Fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at CNAS. She specializes in Europe-China relations, transatlantic technology policy, and threats ...

  • Emily Jin

    Former Research Associate, Energy, Economics, and Security Program

    Emily Jin is a former Research Associate for the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at CNAS. Her research focuses on U.S.-China competition over regional influence and gl...

  • Hannah Kelley

    Research Associate, Technology and National Security Program

    Hannah Kelley is a Research Associate with the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. Her work focuses on U.S. national technology strategy and international cooper...

  • Emily Kilcrease

    Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Emily Kilcrease is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at CNAS. Her research focuses on the U.S.-China economic relationship; alignment...

  • Megan Lamberth

    Former Associate Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Megan Lamberth is a former Associate Fellow for the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. Her research focuses on U.S. strategy for emerging technologies and the k...

  • Martijn Rasser

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Technology and National Security Program

    Martijn Rasser is the former Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Rasser served as a senior intelligence ...

  • Alexandra Seymour

    Former Associate Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Alexandra Seymour was an Associate Fellow for the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. Her work focuses on artificial intelligence, defense innovation, semiconduc...

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