Courtois Joins Call for Europe to Lead in Innovation

BRUSSELS – Nov. 12, 2009 – Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, and other European thought leaders today called on the European Union to use innovation in technology to fuel a new era of growth.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, says that when it comes to making investments in growth, Microsoft is “walking the talk” in Europe.

Courtois joined European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Brussels to discuss how to improve European creativity and innovation. Europe’s future depends on the imagination of its people more than ever, Courtois, Barroso, and others said in a two-page manifesto supporting the European Commission’s Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009. Courtois has served this year as a European Commission Innovation Ambassador. 

In the manifesto, the group calls on Europe to use creativity and innovation to promote education, research, and personal, social and economic development.

“It is our sincere hope that this manifesto will serve as a valuable guide to assist the new European Commission in its critical mission to drive innovation and creativity forward in Europe,” Courtois said during the press conference, speaking on behalf of all the ambassadors. “It has been my honor and pleasure to be a part of its creation, and I look forward with great anticipation to the results we hope it will drive for Europe.”

Courtois said that he takes the topic very personally. “I see the potential for technology to radically transform our ability to tackle many of the big societal challenges we face today, such as delivering more efficient healthcare and creating an environmentally sustainable planet,” he said. “As advancements are made in these areas, jobs will be created. It is only through the proper investments in skills today that Europeans will be equipped to excel at the jobs of tomorrow.”

In an interview before the press conference, Courtois said that Microsoft can and will help Europe become more innovative.

“It’s a time when many government and business leaders are open for new ideas and open for innovation to redefine their growth trajectory,” he said. “I think Microsoft is incredibly relevant with the new innovative products we are about to deliver to European customers, like Office 2010 and our cloud offerings. This is a great moment to seize the opportunity in Europe.”

Europe is extremely important to Microsoft, Courtois said. The gross domestic product of the European Union is the largest in the world, and more than one-third of Microsoft’s business is done there. With the research and development investments that the company is making, Microsoft embodies the creative and innovative drive the European Commission wants to promote, he said. 

However, both Europe and Microsoft face challenges in this drive for innovation and creativity, Courtois pointed out. “The EU needs to create more interest and excitement over science and technology so students embrace those careers,” he said. It also faces diversity challenges and needs to encourage more women to enter the tech industry. For its part, Microsoft is also investing locally in programs such as the Microsoft IT Academy to provide students and faculties with critical IT skills.

In March, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer helped celebrate Courtois’ 25 years at Microsoft.

Microsoft has helped drive innovation for years in Europe, Courtois said. When it comes to making investments in growth, the company is “walking the talk,” investing some $600 million a year locally in research and development. Roughly 18 percent of the company’s global workforce—nearly 16,000 employees—works in Europe, with about 2,000 of those dedicated to research and development.

In addition, Microsoft has more than 40 R&D and innovation centers in Europe. These include an international research lab in Cambridge; development and innovation centers in Copenhagen, Zurich, Oslo, Aachen and Dublin; and Search Technology Centers in Paris, London and Munich. Microsoft also collaborates with European partners on research: the Microsoft Research-INRIA Joint Center was founded by the French National Research Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (INRIA) and the Microsoft Research Cambridge Lab.

Courtois was the lone representative from the business community among the ambassadors who met with the European Commission president today. The Innovation Ambassadors are a diverse group that includes a fashion designer, a chef and a microbiologist. Courtois has worked in Europe’s tech industry for more than 27 years, and he said IT has been a strong contributor to growth during that span and will continue to be one in the future.

At the press conference, Courtois talked about the ways that technology and software can enable innovation and job creation, noting in particular the role IT can play in the face of challenges such as climate change. One example of this is the work Microsoft did with the European Environmental Agency to launch Eye on Earth, a Web site that lets citizens track environmental data, such as carbon emissions and air quality, and offers solutions for them to take action.  

 The European Year of Creativity and Innovation aims to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development; to share best practices; to stimulate education and research; and to promote policy debate on related issues, according to the European Union’s site. 

“The economic, environmental and social crises challenge us to find new ways of thinking and acting,” the group wrote in a two-page manifesto released during the press conference. “To be at the forefront of this new world, Europe needs to become more creative and innovative.”

Among other priorities and recommendations, the manifesto called on the European Union to promote a strong, independent and diverse cultural sector that can sustain intercultural dialogue and to support business innovation and intellectual property rights that contribute to prosperity and sustainability.

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