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Innovation needs to be free: Disruptive thinking was born to fight standardization

3 min read

Innovation needs to be free: Disruptive thinking was born to fight standardization

Last week, the European Parliament passed the single charger reform with an overwhelming majority, with 602 votes in favor and only 13 against. The reform, the first of its kind in the world, will make USB-C connectors the standard for mobile devices and laptops across the Union by 2024 and 2026, respectively.

In a comment, the Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said: “The common charger will finally become a reality in Europe. This future-proof law allows for the development of innovative charging solutions in the future, and it will benefit everyone - from frustrated consumers to our vulnerable environment.”

Many have celebrated the decision. This reform may seem, at first glance, a move towards greater convenience for European consumers. But as a famous economist once said, “there's nothing that does so much harm as good intentions.”

The political discussion that led to the decision started in 2009. Had it been quicker, Apple pointed out, the reform would’ve likely restricted the innovation that led to the creation of the very USB-C connector that will now become the technical standard across the 27 members of the European Union. It is a matter of balance. Both technical standards and room for innovation are needed but for different reasons. 

Innovation helps us improve products and services but also whole sectors of the economy, while technical standards enable us to quickly scale these innovations once they are introduced in the marketplace. But if we do not have enough room for innovation to flourish, we will, in simple terms, be stuck with obsolete solutions for longer than necessary.

Today, society is characterized by a multitude of major technological shifts, including digitalization, electrification, autonomous technology, and 5G, to take just a few examples. This is not the time to implement strict policies that hamper innovation. Instead, we need to do quite the opposite.

In Europe – but also across the world – we need to innovate our way out of a lot of the harmful dependencies that were created and sustained over the last few decades and of which we have to face the consequences. This is especially true for the transportation sector, where tens of thousands of diesel-dependent jobs must be replaced at unprecedented speed.

Even though charging standards for mobile devices and laptops may seem trivial, the European Union needs to tread carefully so it does not become too eager in its ambitions to create strict technical standards that will hamper innovation where it is most needed. When in doubt, let the power of technology and the brilliant minds that devote their lives to finding better solutions to today’s but also tomorrow’s problems have the freedom to act in these turbulent times. Because if Europe does not take the lead, someone else will.

Robert Falck

Einride CEO and Founder

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