Philip Carnelley (Associate Vice President)

It’s widely believed that European businesses are not exploiting advanced technologies such as AI as effectively as US or Chinese companies. Well, it is true Europe hasn’t (yet) spawned global giants like Google or Baidu. But I think there’s a more nuanced truth to this. European organisations are great at applying AI, if less good at creating platforms. There is a lot of business to be done this way. I could cite many examples of successful applications, but here’s one in particular.


European IBM Watson Challenge

Back in November 2018, I was invited by IBM to be a judge of its European IBM Watson Challenge. This was a “Dragons’ Den” style event where 32 IBM business partners, winnowed down from an initial submission of 155 prototypes, were each invited to present an innovative AI-based business solution and associated business plan to a panel of judges (the Dragons!) over two exhausting and intensive but exhilarating days.

The challenge was for the innovators to use the IBM Watson platform to support an AI-based solution which should have reached at least prototype stage. We judged the solutions on business potential as much as technical capability.

As well as the kudos and brand visibility from winning the event, the victorious company was invited to a worldwide grand final at IBM’s Think 2019 event in San Francisco, with considerable promotional opportunities at that event’s PartnerWorld stream and beyond for the winner.

In Europe, November’s winning team was Portugal-based Compta. I was delighted to see that Compta went on to win the global event in San Francisco in February — many congratulations to Vasco Correia and all the team at Compta!

Compta’s victory gave me my central idea for this blog post: that European companies are quite capable of competing globally in their exploitation of AI technologies. AI is not just a two-horse, US/China race. And, in further support of my thesis: one of my fellow judges was Paolo Mazza, CMO of BlueIT in Italy. BlueIT won last year — in Europe, then the global contest, just like Compta.

This year’s event series encompassed 500 solutions from 400 companies in seven global regions. So Compta’s victory was a real achievement. Yet choosing Compta as the European champion was not an easy task — the bar was set high. The innovative solutions that we in the European section had to choose from ranged from quality control for egg farms to optimizing hot water use in hotel showers.

But Compta’s offering, Bee2FireDetection, was a worthy winner, meeting a demonstrable global business need through technical innovation and cost-effectiveness, and with a persuasive business plan.

Bee2FireDetection provides early detection of fires in forests and industries, using advanced visual recognition and other techniques to alert fire fighters as quickly as five minutes from ignition. Furthermore, advanced predictive analytics can recommend measures to address the developing situation, such as where best to place fire breaks. Bee2FireDetection is now garnering attention from around the world, from Canada to Australia.

Congratulations to the winning teams, this year and last: European AI innovation can lead the world!


I’d love to know what you think about this topic, so please drop me a message at

For more on IDC’s research on European AI solutions please see European Artificial Intelligence Systems.

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