Daily Archives: November 2, 2021

Europe’s strategic autonomy: A good idea, but poor PR

By Kinga Brudzinska – The idea of EU strategic autonomy originated in the field of security and defence in St. Malo Declaration (1998) and later in the 2016 EU Global Strategy. But it was not until French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at Paris’ Sorbonne University in September 2017 that the concept has started to evolve and expand to other policy fields (encompassing i.e. industrial and technological independence) and has gained ground in Brussels and the EU capitals.

In the face of the COVID-19 recovery, a rivalry between the US and China on the global stage and the EU’s ambitions to bolster its position in the world, the debate on Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and its freedom to act, has been receiving even more prominence. Not always in a positive sense.

While some European leaders see the EU’s ability to act autonomously and more independently from the United States as a political imperative to enable the continent to decide its own future without overly depending on others, others look at it with more reservation and skepticism.

For example, in Eastern Europe, together with the Baltics – countries’ with a strong pro-American orientation – fear that investing in European strategic autonomy will weaken the long-standing transatlantic bond and will become a synonym for protectionism, especially without the UK in the EU. There is also an old distrust in the EU, including in Eastern Europe, about France’s real intentions. As noticed by the Economist, in short, the idea of “strategic autonomy” and “sovereignty” has exposed old cracks within the European Union over how far Europe should, or could, do more to defend itself. more>

US consumer sentiment and behaviors during the coronavirus crisis

Amidst the Delta variant, US consumers exhibited strong optimism and spend in July and August, driven by higher-income and younger consumers.
By Tamara Charm, Janette Hwang, Jackie Laird, Nancy Lu, Jason Rico Saavedra, Andrea Leon, Daniela Sancho Mazzara, Anirvan Maiti, Kelsey Robinson and Tom Skiles – Given the recent surge of the Delta variant, we will continue to track changes in consumer sentiment and behavior as the next normal continues to evolve.

Consumer optimism and spending have remained strong

High levels of optimism and spend through July and August, even as the Delta variant spread in the US, have been driven by higher-income and younger consumers (optimism at 57 percent and 59 percent; spending growth of 11 percent and 15 percent year over year relative to pre-COVID-19 respectively). Lower-income and older consumers are less optimistic (optimism at 36 percent and 35 percent), and lower-income consumers in particular are spending less (spend declined 9 percent year over year relative to pre-COVID-19). While the intent to continue to splurge is less now than it was in February, it is still strong among younger, higher-income consumers.

Omnichannel is ascendant and here to stay

Even as consumers go back to stores, with 5 percent growth year over year in August, e-commerce sales also continued to experience strong growth, rising by about 30 percent year over year. This has meant elevated online penetration of about 30 percent higher than pre-COVID-19. Omnichannel shopping is ascendant, with about 60 to 70 percent of consumers across categories shopping/researching both in store and online and social media influencing up to 40 percent of consumers in categories like jewelry, accessories, and fitness. more>

How AI and PLM Maintain Order When Project Chaos Threatens

Resilient designers step up focus on smart connected products; the pandemic’s PLM tipping point.
By Peter A. Bilello – The working environments of designers are changing rapidly, according to CIMdata’s clients and partners.  Drivers of this change, which is both deep and far-reaching, include booming demand for countless new Smart Connected Products, new approaches to old problems (e.g. the application of Agile to all product development), new tools on designers’ desktops, and nonstop digital transformation—all swept up in the disruptions of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Designers are not alone in this; production workers, managers, and numerous enterprise processes have parallel sets of disruptions.  Smart Connected Products, for example, are growing ever more digitally complex, requiring frequent upgrades and rebuilds of manufacturing equipment. (Meanwhile, the output of virtually all simple but vital “nuts and bolts” items is completely automated; output is now often merely weighed rather than counted.)

Some specifics:

  • New approaches include artificial intelligence (AI, a.k.a. machines that think and self-adjust), Agile product development methods, and model-based systems engineering (MBSE)
  • New tools include machine language (an AI subset), topology data analysis (TDA), and new and more powerful design tools with endless enhancements to existing systems
  • Underlying new design approaches and tools is digital transformationNOTE 1
  • Tying all this together is product lifecycle management (PLM) with its digital threadsNOTE 2 and their associated digital twins.NOTE 3. In disrupted environments, PLM is unmatched for maintaining order when chaos threatens, i.e., for not losing visibility of information, assets, and processes or access to them

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Are “net-zero” climate targets just hot air?

The US, Australia, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia are aiming for net-zero. Does it mean anything?
By Umair Irfan – Corporations and countries around the world are promising to eliminate their contributions to climate change. But many of their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are prefaced by a slippery phrase: “net-zero.”

More than 130 countries have set or are considering net-zero emissions goals, and many are stepping up as they prepare for next week’s COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. The United StatesNew ZealandCosta RicaJapan, and Argentina all aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The European Union aims to be “climate-neutral,” another way of framing net-zero. Even Russia and Saudi Arabia (the world’s top oil exporter) now have net-zero emissions targets.

Private companies are getting into the game, too. At least 20 percent of the 2,000 largest companies have set net-zero emissions targets, including giants like Apple, Ford, and Microsoft.

But “net-zero” is different from zero emissions, and this nebulous term can obscure a lot of important differences in how countries and companies actually plan to limit their contributions to climate change.

There are no standards that govern what activities actually count as net-zero. “The ‘net’ is always there in front of the ‘zero,’ but the ‘net’ part is a bit vague, especially with country-level commitments,” Derik Broekhoff, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, told Vox.

When a country aims for net-zero emissions — as opposed to simply zero emissions — it’s essentially promising to balance out its climate pollution, so that overall, it doesn’t harm the global climate. more>