Today the European Union unveiled its web 4.0 and virtual worlds strategy. With estimates that the global metaverse market size will grow from €27 billion in 2022 to €800 billion in 2030, the EU wants to make its mark. In particular, it has concerns that the infrastructure is being developed in the U.S. and China. Hence it plans to create locally and be a standard setter.
“We will take this competitive edge to the next level and connect virtual world developers with industry users, invest in the uptake and scale-up of new technologies, and give people the tools and the skills to safely and confidently use virtual worlds,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.
Regarding business support, it is likely to launch a Horizon funding program in 2025. The previous Horizon 2020 program dispensed around €75 billion in finance over six years.
A report accompanying the announcement points to a raft of U.S. companies working on metaverse technology including Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, Unity, Roblox, Snap18 and Epic Games. In China, Alibaba, Baidu, NetEase and Bytedance each have metaverse strategies and the three big mobile operators created a metaverse industry committee.
Against this backdrop, where does the EU stand? “Contrary to these countries, in the EU there are no tech-giants to lead the investment in the development of virtual worlds over the next decade. However, the EU is strong in research and innovation for middleware and software,” said the report. Additionally, it believes it has an edge in content, culture and language diversity and has a strong position in gaming, media and entertainment.
Jobs are also on the line. One estimate predicts that by 2025 Extended Reality (XR) could create new European jobs for 860,000 people in the tech sector. Additionally, there could be 1.2 million to 2.4 million new jobs in other sectors, either directly or indirectly.