The field of information and digital technologies is becoming very complex. It is now essential for companies to understand the risks linked to a market or an environment before considering developing an activity. Every European company should therefore be aware of the issues related to technological sovereignty and the unlimited power struggles that states or companies with divergent interests engage in on its behalf.
Hope4Sec is a collaborative R&D group of consultants and engineers in the field of mathematical and algorithmic engineering. It has studied in detail the often unfair and anti-competitive practices of the Net/Tech giants in the provision of solutions/products/services. These experts have also analysed in depth the various techniques (legal, political, economic) used by a State/dominant company to monopolise or control a technological or industrial field, to ensure its hegemony or weaken a competitor country, to identify and buy up promising start-ups before they have even realised their value
Interview with Hope4Sec, a European technology group. Interview by Philippe Richard.
Can you present your general activity?
Hope4Sec is a collaborative R&D group of consultants and engineers in the field of mathematical and algorithmic engineering. Made up of three Estonians, one German and two French people, this group is supported by a European company for all matters relating to logistics and administrative and tax issues.
We, as members of the group, contribute to the design of information and system protection. The core of our approach is the protection of privacy, freedom and human values.
This activity is of two types:
- We receive requests from clients facing problems, innovation challenges or industrial needs and we propose solutions — from mathematical modelling to the implementation of a functional Proof-of-Concept (PoC) — allowing industrialization.
- We also design innovative solutions and then prospect clients interested in industrial applications in their field. This is for example the case of the technology presented below.
In both cases, we carry out a technology transfer and provide support for the client (technical, scientific, assistance with industrial production, skills development, etc.). Within the framework of our activity, we have decided to concentrate on the R&D part, on the initial design of solutions and the resolution of industrial problems.
We also carry out strategic analyses in the digital field, always with the protection of privacy, freedom and human values as our primary motivation.
What do you mean by strategic analyses?
The field of information technology and digital is becoming very complex. On the other hand, the interests (political, geopolitical, economic…) between the main economic blocks (USA, Europe, Asia) are diverging more and more. It is now essential for companies to understand the risks linked to a market or an environment (economic, political) before considering developing an activity. The human stakes are increasingly considerable and the fact that companies are unable to identify them (and therefore to manage them) poses a threat to their existence and their development.
Every European company should therefore be aware of the issues linked to technological sovereignty and the unlimited power struggles that states or companies with divergent interests engage in on its behalf. This starts with the choice of technological solutions. For example, we have studied in detail the often unfair and anti-competitive practices of the Net/Tech Giants in the provision of solutions/products/services, whether in marketplaces or products related to IT security, which aim to create dependencies that European companies will find difficult to escape. We have also analysed in depth the various techniques (legal, political, economic) used by a dominant state/company to monopolise or control a technological or industrial field, to ensure its hegemony or to weaken a competitor country, to identify and buy up promising start-ups before the latter have even realised their value.
Isn’t this far from your R&D activity?
In fact, it is quite the opposite. Scientific and technical knowledge alone is not enough. And strategic knowledge alone, without an awareness of what the technology can do to deal with complex and difficult environments, is also insufficient. One needs to understand the environment in which a technological solution can be developed. It is also necessary to understand what technology can do to solve society, economic and strategic problems. Societal trends, technological barriers and future market needs must be identified as early as possible. Moreover, strategic thinking about the technological choices to be made is left exclusively to political decision-makers who readily turn to foreign consultancy agencies that defend divergent interests.
If engineering is to be a carrier of our own values, we need to understand the real (and changing) nature of the world. And we must be able to help our clients across the spectrum. The engineer must (re)develop a deep knowledge of the world within the framework of strong and assertive human values.
How do you put your values into practice in your engineering activity?
First of all, and this is important, our values do not respond to a fashion or a trend. We have been carrying and defending them for years, often with a feeling of incomprehension and loneliness. Until recently, we had the feeling that we were out of step with society. The values of freedom, privacy, sovereignty and even societal ethics were, if not neglected, then at least put far behind the desire for profit. But recent crises, the shifting of power balances, the questioning of the forces at work, have increased the need for meaning to take precedence over profit. In other words, until recently, citizens and human beings were adjustment variables in a frantic race for profit. Now, the awareness that technology and profit must be at the service of society and human beings is growing and asserting itself. It underpins the growing and hardening confrontation between Europe on the one hand and the USA and China on the other.
In concrete terms, our choices and decisions are made with a DPO (Data Protection Officer) and an Ethical Officer, who then accompany us throughout the duration of the projects. They are involved in all decision-making processes, which are subject to the unanimity rule. We choose our clients and partners for their motivations and values and to ensure that they match our own. We systematically refuse to contribute to technologies that could harm individuals, organisations or the fundamental security needs of states and citizens. Finally, several essential principles are at the heart of our engineering approach: security, privacy, ethics, both by-design and by-default.
How do you finance your R&D activity? Isn’t it too difficult to find funding?
We have chosen to finance ourselves (own funds or funds generated by our activity). We are not interested in the race for funding. Apart from the fact that it is time-consuming and uncertain, it is above all a loss of freedom. An investor’s only motivation is profitability. We want to make a living from our work, but not at any price. We do not need luxurious offices or excessive resources. We have adopted digital nomadism, which allows us to work from wherever we want. In addition, the principle of complete technology transfer (with or without support) is a security for the client and an intellectual comfort for us. There are no surprises on either side. Mutual trust is the key word. Finally, each of us has chosen to remain tax resident in his own country. As a result, our financing needs are limited.