The three, arguably most important, European states for the last two centuries have been Britain, France and Prussia with the latter becoming the head of a unified Germany. Economically, militarily and, recently, politically in the formation of the EU, these three powers have played centre stage in European affairs of the past and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. A major event for all of these states was their transformation from a mercantile agrarian and even feudal society to an efficient, capitalistic, industrial economy. In some cases, this transformation was a quick process: in others, a slow punctuated affair. For each state, it was a watershed moment that helped secure their position as world powers and set in motion the policies that helped shape their respective positions in the modern world. Germany and France set the course for a policy of collusion between state and industry while Britain has and continues to follow the law of economics, letting the market set its economic policy.
Britain first began its process of industrialization, by some accounts, as early as 1740, while France's first attempt was in 1789 and Germany had to wait until after 1870. The importance of a strong economy in forming a strong state was well known. As states in question had to deal with budget shortfalls and increasing military expenditures. However it was Britain that took the first steps to industrialization, well ahead of the rest of the world.
Prior to Britain's industrialization, European states were technologically equivalent. The benchmark for technological development in this period can be found in the military. States were equally developed in that they all had knowledge of ironworking, gun powder and mathematics. Proficiencies in areas varied but all had a lead in certain fields. For example, the German states were renowned for their advances in mining processes.