Is The EU Supporting Its Startup Ecosystem Enough?

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Startups have finally started to gain some credit for their positive impact on the economy in Europe as well. While the EU was relatively slow in acknowledging this, initiatives have been launched to support innovation and strengthen the startup ecosystem. Hope is on the way!

London, Paris, Berlin. Arguably Europe’s top startup hotspots at the moment. However, if one looks a little closer, a stark difference comes to the surface: the degree of government involvement. While the UK and France made efforts to make their startup ecosystem visible, through financing brands such as TechCity UK, or La French Tech, the situation could not be more different in Berlin. Although recognized as one of Europe’s best startup hubs, the government’s implication has been low in comparison to its counterparts.

There are other places in Europe that foster the startup movement. Estonia, home to Skype, benefits from a “dense network of business angels”. The same goes for the Czech Republic. Ireland’s efforts have also been noticed as its government supports through several initiatives startups by offering funding. Moving up north, there have also been improvements in government implication with initiatives such as LaunchPad Denmark, or Finland’s Tekes organization.

In other words, things are improving, but not everywhere at the same rate. This is the reason the EU should act accordingly to speed things up if Europe is to stay an important trend setter in technology & innovation and not turn into a trend taker. In this article we will try to cover the most important initiatives aimed at boosting European innovation.

Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan

The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan is supposed to be “a blueprint of action to unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, remove existing obstacles and revolutionize the culture of entrepreneurship in the EU”. The project identifies three main areas that are the most in need for innovation:

  • Education and training on supporting growth and creating a business
  • Removal of administrative barriers and offering support to entrepreneurs
  • “reigniting” Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit while taking care of the next generation of entrepreneurs

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is another EU program with a funding of €80 billion which shall be spread over 7 years (from 2014 to 2020). Horizon 2020 “promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market”. The program is aimed at removing innovation barriers and ensuring Europe stays a place for world-class science. It is also the financial instrument through which Innovation Union is implemented (aimed at making Europe competitive globally). Innovation Union was born at the realization that Europe is struggling with an “innovation emergency” since the continent spends less percentage of its GDP than the US and Japan, while other players, such as China are rapidly catching up. Innovation Union presents itself as an “investment for our future”. Its target is to make Europe invest 3% of its GDP in R&D by 2020.

Startup Europe

Startup Europe is another project by the European Commission meant to nurture entrepreneurship and make it easier for tech startups to operate. It acts as an umbrella organization with different branches focused on solving specific problems the European startup ecosystem has. It aims to increase European innovation while at the same time improve the economy through growth and the creation of new jobs. More precisely, they organize their activities as follows:

  • Creating networks and connections
  • Celebrating entrepreneurship
  • Mapping the ecosystem
  • Strengthening the environment
  • Funding opportunities
  • Contributing to new policies

Startup Europe Partnership

Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) was established by the European Commission back in 2014. It is a part of Startup Europe, as the name suggests. SEP tries to tackle the problem that “Continental Europe currently does not create new business destined for growth as well as other parts of the world, Silicon Valley in particular”. As a solution, SEP offers a pan-European platform in order to support startups in the scale-up process. They aim is to achieve this by connecting European startups with corporates.

Startup Europe Week

The European Commission also promotes, together with Startup Europe a new initiative launched for the first time in 2016: Startup Europe Week. Their premise is that while most events aimed at celebrating innovation follow Silicon Valley’s format, Europe needs something different. They claim Europe needs an additional dimension to such events: regions. This is because local policies and regional diversity are far from being redundant on the old continent. Among the things they do the following are included: connecting local officers, investors, and corporates for improved local ecosystems, informing local ecosystems about what exists, offering consulting sessions on how to apply for a grant or open a company.

Accelerator Assembly

Again, the collaboration between the European Commission and Startup Europe, gave rise to what is known as the Accelerator Assembly. Its purpose it to facilitate connections among entrepreneurs, policy makers and of course accelerators. The program was initiated after realizing the fact that entrepreneurs still do not receive adequate support or resources for their startups. The Accelerator Assembly hopes to achieve this by managing an online community where entrepreneurs that can share experiences, enabling accelerators to form a community and come together to workshops and events, ongoing research to improve available data on European web startups and accelerators, as well as by bringing accelerators and policy makers at the same table to form connections.

ACE Acceleration, European Startup Network, Startup Europe Roadshow & Leaders Club

When it comes to startups in need of funding, the ACE Acceleration Programme is there to help with finding partners as well as with financing in order to accelerate your business across the border. Moreover, the European Startup Network is there to facilitate the global scale-up of startups, with the main aim to create a strong European startup ecosystem.Their approach is to connect national startup associations across Europe, so that an efficient exchange of talent, expertise and funding among European countries is possible. Some other programs worth mentioning are the Startup Europe Roadshow and Leaders Club which are intended to inspire entrepreneurship.

Startup Europe Advisory Board

Initiatives are many, however it is not as much their number that counts as how effective they are in bringing out the best of Europe’s startups. Probably is was exactly with this issue in mind that the EU set up the Startup Europe Advisory Board. The advisory board is supposed to evaluate the effectiveness of Startup Europe programs and reports results directly to the European Commission.

Even so, we still have to wait and see if bureaucracy will stay in the way of innovation, or if the EU will reach the levels of innovation it thrives to achieve in the coming years.



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