European Young Innovators Forum @ European Business Summit 2014: Europe for StartUps, vision 2020

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Written by Kumardev Chatterjee, Founder & President of European Young Innovators Forum

Kumardev Chatterjee

Kumardev Chatterjee, Founder & President of European Young Innovators Forum

Across the globe, there is increasing consensus that now is great time to be an entrepreneur and create a StartUp. Certainly, there are various factors that are fuelling StartUp growth today. Three of the primary factors are less investment in R&D and Innovation from big companies creating a space for innovation and disruption from outside, plunging tech and operational infrastructure costs of starting a business and increasing amounts of risk capital and support  available to help StartUps in those crucial first 18 months.

The picture on-the-ground out of Europe however, though slowly changing, still has much room for growth. In spite of more than 20 years of research and innovation funding, when it comes to global top ten lists, Europe usually merits just around two major StartUp hubs (London, Berlin) and two billion dollar StartUps (Spotify, Zalando). That is how it has been, for a few years now. In contrast, China, a much later entrant into the StartUp scene in general, and with much less history of innovation funding and market access in particular, already boasts nearly similar figures (Beijing and Shanghai, Xiaomi and Jingdong).  

Europe then, clearly has some bridges to cross in creating and sustaining globally competitive innovation ecosystems that routinely generate disruptively innovative companies. Meanwhile with the ascent of China and India in this area, and the continuing pole position of the US, changing the game is getting harder by the year.    

How can we significantly improve European StartUp activity and what does it mean for Europe?

My vision is a Europe that works for StartUps and Entrepreneurs through the full stage of the innovation lifecycle, from ideas to market take-up, powered by the talents, energy, enthusiasm, and innovations of young Europeans and supported by the necessary regulatory frameworks, access to finance and markets and environment for innovation ecosystems.

Europe for StartUps 2020 overarching goals should to create and sustain a vibrant StartUp economy in Europe that generates:

10000 new StartUps a year

2000 new seed stage funded StartUps a year

1000 growth stage funded StartUps a year

4 StartUps a year in Global top ten lists

3 StartUp every two years on average with Billion Dollar exits

250,000 new StartUp jobs per year 

2.5% of the job market covered by StartUp jobs

9.5% of total European GDP from StartUp activity (including exits)

The engagement, employment, volume, momentum and economic weight generated by the appropriate implementation of this vision will not only serve to firmly place Europe in the new and emerging world economic order but also, most importantly, rejuvenate the European narrative of collective peace, sustainable growth and lasting prosperity.

How can we implement a Europe for StartUps? 

Clearly, creating and sustaining a culture of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is crucial to achieving this vision. It is recognised that there are significant barriers to such a culture in Europe today. The main issues include limited market access due to a fragmented legal and regulatory landscape, sustained access to finance and support across all stage of the cycle and lack of skills to name a few. However, the fundamental issue holding back Europe, is the low-risk attitude of both citizens and industry and financial institutions towards innovation, i.e. a fundamental aversion to risk-taking that is proving counter-productive for development of an innovative and entrepreneurial economy. 

There needs to be a sustained two-pronged approach to overcome these issues and achieve this vision:

Fundamentally, we need a significant, ongoing promoting of an entrepreneurial, risk-taking culture for youth. We must change the mindsets of young people, encouraging their participation in the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. The focus should be to move them from their comfort zone to embrace the opportunities and challenges of innovation and entrepreneurship through StartUp formations, jobs and engagement in the innovation ecosystem.

This can be achieved by raising awareness on innovation and entrepreneurship amongst youth so they consider it as a serious alternative to traditional careers and embrace risk-taking. Equally important is increasing access for young innovators to skills training and mentors, finances and other resources to help them develop their early-stage ideas.

Simultaneously,  European governments, businesses, society and individuals need to support and reward such risk-taking by creating and sustaining an ecosystem for entrepreneurs that helps StartUps.

The European Parliament and Commission in particular, need to create and have adopted an unified regulatory framework tailored to the needs and conditions of StartUps, that supports the creation of new StartUps from early-stage ideas and their growth, market penetration and scaling-up. 

A Call to Action for a Europe for StartUps 2020

2014 will be a watershed year for innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe. The newly “pro-innovation” Europe is launching an extensive pan-European awareness and engagement campaign to promote entrepreneurship. The European Young Innovators Forum will be an integral partner of this initiative, with its large community of young innovators across Europe. Furthermore, the new EU Innovation programme Horizon 2020, with 80 billion EUR in funding over  the next 7 years, will serve to bolster a more entrepreneurial Europe. Particularly noteworthy is the approximately 2.8 billion EUR dedicated to funding innovative SMEs. 

EYIF will be at the heart of this mindset change in Europe. We will be conducting multiple activities and events across Europe where we will engage with more than 1500 young entrepreneurs and innovators, and mentor over 700 of them. For this, we will partner with the European Commission, European Parliament, US Department of State and strategic corporate partners to drive change through youth empowerment. The ICT Roadshow, the InnoTour USA, the Innovation Convention, the European Youth Event, the InnoApps competition, events at our Regional Innovation Hubs, and of course the 3rd annual Young Innovators Unconvention, will be EYIF’s cornerstone activities for 2014 to drive the development of an entrepreneurial culture. 

We call upon all minded individuals, businesses and governments to take action jointly with us to implement this vision for Europe starting now in 2014.

About the Author

Kumardev Chatterjee is the Founder and President of the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF http://www.eyif.eu). He leads the management of EYIF’s broad community of young innovators, entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs.He represents EYIF on various Expert Groups and Stakeholder Committees of the European Commission in the areas of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and ICT, in particular, web-entrepreneurship (DG Connect) and Digital Entrepreneurship (DG Enterprise and Industry). He holds a MSc. in Computer Science, from University College London (UCL), as a British Chevening Science Scholar.  Kumardev is a European Commission recognised, independent Expert and has been both published and quoted by the world’s leading media and institutions including the New York Times, the World Economic Forum, the European Commission and Microsoft.

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