O2 parent company Telefonica has announced the UK launch of its technology accelerator programme Wayra, and promised to invest €1m in the coming months.
The Wayra project was first launched by Telefonica in Aril, Spain, and Latin America in 2011 to connect start-ups with investors and mentors.
Telefonica chairman and chief executive, José María Álvarez-Pallete, said on Wednesday that the programme would be broadened out to the rest of Europe to help kick-start innovation, and to stop European start-ups fleeing to the US.
"There is innovation in the US, China and Israel but there is none in Europe," said Álvarez-Pallete.
"Those that do have innovative ideas jump to the US as there is no ecosystem here to support them. For us, with a big imprint in Europe, this is a problem," he added. "Innovation needs to stay where it was born."
The Wayra project starts out as a competition where start-ups are encouraged to pitch their ideas to Telefonica.
The most innovative projects are given access to Telefonica's resources, such as its communication and development teams, as well as external entrepreneurs and investors who have agreed to take part in the Telefonica scheme.
Each of the start-ups Telefonica supports are given €50,000 in return for a 10 per cent stake in their business. They are also given access to a workspace, which Telefonica calls a Wayra Acadamy.
There are now nine of these locations globally and Telefonica said Wayra had attracted 6,000 project applications since the programme's launch.
The UK Wayra Academy will be housed in central London and the projects Telefonica will support will be selected in May.
"As we speak we are opening calls for projects in the UK and asking young people to submit their ideas. This is the first Academy that we will be hosting 20 projects not 10," added Álvarez-Pallete.
He added that Telefonica had not chosen Tech City as the location for its Academy in the UK because it had been too difficult to find suitable accommodation before the Olympics.
Telefonica also said on Wednesday that it will be expanding its community "Think Big" programme.
"Think Big has been going on for three years but it has always been focussed on youth development programmes but now we will create a new ecosystem," Álvarez-Pallete added.
He also said that the new ecosystem would now supply students with workshops, apprenticeships and funding for idea.
"We want to think about the Steve Jobs of Europe. We will go to universities and ask them to join Telefonica."
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