The European Commission (EC) has launched a new accelerator programme for tech startups in Europe as it looks to catch up with California's Silicon Valley in terms of startup culture and success. The EC has also created a new think tank to allow Europe's most successful tech entrepreneurs to contribute to European policy.
The Startup Europe Partnership accelerator programme and the European Digital Forum think tank were both launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos and include founding partners Telefonica, Orange, the European Investment Bank, Nesta and the University of Cambridge.
The Startup Europe Partnership is intended to assist European tech firms to succeed on a global scale without being limited by the economic constraints of their home country. It will be led by the Mind The Bridge Foundation for tech startups and Nesta, a UK innovation charity.
The EC intends to make Europe's bigger businesses key players in the partnership, helping startups by providing tools and investment.
EC vice president Neelie Kroes said the Commission's job would be to let the businesses get on with it. "Europe needs thriving startups and global internet companies to become a global growth centre again. Politicians don't create jobs, entrepreneurs do," she said.
"We're going to support that mindset and push European startups beyond their comfort zone. And then we're going to get out of the way. Sometimes the best thing a political leader can do is get out of the way."
The European Digital Forum think tank will be managed by Nesta and The Lisbon Council. Members include Spotify co-founder and chief executive Daniel Ek, Rovio chairman Kaj Hed, former Tech City chief executive Joanna Shields and Niklas Zennström, co-founder of Skype.
José María Álvarez-Pallete, chief operating officer of Telefonica, said the gap between big firms and startups will need to be closed. "Boosting Europe's digital competitiveness needs policies that spur investment and kick-start growth, but at the same time we need to encourage and support innovation-driven entrepreneurship. Key to this will be to narrow the gap between startups and multinational corporations – which is one of the core objectives of the European Digital Forum."
Key issues continue to plague startups in Europe, including cagey venture capitalists and a dearth of workers with the right skills, so the long-term success of the Commission's startup projects will be based on how these issues are tackled.
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