A welcome boost for Europe’s innovators

It was back in June last year that the IEA presented a Sustainable Recovery Plan to help governments bounce back from the economic shock caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Produced in partnership with the IMF, the plan focuses on revitalising economies, boosting employment, while making energy systems cleaner and more resilient.

The IEA’s Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol, was very clear when he said: “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”

Many governments responded to that clarion call, not least the EU, with its €672.5 billion green recovery fund designed to help Europe ‘build back better’. Approved in February, – €265 billion of the fund is ring-fenced for the green transition in Member States.

However, what is often overlooked in terms of a country or region’s recovery or advancement is the fundamental role a vibrant innovator sector plays. Pre-pandemic, innovation leaders, such as start-ups and scale-ups had both economic and societal influence in Europe, and for the recovery post-Covid they will be vital.

So over recent months it’s been fantastic to see a number of specific developments geared towards creating at the European level a more integrated approach to supporting our innovators and disrupters: The launch of the Scale-Up Europe initiative; a new European Innovation Council; and the signing of the Startups Nations Standard of Excellence.

This article was originally published in The Guide

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Championed by President Emmanuel Macron, Scale-Up Europe brings together 150 European leading tech founders, investors, researchers, corporate CEOs and government officials, with the goal of accelerating the rise of global tech leaders born in Europe by focusing on addressing key issues surrounding talent, investment, start- up & corporate collaboration and deep tech.

At its kick-off meeting in March, Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, emphasised that “what is needed now is to see how all the different, vibrant innovation ecosystems everywhere in Europe, in our Member States, can be interconnected in order to address the issue of scale up. So for me, now is the right moment to be ambitious. To say very clearly that any scale-up in Europe can have easy access to the right talent, investment, data, information and customers.”

While Andre de Aragao Azevedo, Portugal’s Secretary of State for the Digital Transition, made clear that a more harmonised approach was fundamental to enabling the transformation of Europe into a “Start-up Continent” to rival the US or Israel. Currently, when it comes to seeking late-stage funding, it remains easier for those scale-ups to look outside of Europe to the US for that investment.

With a budget of €10 billion for the period 2021- 2027, the new European Innovation Council has a mission to identify, develop and scale-up high- risk, breakthrough technologies and disruptive innovations by supporting start-ups, SMEs and research teams developing solutions that contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Recovery Plan for Europe

While in March, 24 EU Member States and Iceland signed the Startups Nations Standard of Excellence that commits to support start-ups across Europe at each stage of their development. One of its most interesting commitments is the establishment at some point this year of a Startup Nations’ Hub to enable exchange of best practices among signatory countries and the creation of a common data platform for all Member States to provide valuable information across the EU.

Enlit Europe has long recognised the importance of entrepreneurs and disrupters in the energy transition, as well as engaging with next-gen talent, so in 2014 Initiate was launched. Initiate sits within Enlit Europe, and its programme aims to help accelerate innovation and work with emerging techs and next-gen talent to bring them into the heart of the energy industry.

And as part of Initiate’s Season 2 programme, we’re delighted to be introducing the Innovation Nation Series. Each episode will focus on the cleantech & energy tech innovation sector and entrepreneurial spirit of a particular European country, covering it from a policy, technology, educational, business and financial perspective in a live panel format. The first three countries under the spotlight are Germany, the UK and Spain.

Finally, before signing off, I recommend you read these two article in this issue of The Guide: ‘This could wean humanity off fossil fuels‘ and ‘Electricity’s circular economy‘. Both epitomise why innovative thinking and looking at a problem with fresh eyes are so vital if we’ve to be successful in transitioning to a low-carbon future.

Who would have thought of designing a wall of “living bricks”€ to enable a home to not only can generate electricity, but also clean water? The Active Living Infrastructure: Controlled Environment research team did. And who’s thinking of the looming issue of components of clean energy assets, such as electric vehicles or wind turbines, ending up in landfill at the end of their life? A circular economy project led by the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre is. Enjoy them both.

Take care!

This article was originally published in The Guide

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