United through Innovation – our engagement with the European Tech ecosystemJun 10, 2020
On Thursday, 4th of June 2020, the European Young Innovators Forum hosted another webinar aimed at supporting the European innovation Ecosystem deal with the effects brought on by the COVID19 pandemic.
WeStandTogether: United Through Innovation was a little more different than our usual webinars due to the fact that it was aimed at helping the ecosystem enablers; incubators, accelerators and initiatives aimed at building up innovation across Europe.
The webinar panel was moderated by Nicholas Zylberglajt, President of the European Young Innovators Forum and Included high-level representatives from the European Innovation Ecosystem such as Razvan Anistoroaei | Policy Officer at the European Innovation Council, Julia Fenart | Head of European Affairs at France Digitale, the first organization of startups in Europe, Sandra Golbreich | CEO and Co-Founder at the Baltic Sandbox, a top incubator and accelerator from Vilnius, Juliana Geller | Head of Marketing at TechBBQ, one of the leading tech events in the Scandinavian area.
It attracted over 130 ecosystem enablers registrations and more than 80 live attendees on Zoom and our YouTube channel where the event was Livestreamed.
Topics discussed included the upcoming €500million plus that will become available for ecosystem enablers working on EU projects, during 2021 – 2028, which is already starting and will be able to help part-fund activities and priorities; the response from incubators and accelerators to the challenges brought on by COVID19 as well as best practices sharing; United Tech for Europe initiative from France Digitale; steps taken by TechBBQ for the upcoming months and years; policy recommendations from the Ecosystem Enablers for the European Commission.
€500million budget for EU projects
The session kicked off with a short presentation from the President of the European Young Innovators Forum followed by the representative from the European Commission, Razvan Anistoroaei who expanded on the work of the European Innovation Council (EIC), a crucial instrument part of Horizon Europe used to fund Innovation, Science & Entrepreneurship and also the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Razvan highlighted that the purpose of these institutions is to enable connectivity among the European Innovation Ecosystem.
When asked about the process of choosing the priorities for the upcoming funding opportunities, Razvan mentioned that they are taking into account a rule including 4 key elements: Capital, Competence, Connectedness and Diversity which are the primary criteria taken into consideration.
As a second element, he said that the European Innovation Council gathered players from the European Innovation Ecosystem and asked them what are the needs and challenges they are facing in enabling ecosystem development. Following this consultation with the key players, a report will be drafted and as soon as it is ready, the report will be published on their website.
Following the consultation with the ecosystem enablers, Razvan mentioned that Connectedness was the most important point discussed, no surprise that during the entire webinar, the topic of Connectedness came up many times with Capital not being any longer a big issue as more and more funds, public or private are available. When it comes to Competence and Talent, the main highlighted issue was the lack of connectivity between the two.
Regarding the amount of funding, Razvan mentioned that the requested budget of €500million is now in the process of being approved. When it comes to the destination of this amount, he mentioned 4 main destinations, and one of them is Connectedness, which is also expected to have the higher number of calls, the other three main destinations being EIC Forum, Scaling-up and Businesses in Europe. After a quick math, Razvan suggested that there might be around €10-€15million available for ecosystem enablers/year, but this is nothing concrete just yet.
Asked about his recommendation for how the ecosystem enablers should access these funding opportunities, Razvan said that they should be “prepared” and not wait until a call is published to apply for funding, they should already have in mind an idea about the consortium/network of partners and the areas of interest by the time the call is open for applications.
“Opportunity needs preparation, but opportunity without preparation might be useless and the other way around.”Razvan Anistoroaei, citing Seneca
COVID19 Response and adaptation
Moving on to the other invited panellists, Nicholas started a roundtable discussion on how the pandemic affected them and how they adapted. Julia Fenart, Head of European Affairs at France Digitale, which is the largest startup association in Europe representing 1500 Digital Startup in France and 100 Venture Capitalists and Business Angels, said that they had to throw away all their plans and to do list and create new ones to help startups really survive. A few steps in their new to do list included: 1) Extinguish the fire; 2) Help each other (Published a Startup Rescue Kit and United Tech of Europe) 3) Look ahead and adopt a forward-thinking mindset
Juliana Geller, Head of Marketing at TechBBQ, the biggest startup and innovation Summit In the Scandinavian countries, mentioned that as an event initiative they have been deeply impacted by COVID19, but their mission is above the event, to support the ecosystem. She mentioned TechBBQ will organise Startup Capital, a virtual event connecting 50 Nordic entrepreneurs with 50 investors. In September, TechBBQ will host another virtual event while the physical event will be postponed until a date when it will be possible, most likely in 2021.
Sandra Golbrech, CEO and Co-Founder of the Baltic Sandbox, a leading incubator and accelerator from Lithuania, said that they were not completely taken by surprise with the new COVID19 situation due to the fact that they were already running online events since 2019, but she agreed that there was a bit of chaos in the market in the first 3 weeks since the start of the pandemic. Baltic Sandbox also started a series of online events to support their startup such as Startup Fridays, trying to also understand how they can best help the startups navigate the crisis. Besides entrepreneurs, they also hosted a series of online classes to educate and better prepare the Business Angels, the success of this event is so popular that they had to already start the 3rd batch.
Online Engagement in times of crisis
Nicholas continued with another round of questions on how do they engage online, inviting the panellists to share best practices.
Starting with Julia, who mentioned people want to hear good news in a period when bad ones were the norm, saying they have been focusing on talents and recruitment, with startups still hiring despite the crisis. Juliana said that whatever they shared with their community was relevant and helpful and that is how they managed to keep the community engaged.
“We only exist as a startup ecosystem, if we are there for each other, we are stronger.”Juliana Geller-Head of Marketing @ TechBBQ
Tools and event formats to engage the community
Moving on with the session, Nicholas asked the first question received through the Q&A coming from one of the attendees, asking what tools do they use to engage the community and what formats worked best for them.
Sandra was the first to answer the question, who said that for them Facebook groups worked the best while Whereby was used for the webinars, while also mentioning emails. In terms of formats, making people talk to each other was the best way to engage. Juliana mentioned Hack the Crisis Denmark as well as the EUvsVirus Hackaton organised by the European Commission, with both events being very well welcomed by the Community, and in contrast to Sandra’s experience with Slack, Juliana mentioned that the platform was a real success during the EUvsVirus and managed to connect and engage over 20.000 people in order to work on COVID19 solutions. As for Community Management, TechBBQ was and is using LinkedIn and Facebook to engage.
Julia said that at France Digitale the best tool was Notion to share information, as well as the Newsletter and the tools mentioned by Juliana.
Going back to Razvan Anistoroaei, who represented the European Innovation Council, Nicholas touched down on the topic of the well-known now EUvsVirus Hackaton which was a Guinness record-breaking event in terms of virtual hackathons and the number of people engaged.
“The EUvsVirus Hackaton only shown that in face of such a crisis, the community is extremely helpful to each other and extremely dedicated.”Razvan Anistoroaei-Policy Officer @ European Innovation Council
Razvan said that the EUvsVirus was an extremely successful event, bringing together a very engaged and strong community even though people were literally working day and night to find solutions to the challenges brought on by COVID19.
How can the European Commission help the innovation Ecosystem?
When it comes to the expectation of the ecosystem enablers from the European Commission in such times, Sandra mentioned the 3 top priorities that she expects the EC to work on, with the first one being connecting the ecosystems, the second one funding for ecosystems and startups (initial funding for underfunded startups) while the third one would be Startup initiatives such as EUvsVirus should happen more often at an European level.
Juliana doubled down on the funding part for startups and startup initiatives and also pointed out that the European Union needs to train and Upskill more people while making it easier for tech talent to come and stay in Europe.
Julia from France Digitale endorsed what Sandra and Julia mentioned regarding more funding being needed asking for an ambitious European budget, mentioning that it would be extremely appreciated if the approved budget would be €600 or €700 million and not €500million as it was proposed. Julia doubled-down on the issue raised by Juliana from TechBBQ regarding the lack of tech talent and called for the European Union to work more on the soft skills of the workforce as well as bringing back the “brains” that went for example to Silicon Valley. Julia very well pointed out that the Digital Transition goes hand in hand with Green Technology, putting a focus on Impact Investment.
Towards the end of the panel session, the moderator took a final round of questions for the panellists coming from the attendees addressing topics such as Go To Market European policies, Ecosystems Fragmentation, Lack of Tech Talent and Bureaucracy challenges.
Priorities for the ecosystem enablers in the coming months/years
Before closing the panel, Nicholas Zylberglajt, moderator and President of the European Young Innovators Forum asked each panelist to disclose one priority that every ecosystem enabler should focus on in the upcoming months. Juliana pointed out that the world cannot only focus on growth, but it should rather focus on the impact with the other panellists endorsing her statement. Sandra added that the ecosystem should support even more the startups that comply with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, while Julia mentioned that the EU funding will successfully contribute towards an impactful ecosystem.
“Impact is the new excellence.”Razvan Anistoroaei – Policy Officer @ European Innovation Council
Nicholas Zylberglajt closed the panel by suggesting that everyone has a role to play in order to achieve the impact that the ecosystem needs and wants as well as connecting the ecosystem.
The session was another successful event in a series of webinars the European Young Innovators Forum organised in order to support the European Innovation Ecosystem deal with the effects brought on by COVID19. It provided clear guidance to the ecosystem enablers on what the upcoming Horizon budget will focus on, how to prepare for the open calls while also highlighting extremely useful solutions that worked for our guest panellists working at the heart of the innovation ecosystem.
Watch the webinar on playback
Stay tuned to learn more regarding our upcoming activities.