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June

Applications for the final round of Soft-Landing missions are now OPEN! (and they’re especially looking for female founders)

The Soft-Landing open calls are now open!

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Launch of the Digital Innovation and Scale-up Initiative

46% of startups incubated in the Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE) region raise financing from investors outside of Europe and move their base, most often leaving to the US and China. This highlights the substantial investment gap faced by digital innovations, a major bottleneck for startups, and the digital economy, in reaching full potential.

To address this investment gap in CESEE’s digital economy the European Commission (EC) together with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Investment Fund (EIF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank (WB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched the Digital Innovation and Scale-up Initiative (DISC) during the Digital Assembly on June 14, 2019. Under the leadership of the Romanian EU Presidency the DISC initiative was launched at an investment round table with high level representatives of the Government of Croatia, Finland, Germany and Romania.

The initiative will develop a regional investment facility that specifically targets digital innovations and the scale-up of digital startups in the CESEE region.

DISC will focus on providing support to strategic future-oriented digital innovations and deep technology that are capital intensive, risky by nature and require longer-term financing (patient capital). In particular, the initiative will focus on the early stage and the scale-up of innovative startups and deep tech SMEs in the Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE) region. Specifically, it was agreed that DISC will explore potential funding structures and support mechanisms to leverage resources from the EU, international financial institutions, National Promotional Banks and the private sector in support of highly innovative startups and SMEs with higher risk profiles in the CESEE region.

What are DISC’s main objectives?

  • to develop a regional joint initiative supported by the EC, the EIB Group, the EBRD and the World Bank Group to leverage funding and competencies
  • to enhance financing and the access to advisory services for early stage and scale-up of innovative, high-risk deep tech startups with high growth potential;
  • to provide advisory support, connect innovators with investors, and enhance the visibility of digital champions though and Investment Support Program;
  • to offer technical assistance to public agencies to strengthen their capacity to design, develop and implement digital innovation programs;
  • to strengthen strategic investments in the enabling environment for digital innovations;
  • to connect digital innovation ecosystems across the region

What is the unique value of the DISC initiative?

  • Higher expected impact through collaboration between EC, the World Bank/IFC, EIB/EIF and EBRD;
  • Pooling of funding through joint investment facility;
  • Dedicated investment and technical assistant program specifically for CESEE region;
  • Targeted to support deep tech and disruptive technologies with high-growth potential;
  • Focus on the early stage and scale-up of highly innovative digital startups;
  • Comprehensive approach (investments, technical assistance and enabling environment);
  • Financial and technical assistance support for both public and private sector.

Background:

Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE) are at a critical point in their economic development. Since the early 2000s, CESEE countries have been the fastest growing countries in Europe and the region consistently ranks globally at very high levels in terms of educational achievements in math, science and technology. Recently, their convergence towards EU-15 countries has however slowed down due to the limitations of the existing economic model that has been predominately driven by the inflow of foreign direct investment with relatively low adoption rates for innovation.

The rapid rise of digital innovations and deep technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain provide unprecedented opportunities for the leapfrogging of CESEEs economies and can become a major engine for long-term economic growth. They are critical for fostering innovation, competitiveness, promoting sustainable economic development and addressing societal challenges.

Innovation can come from all corners of the world, and the CESEE region holds huge, but often underutilized potential for digital innovations. In fact, the success by UiPath, Prezi, Taxify and Avast are a few examples that demonstrate that innovation, creativity and grit can emerge and overcome the great odds, of challenging and less developed digital ecosystems in the region. Make no mistake, successful startups are not a monopoly product from established tech hubs such as Paris, Berlin or London.

At the same time, there are important barriers that are currently holding back digital entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential. First, there is a substantial investment gap for the scale-up of highly innovative deep tech companies and startups. Often, these companies are considered too risky for investors, however they hold the highest growth potential and thus require more targeted financing tools and attention. As such, beyond financing, there is also a need for technical assistance programs, which increase synergies and knowledge transfer, while strengthening the institutional capacity of public agencies to design, develop and implement digital innovation programs. Finally, there is a need to boost investment and enhance the enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship, with a focus on cross border digital infrastructure and digital skills projects.

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Open Call to be part of the Boards for the new Horizon Europe Missions

Open Call for members of Startup Ecosystems to be part of the Boards for the new Horizon Europe Missions. Each Mission will have a budget of 1€ Billion. We have not got candidates from the startup ecosystems. We need YOU!!
Missions are a key novelty of Horizon Europe – the next EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2021-2027 (proposed budget €100bn). Missions will consist of portfolios of research and innovation projects at all Technology Readiness Levels, with a clear goal that matters for EU citizens. Mission contents still have to be defined, but examples could be: “A plastic-free ocean by 2030” or “100 carbon-neutral EU cities by 2030”. (see also https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/bold-science-meet-big-challenges-independent-report-calls-mission-oriented-eu-research-and-innovation-2018-feb-22_en).
At the moment, the EU political process has defined five Mission Areas:
1) Cancer;
2) Adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation; 
3) Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters;
4) Climate-neutral and smart cities;
5) Soil health and food.
 
Mission boards will advise the European Commission how to define and implement each Mission area. Mission board members will have complementary profiles, covering a wide range of scientific and non-scientific profiles, such as: research and innovation/academia; communication; public health; health policy; healthcare; SMEs; industry; non-governmental organisations; charities; philanthropy; foundations; citizen associations; young and/or experienced innovators; and investors, to mention a few.
The application process is straightforward:
1) Go to the Call for applications for the selection of members of the commission expert groups at this link: http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=calls.calls_for_app
2) Read the Call document (pdf), which explains more about missions and mission boards.
3) Send a CV, cover letter (any format), Annex I, II and III to RTD-HORIZON-EUROPE-MISSION-BOARDS@ec.europa.eu
4) It is possible to apply for more than one mission area, which will increase the chances to be selected (although, an individual can be member of one board only). In that case, we need the applicant to send us Annex II and Annex III for each mission area, as separate documents in the same email.
5) For any question, you can email RTD-HORIZON-EUROPE-MISSION-BOARDS@ec.europa.eu
The deadline for submission has been extended to June 16,2019 – 12:00Brussels time
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EIT Digital Challenge 2019

The EIT Digital Challenge takes place for the 6th consecutive year and is again looking for the most innovative European digital tech startups to help them grow internationally by connecting them to potential customers and/or investors. Startups in growth stage (scaleups) can apply in five categories: Digital Tech, Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing, and Digital Finance. The winners will gain international growth support totaling €750,000 in cash and in-kind.
What’s in it for me? 
25 companies will be invited to an exclusive event in Brussels to pitch in front of expert juries. The two best companies per category will gain 12 months support to scale up their business. The growth support is provided by the EIT Digital Accelerator team (no equity taken, no physical presence needed). On top of that, the first prize winner in each category receives a cash prize of €50,000 (no strings attached).
And last but not least: finalists and winners will a gain a lot of international visibility!
Who can apply?
Growth stage startups (scaleups) based in Europe (incl. associated H2020 countries), with a min. annual revenue of €300.000 or min. €2 million in equity investment, that are max 10 years old. Applications are open for the following categories: Digital Tech, Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing, and Digital Finance
How can I apply? 
You will find the online application form here: https://eitdigitalchallenge.submittable.com/submit (please register and then fill out the form)
When is the submission deadline?
The submission phase ends on 14 June 2019 (23:59:59)
Any questions?
Please contact the EIT Digital Challenge team at challenge@eitdigital.eu
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