At the level of EU those topics are being present for many years. We are organizing conferences, discussions and round tables in order to propose solutions and support innovation and startups. When we take a look into projections of the economic growth for the EU it does not look optimistic for the next 5 to 10 years – growth is between 1,5% to 2%. It is not enough for job creation and youth stay in Europe. We need a real change to secure a stronger and stable growth and without innovation, startups and its strong link with science it will not be possible to reach.
Few weeks ago as a member of the Executive Board I hosted two events in the 8th Innovation Summit in the European Parliament. Summit brought to Brussels creative people who are changing the present and building the unthinkable. Their ideas have finally found themselves at the centre of the European attention.
We pay for CO2 emissions, it is an undesirable pollutant which should be eliminated, and at the same time teams of scientists in cooperation with the chemical industry are coming up with different innovative solutions for production of materials and chemicals from the same CO2, and have made it an important production input. Regardless of the excellence of ideas and deeds, the administration is not easily discouraged and in spite of innovators and entrepreneurs repeating for years that a change in regulations and allowing for intersectoral linkage and takeover of „waste“ by industries which use it as a resource, no progress has been made. Entrepreneurs are ready to make a step forward, but the administration does still not recognize new business models. Today Europe is the global leader in circular economy, the question is only how long it will keep that position without changing its attitudes and faster adaptation.
It was interesting to hear the question asked by a young innovator who cannot understand why the project approval process lasts so long. It took almost two years from the moment he came up with his idea until the moment when funds for realization of the project were approved from Horizon 2020. The Commission, of course, has the answer ready – European citizens’ money is concerned and before the funds are approved the project must go through the evaluation and approval process, and that takes time, but no more than 90 days. 90 days for each step and so until the idea begins to realize in Europe, somewhere on the other side of the world (in the Silicon Valley, for example) someone has already started production although he came up with the idea only a few months before.
When we look at the example of the Silicon Valley we ask ourselves: Why is everyone there? What makes it a special ecosystem which attracts innovations and start-ups? The answers are to be found in the following: 1. People – talents who want to succeed in technology; 2. Knowledge: the best universities: Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF; 3. State institutions encouraging innovation: NASA, DARPA, National Institute of Health; 4. Corporate innovation centres; 5. Availability of venture capital; 6. Open access to the broad market (USA); 7. Competition and intensive cooperation through knowledge and ideas; 8. Self-confidence (somewhat arrogant) – the attitude that there is no problem which a small group of smart people cannot solve; 9. Intellectual curiosity; and 10. The wish to share ideas in order to come up with new ones.
It would be very difficult to duplicate something like this; however, there is no need to. An ecosystem encouraging for development and innovations can have different features. The most important one is connectedness between policy makers, legislators, researchers, producers and innovators, who will jointly design regulations which encourage creativity and new ideas. Without that there can be no long-term success.
The main message to all of us is: If you want to be successful and develop a strong technological hub, first invest in people, then in institutions, and only then in buildings. Invest in the area with the greatest concentration of talents and knowledge, attract smart young people, become a destination for technological talents. Attract and bring successful global companies to invest in your centre and start-ups. Include students, be flexible and different.
I am sure that we can develop a strong technological centre and a spirit of creativity and start-up development in Europe because we have something which is most sought-after – creative people with knowledge and ideas.