Money: Europe’s Silicon Valley

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Beautiful weather and a beach nearby may be less of a critical factor to success than
to have talent, entrepreneurial spirit and money around. Silicon Valley is an exception given that it has both. Still, the likes of New York, London and Amsterdam are on the rise and they do not have the weather or the beaches. A good quality of life, safety, education, health care and infrastructure in general do the trick. As we can work anywhere these days, at least if there is a good broadband Wi-Fi connection, it is more important to have a network of experts, entrepreneurs, regulators, and venture capitalists at your fingertips.

The fact that the EU leads the world as far as regulation (GDPR, Internet tax) is concerned does not bode well for starters or innovators here. A key change the EU innovation scene really needs is an entrepreneurial or innovative spirit with regulators. This should lead to a real single market instead of “you can sell in our EU country, but you have to comply with our local regulation on top of the one in your EU home country”. Language issues can be overcome by the likes of Google Translate. Cultural differences do not count for all products and services. For example, smart phones and ISPs are the same anywhere, as will 5G when it comes.

In your project simply embrace the local environment and culture. Engage with the local people in the countries and they will join your high-speed train to success. The best example is the vast variety of apps in the app stores of Google, Apple and others. Belgium has a quite active innovation or starters’ scene, particularly in the neighbourhood of its world class universities. The region of Leuven might currently be leading the pack with their launch, a few years ago, of ‘Leuven MindGate’. All the local players and stakeholders are teamed up with one common goal of innovation and business development and that is always a recipe for success.

If the EU as a whole wants to become the leading force in business innovation a true entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in regulation is essential, starting with a real single market, which means you comply with the local regulations in your home market (an EU member state), then you can work in any other EU country in the same way, without having to comply (on top of that) with the local regulations in that other EU country. That would stimulate cross-border EU business and innovation a lot and speed up the much-needed convergence of all business-related laws or regulations in the EU and cut the red tape. On top of that, entrepreneurship and innovation should be priorities on the school agendas from an early age.

There is no time to lose and if this change would be a deal breaker for certain EU countries then the ones that agree have to force ahead – alone. If that leads to a two-speed EU, too bad for the other countries; they have a choice. For the EU to rise and shine (again) it needs a competitive innovation and starters scene. That would also help to bridge the gap in ‘R&D’ as a percentage of turnover its companies have compared to their US or Asian counterparts.