The European Institute of Innovation and Technology – the EIT, set up by the European Union to encourage innovation – is to launch an awards programme for young entrepreneurs next year, in partnership with Science|Business. The move is part of a push to change attitudes to entrepreneurship in Europe, and was announced today (3 February) by EIT Board member Daria Tataj at the ACES Academic Enterprise conference, held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
The move is part of a push to change attitudes to entrepreneurship in Europe, and was announced today (3 February) by EIT Board member Daria Tataj at the ACES Academic Enterprise conference, held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
“We want to celebrate entrepreneurship,” said Tataj, while acknowledging that entrepreneurship cannot be conjured up on demand. “You cannot tell anybody to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “But you can inspire [entrepreneurship] by giving opportunities and providing role models.”
“The awards will be a fantastic addition to the Science|Business Innovation Board’s ACES programme, and we are delighted to be working with the EIT,” said Science|Business CEO and Editor Richard L. Hudson.
The idea is to spotlight students who work with their faculties to grow new ventures out of the three Knowledge and Innovation Communities – on climate adaptation and mitigation, energy and information technology – that are the EIT’s operational base. But it is about more than recognising talent, said Tataj: “It is also about growing talent.”
The growth side of the awards will come through establishing top-level mentoring schemes for people nominated (not only the winners), matching and placing students identified as having a high potential for entrepreneurship with “very senior talent, seasoned entrepreneurs” of the calibre of Alex von Gabain, co-founder of Intercell and a Board Member of the EIT. Intercell – the vaccines company formed in 1998 as a spin-off from the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna – is arguably Europe’s most successful biotech spin-off.
Tataj reckons that the mentoring scheme will be a two-way street, benefiting both parties. On the one hand, there is the experience of the established executive or venture capitalist. On the other, knowledge about what is going on at ground level, among the students and young people who are the market of the future.
“The EIT invest in students. They are the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Ronald de Bruin, Acting Director of the EIT.
“We don’t just want to put a spotlight on innovative companies with the EIT brand,” added Tataj. “We want to have a process to help them grow, to link them to global markets through large companies, to venture capital and investors, learning how to scale up rapidly.”
The first EIT Awards will be given next year. Further details will be announced later in the year.