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A journey towards good collaboration: Learnings & successes of the Startup Europe Partnership

Startup Europe Partnership (SEP), a European Commission funded project driven by a consortium comprising Mind the Bridge, Nesta, The Factory Berlin and BISITE Accelerator, has come to the end of its original two year funding period.

The ultimate goal of this project was to help startups to scale by mapping the European scale-up ecosystem, matching growing startups with large firms and sharing the best practices of good corporate and startup collaboration.

Over the two years, the consortium achieved the following:


  • Published 15 SEP monitors, which achieved extensive media coverage and 4 SEP reports (one Startup Transatlantic M&A and three Policy Hack)


  • Organised 19 matching events with 518 qualified one-to-one meetings between startups and corporates (70 per cent cross-border).

  • Presented 956 startups from 18 different countries to corporates and closed 15 deals.



  • Startup Europe Summit (SES): Two SES conferences organised in Berlin

  • Two missions organised to Silicon Valley (SEC2SV). Qualified meetings for high quality EU scale-ups and enthusiastic feedback from participants. Two European Innovation Day conferences organized with 900+ participants.

Of course, what really matters is not a count of outputs but outcomes, such as the deals struck between corporates and startups, greater awareness of the benefits of collaboration, and the longer-lasting behavioural change within companies.

Here, one of the pleasing indicators of impact is the feedback we received from our various stakeholders.

For instance, Nicolas Verschelden, Head of Digital Innovation at Anheuser-Busch InBev, told us that he was "inspired by Winning Together when he had to set up a new ABI innovation pipeline in Europe".

Maria Silva, Innovation Specialist at Sonae, told us that our reports provided "useful evidence to champion good collaboration inside the organisation". 

Martin Mike, Investor at Sky Venture, told us "corporates can try out things themselves but they might fail. The reports simply allow Sky to do things faster".

This was accomplished by seeking meaningful engagement with several corporate innovation managers, CIO, corporate executives, startups and scale-ups;  involving them in discussions around collaborative innovation and seeking opportunities to partner with relevant institutions such as Founders Forum, the Scale-up Institute and EBAN.

What worked?

In terms of our research findings, our resources - including blog posts, practical tools and videos - are available at the ‘What Works’ in corporate-startup collaboration online repository here.  

In terms of the other ingredients for project success, the 'secret sauce’ of the SEP consortium included the following ingredients:

  • Great consortium partners. It helped to have a level of familiarity with our working partners. This helped us hit the ground running, build an understanding that each partner organisation has its own way of working and permitted the adjustment of  timing and processes accordingly.

  • At the same time, while collaboration and input from consortium partners was strongly appreciated, the project was built on discrete tasks or work packages. Neat boundaries were very important in ensuring that each partner assumed responsibility, was able to operate independently and showed commitment. Ensuring autonomy meant that each partner understood their own strengths and therefore brought the highest value to the project.

  • This complementarity also allowed the consortium to deliver both high-level research, as well as effective practical interventions.

  • Presence at prestigious events - especially by piggybacking on existing ones - and developing external relationships with thought leaders and partners, helped us reach wider audiences and raise the profile of our work.

What did not work?

We strongly believe in the importance of celebrating our achievements, but at the same time, we also believe the only way to improve and achieve more impact is to look back and learn from our mistakes.

Upon reflection, we feel we could have achieved more impact by:

  • Reaching out better to corporates. Despite contacting more than 200 corporates for the Europe’s Corporate Startup Stars project, we only received responses from about 60 per cent of them. This was likely because we were not always able to reach the right people inside the organisation. A longer timescale and introductions from other intermediaries could have been key in overcoming this barrier.

  • Events. We missed some showcasing opportunities for our projects due to mistimed approaches. We should have identified events and pitched the value of the project to event organisers early on in order to be able to secure a speaking slot in the event agenda.

  • European press coverage. While we had a substantive UK press coverage, we struggled to reach main newspapers in some other European countries. A more proactive approach at the start of the project, as well as exploitation of European networks, might have helped.

What's next?

The SEP project has had a substantial impact on the European startup ecosystem, involving more than 100 large companies and almost 1,000 startups. It has created more awareness in the field of corporate-startup collaboration, a greater urgency for corporates to innovate, while also providing better education and tools for startups to approach large firms with confidence.

We believe that corporate-startup collaboration has great potential for mutual benefit, which still remains substantially under-exploited.

Given the positive results of the project, and the enthusiasm of various stakeholders, we are keen to keep it alive, and welcome supporters who are interested in helping to scale it further. Latest updates will be available here.

Feel free to write to us at [email protected]


Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Head of Programmes – Nesta Italia

Over the last year, Simona was working on a new exciting project that led to the foundation of Nesta Italia.

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Siddharth Bannerjee

Siddharth Bannerjee

Siddharth Bannerjee

Researcher, Digital Startups

Sidd was the policy researcher on two projects dedicated to fostering digital entrepreneurship and building entrepreneurial ecosystems across Europe – Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) …

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Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Head of New Technology & Startup Research

Chris led Nesta's research interests into how startups and new technologies can drive economic growth, and what this means for businesses, intermediaries and for the government.

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Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Mission Manager, healthy life mission

Jonathan works within Nesta Cymru (Wales), focusing on working across public, private and non-profit sectors to deliver innovative solutions that tackle obesity and loneliness in Wales.

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Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Director, Development & European Digital Policy

Valerie and her team focused on helping policy makers, corporates, entrepreneurs and society make the most of the digital transformation.

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