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  • Partnership launched at World Economic Forum in Davos by Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for digital agenda
  • Founding partners include European Investment Fund, Telefónica, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Orange
  • The work programme will be driven by the Lisbon Council and Nesta

The Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank and Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, jointly announce the creation of the European Digital Forum, a first-of-its kind think tank dedicated to empowering tech entrepreneurs and growing Europe’s digital economy. Launched by Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, at a press conference at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the new think tank will host an annual Digital Forum, bringing together leading web entrepreneurs with political leaders and policymakers. In addition, it will produce an annual European Digital Economy Index, providing a ranking of European countries’ digital readiness and startup environment. Founding partners include Telefónica, Orange, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and the European Investment Fund (EIF), which is part of the EIB Group.

The idea was first put forward in the Startup Manifesto, a 22-point action plan produced by the Leaders Club, an informal group comprised of leading European tech entrepreneurs. The European Digital Forum will give a voice in public policy to the continent’s most enterprising and innovative entrepreneurs.

Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, who introduced the new think tank in Davos, said: “Europe needs thriving startups and global internet companies to become a global growth centre again” and added “Politicians don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do. We’re going to support that mindset and push European start-ups beyond their comfort zone. And then we’re going to get out of the way. Sometimes the best thing a political leader can do is get out of the way." 

The day-to-day operations of the European Digital Forum will be managed by the Lisbon Council and Nesta, two of Europe’s premier innovation think tanks, with support and funding by a high-powered coalition of founding partners, including the EIF, Telefónica, BBVA and Orange. The European Digital Forum will closely follow the guidance and advice of the Leaders Club whose members include, inter alia, Daniel Ek, CEO and co-founder of Spotify; Kaj Hed, chairman of Rovio / Angry Birds; Joanna Shields, chief executive of Tech City UK, and Niklas Zennström, co-founder of Skype. Institutionally, it is supported by the European Commission in general and its Startup Europe Partnership in particular. The latter is an ambitious and integral part of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, which forms a key plank of Europe 2020, the European Union’s growth and jobs strategy for this decade.

José María Álvarez-Pallete, chief operating officer of Telefónica, said: "Boosting Europe’s digital competitiveness needs policies that spur investment and kickstart growth, but at the same time we need to encourage and support innovation-driven entrepreneurship. Key to this will be to narrow the gap between start-ups and multinational corporations – which is one of the core objectives of the European Digital Forum."

“At BBVA we are fully committed with the development of digital businesses," said Ángel Cano, president and COO of BBVA. "We are one of the financial institutions leading the technology-driven transformation of the financial services sector and that is why we support these initiatives, to help European ideas become global projects.”

Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), said: “Digitalisation is a major driver stimulating economic development and growth in a globalised world. EIB Group’s recognition of this fact is borne out by our substantial support for the sector in Europe through investments in infrastructure, R&D, education and last but not least in SMEs. As digitalisation continues to transform our world, the EIB Group is pleased to reinforce as an institutional Founding Member those smart initiatives such as the European Digital Forum and the StartUp Europe Partnership.”

Richard Pelly, chief executive of the European Investment Fund (EIF), said: “As the most influential cornerstone investor in European Venture Capital, EIF has already committed €4.000 million into VC funds and Business Angels, helping to mobilise over €40.000 million of mainly private investments into European technology SMEs. EIF is in the process of further scaling up its investment activity in digital innovation and technology, seen not only as a key socio-economic driver in itself but also as an indispensable enabler for virtually every business and industry.”

“We are extremely proud to partner with this think tank. This way, we intend to foster the growth of the most innovative tech entrepreneurs and increase their visibility. Therefore, we seek to encourage job creation in Europe and help future talents”, said Stephane Richard, Orange’s chairman and chief executive officer.

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