About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The Europe’s Corporate Startup Stars ranking was produced by the open innovation advisory firm Mind the Bridge and innovation foundation Nesta under the European Commission’s Startup Europe Partnership initiative. In total 36 companies were awarded - 12 as SEP Europe’s Corporate Startup Stars and 24 as SEP Europe’s Open Innovation Challengers.

Special awards have also been assigned for Corporate Accelerators, Startup Procurement, Investment, M&A plus Open Innovation Innovative Approaches, with three awards for each category.

This annual ranking is realised as a part of the European Commission’s Startup Europe Partnership initiative. This year, Jyrki Tapani Katainen, the European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness awarded the companies and provided his insights in a keynote speech. Members of the selection committee, including Bindi Karia, Candace Johnson and Isidro Laso Ballesteros, also attended the ceremony.

“Collaboration between established corporates and startups can bring tremendous benefits to both. Startups get the possibility access resources and market insight to help them scale up, whilst for established companies, such collaborations can be a strong driver of innovation - as well as bring subtler benefits like cultural change - commented European Vice-President Katainen - However, it is hard to get it right. We believe that the organizations doing this well should be recognized as trailblazers, and hope that they inspire others”.

“The expectations and potential are significant for Open Innovation and corporate-startup collaboration - added Alberto Onetti, Chairman Mind the Bridge, Coordinator Startup Europe Partnership (SEP), who moderated the Award Ceremony - but a lack of real understanding of the term is a key barrier to adoption. That’s why we decided to recognize the companies that are active in this area. Showcasing concrete cases and results is worth a thousand buzzwords”.


Along with Samsung Electronics, KPN and Sodexo, companies awarded among the Top 12 SEP Europe’s Corporate Startup Stars are: AB InBev, Barclays, Bosch, Centrica, Enel, Iberdrola, KBC Group, Mastercard and Vodafone.

An additional 24 companies have been awarded as “Open Innovation Challengers”: ABB, ACCIONA S.A., Amadeus IT Group, Amazon, Banco Sabadell, BBVA, Cisco, Dell, Deutsche Bahn AG, EDP, Ferrovial, Fiege Group, Google, LVMH, Nouryon, Qualcomm, Rabobank, RBS, Royal BAM Group, Salesforce, Santander, SAP, Sonae and Virgin.

AB InBev, Enel and Iberdrola received the “Corporate Startup Procurement Award”, while the “Corporate Startup Acquisition Award” went to BBVA, Centrica and HPE.

Deutsche Bahn, KBC Group and Virgin have been recognised with the “Corporate Startup Accelerator Award”; Bosch, Dell, Qualcomm with the “Corporate Startup Investment Award”, and ACCIONA, Amadeus IT Group and Sonae with the “Open Innovation Innovative Approach Award”.


Alongside the award ceremony, Mind the Bridge and Nesta have published new research titled “The Status of Open Innovation in Europe”. This report includes data from the top 36 companies that have been recognised as active in open innovation in Europe.

According to the research, European companies spend less on innovation than their competitors. In recent years there has been an increasing move towards open innovation, especially in high tech industries where collaboration with startups is key. However, despite a gradual upwards trend in innovation performance, further efforts are needed to ensure Europe's global competitiveness., even

Key findings and lessons for corporates looking to work more collaboratively with startups:

● The significant majority (88%) of the corporates surveyed have a dedicated open innovation unit, with direct report lines to the CEO, Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Digital Officer

● Innovation Outposts’: Having a direct presence in the world’s tech hotspots is a recent and growing trend

● Procurement: Funded proof-of-concept and co-development programmes continue to be widely used and confirm to be a productive way to engage with startups

● Accelerators continue to be widely adopted, though as reported in Mind the Bridge and Nesta’s 2017 study, there are concerns about the financial sustainability (IRR) of programmes

● Investments: As observed in the 2017 study, the trend continues of a gradual reduction of the use of CVC funds in favour of off-balance, strategically-driven investments

● Acquisitions: The analysis again confirms that European corporations are mildly acquisitive, in comparison with US counterparts.

“Innovation is key to sustained corporate success, and collaboration between startups and corporates as a form of open innovation can bring tremendous value to both parties. However, it is difficult to get right. These awards showcase firms which have managed to bridge the differences in size and culture, working effectively with startups and scaleups for mutual benefit.” - commented Christopher Haley, Head of New Technology & Startup Research, Nesta.

“POCs confirm to be the mainstream way used by leading corporations to initiate their engagement with startups. Procurement can trigger investments and acquisitions when strategic considerations come to play - ended Alberto Onetti - We are also witnessing some cases of corporates abandoning/downsizing their accelerator programmes. In parallel more and more European corporates are establishing a presence in Silicon Valley”.

- ENDS -

About Startup Europe Partnership (SEP)

Established by the European Commission in January 2014 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, SEP is the first pan-European open innovation platform dedicated to transforming European startups into scaleups by linking them with global corporations and stock exchanges.

By participating in the SEP program, global companies have access to the best technologies and companies with the goal of initiating business partnerships and venture corporate investments. Scaleups are exposed to qualified sales/strategic opportunities as well as funding options either via venture capital, private placements or IPOs.

SEP is led by Mind the Bridge, a global organization based in Europe and Silicon Valley, in partnership with the innovation foundation Nesta, as well as ELITE / London Stock Exchange Group, the European Startup Network, the Scaleup Institute, and the Bisite Accelerator.

For more info: www.startupeuropepartnership.eu | @sep_eu

About Mind The Bridge

Mind the Bridge is a global organization that provides innovation advisory services for corporates and startups. With HQs in San Francisco (CA) and offices in London, Italy and Spain, since 2007 we have been working as an international bridge at the intersection between Startups and Corporations.

We scout, filter and work with 1,500+ startups a year. We support global corporations in their innovation quest driving open innovation initiatives that often translate in curated deals with startups (namely POCs, licensing, investments, and/or acquisitions). We publish curated reports on the status of the Startup Economy in different geographies, M&A and innovation market trends in various verticals.

We enjoy strong partnerships with entities such as the London Stock Exchange and the European Commission, for whom we run the Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) open innovation platform. We are the organizer of the Startup Europe Comes to Silicon Valley (SEC2SV) mission and the European Innovation Day conference.

For more info: www.mindthebridge.com | @mindthebridge

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833

Press contacts

Nesta: Anna Zabow +44 (0)20 7438 2697 / [email protected]

Mind the Bridge: Serena Orizi (+39) 3204205558 / [email protected]