Scale Up Europe: A Manifesto for Change and Empowerment in the Digital Age

Europe has no shortage of successful entrepreneurs and innovative ideas. In fact, contrary to the clichés bandied about, Europe boasts more entrepreneurs per capita than the United States, a country generally taken as a benchmark for entrepreneurial excellence. The problem, however, is that European companies seldom grow to scale. Far too many remain two-person, three-person, or quite often just one-person companies. Their innovative ideas remain the exclusive domain of local economies, sometimes confined to a single European Union member state, sometimes even to a single region within them. They fail to take on the global heft and job-generating scale of well-known U.S. startups, such as Apple (founded in 1976), Amazon (1994), Google (1998), Tesla (2003), Facebook (2004) or more recently Uber (2009).
This is why Europe urgently needs a new initiative – a Scale Up Europe movement. We must create a better, more fertile environment where our undoubtedly brilliant, creative entrepreneurs can build the global champions, create the jobs, develop the “next big thing” and deliver the prosperity our society will demand in years to come. Arguments that Europe lacks an entrepreneurial spirit or has some DNA-rooted fear of risk are categorically wrong. To the contrary, Europeans have shown that we are outstanding entrepreneurs – capable of thriving even in policy environments that sometimes do little to incentivise growth or encourage innovation. And, while policymakers have undoubtedly made progress in creating ecosystems to help people with ideas to turn them into companies, there remains an evident gap in the next steps of development: the growth phase, where imaginary visions grow into large, powerful, multinationals – with sales in many markets, and products that define the cutting edge of the economy of tomorrow. Put simply, policymakers and stakeholders urgently need to improve the conditions not just for launching startups, but for growing companies, and ultimately for “internationalising” their activities as the most successful enterprises eventually do. We urgently need to rally around a broadly-held consensus – a trackable roadmap – uniting startups, policymakers, entrepreneurs, think tankers and citizens alike around a set of concrete, actionable items. This roadmap should be drawn up (as this manifesto has been) based on best practice throughout the 28-member European Union – and beyond. And it should be philosophically based and emotionally rooted on a two-part strategy: embrace the future – and deliver. Much as startups do on a daily basis.
Read the full Scale Up Europe Manifesto here.
Published by the Lisbon Council, Nesta and Open Evidence