Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


EDFx Report Summary

Project ID: 645099
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EDFx (European Digital Forum Thought Leadership and Policy Network Exchange)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2015-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Entrepreneurship is universally recognised as one of the main economic and societal driving forces. Specifically in times of economic slowdown, entrepreneurs can make a distinctive impact. Some people that lose jobs during an economic crisis may start their own business; and they wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Entrepreneurs and startups are more flexible than large companies, more agile and open to change. They are well positioned to test new ideas and experiment with new business models. Digital technologies have revolutionised the way modern business is conducted. They offer new opportunities to entrepreneurs and lead to the emergence of an array of new business actors, known as “born global” or “micro-multinationals.” These firms use web technologies to expand internationally without the need of physical presence abroad.

While technology is advancing at a miraculous pace, the potential it offers is not fully realised in Europe due to a variety of reasons. The European digital single market is still fragmented along national lines. Tech/web entrepreneurs designing pan-European strategies would need to operate within 28 legal systems, while their U.S. counterparts would deal with only one national authority. Excessive bureaucracy in certain EU member states exacerbates possible expansion plans even further. In addition, the spirit of entrepreneurship is not as prevalent in Europe. In general, entrepreneurs tend to be less confident about their country as a place for startups than those in America, Canada or other parts of the world. Another issue that needs urgent attention is not only the overall number of startups but also their lack of propensity to grow quickly into sizable businesses. This lack of scaling up is uniquely European and warrants greater analysis and attention as it is due to the larger framework conditions (regulations, access to finance, etc) that can be difficult and time-consuming to change.

For Europe to catch up with global economic leaders, decisive actions are urgently needed to unleash its entrepreneurial potential, to remove existing obstacles and to revolutionise the culture of entrepreneurship. Europe’s problem of lagging behind is complex (legal, economics, societal, cultural) and requires decisive actions on several fronts. These arguments underpin the overall concept of the European Digital Forum Thought Leadership and Policy Network Exchange (EDFx) which aims to promote long-term growth and job creation in Europe by significantly improving the conditions for innovation-driven, web/tech entrepreneurship.

The EDFx project is nested within the European Digital Forum, Europe’s leading think tank and policy network on digital economy and digital entrepreneurship issues. It is designed as a “broad church,” meaning that it seeks to take digital economy issues – which are oftentimes seen as niche or sectoral in nature – and place them in the wider economic context. The EDFx project goes further than mere coordination activities. It instead offers a concerted and multidimensional action plan to address the aforementioned challenges and contribute to Europe’s digital advancement, first and foremost by unleashing the potential of tech/web entrepreneurship – encouraging Europeans to become web/tech entrepreneurs, supporting technology startups and engaging with established corporate players. The overall purpose is to intellectually engage and inspire a new generation of leaders and doers.

Against this backdrop, the European Digital Forum is uniquely positioned at the interface of technology, web entrepreneurship, innovation and public policy. In addition to connecting key leaders in Europe’s entrepreneurial communities, the European Digital Forum makes sure that it provides leading-edge content and value – be it in the form of innovative research, top-level engagement opportunities at events or as a Europe-wide platform.
The EDFx project within the European Digital Forum is managed by the Lisbon Council, a leading Brussels-based European think tank, and Nesta, the United Kingdom’s innovation foundation, in collaboration with the European Commission’s Startup Europe initiative. These two prominent organisations have the intellectual bandwidth, the high-powered policy networks and solid track records of pushing issues surrounding innovation, technology and entrepreneurship squarely into the broader policy and societal dialogue.

EDFx is structured around six specific objectives:

Specific Objective 1: The promotion of tech/web entrepreneurship by organising and hosting events and serving as venues for web entrepreneurs, other businesses and policymakers. These are both stand-alone occasions and sessions within the programmes of major tech/web conferences, where EDFx strives to add a public policy angle, a pan-European take and link debates to the Startup Manifesto. EDFx aims to add the all-important aspect of public policy to the discussions and to facilitate cross-fertilisation between the EDFx community and that of the leading tech forum, leading to greater synergy, impact and reach.

Specific Objective 2: Conducting innovative policy-oriented research. EDFx combines and builds upon the Lisbon Council’s and Nesta’s expertise to become a centre-of-excellence in technology, web/tech entrepreneurship and digital startups. It aims to produce an annual European Digital City Index to allow stakeholders to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the startup ecosystems in different cities, as well as the cities’ digital readiness. The Index is to built upon and expand the 22 action points of the Startup Manifesto.

Specific Objective 3: Spreading the best practices of policies stimulating web entrepreneurship by creating the best practices repository. This objective stems from the Startup Manifesto (action 21) that reads, “to provide a resource where local and national governments can share the best ‘hacks’ they found to achieve immediate impact.” EDFx aims to collect and analyse examples of policy initiatives across the globe aimed at facilitating web/tech entrepreneurship and supporting better innovation ecosystems.

Specific Objective 4: Building and maintaining a vibrant network of leading-edge thinkers, inspirational entrepreneurs, digital startups, thought leaders, captains of industry, policymakers and other stakeholders. The diversity of this community and high professionalism of its members is its key assets, enabling cross-fertilisation of expertise and designing new solutions and models to drive Europe’s digital economy forward.

Specific Objective 5: An active and professional dissemination and communication campaign will help inform a wide array of stakeholders, including web entrepreneurs, policymakers and other interested and relevant parties. EDFx aims to energise and engage the groups typically associated with tech/web entrepreneurship – founders, investors, corporate leaders and policymakers with a digital portfolio, tech press – but also with the explicit goal to reach other groups, typically not associated with web/tech entrepreneurship: mainstream policymakers, economists, and non-tech media.

Specific Objective 6: EDFx is to be constructively and pro-actively involved in policy dialogue, contributing its expertise in on-going discussions. It provides policy support and monitoring in the field of web/tech entrepreneurs and elevates the voice of tech entrepreneurs in policy debates. In particular, it monitors the progress of the Startup Manifesto by using an innovative, one-of-its-kind visualisation tool – the Startup Manifesto Policy Tracker. This tool provides an easy-to-understand overview of how far each EU member state is implementing the different actions put forward. This has the potential to inform a wider group of people, but it also has the likely effect of initiating a healthy competition between EU member states to improve their relative ranking. In addition, EDFx is constructively and pro-actively involved in policy dialogue, contributing its expertise in on-going discussions.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The ambitious work programme in 2015 progressed in accordance with the original schedule in support of the six specific objectives. Substantial progress has been achieved in all work packages. EDFx has deepened and expanded its groundbreaking work towards empowering European web/tech entrepreneurs and growing Europe’s digital economy. It hosted three major events, produced a groundbreaking European Digital City Index, advanced its work on the policy side and conducted an impressive array of outreach and communication activities. Flagship EDFx deliverables, including the work performed in the reporting period are described below.

STARTUP EUROPE SUMMIT. For two days, the Startup Europe Summit, a pop-up conference for European startups hosted by Factory Berlin in collaboration with the European Commission, brought together captains of the industry, leading startup founders and policymakers. The European Digital Forum held two stimulating sessions at the summit. First, speakers and participants in a forward-looking discussion on technologies of the future discussed the tremendous potential of emerging and future technologies to revolutionise the modern economy and create opportunities for startups. Later, initiators of national Startup Manifestos and policymakers gathered for a session on Startup Nation Europe. The delegates shared their experience about drafting national startup manifestos, highlighted the reforms that were most needed to create startup-friendly environments in their respective member states and discussed how the voice of European entrepreneurs can better be heard at the policy level.

THE 2015 EUROPEAN DIGITAL FORUM convened under the timely theme How the Digital Single Market Will Power a European Renaissance – and What We Need to Do About It Today. Andrus Ansip, vice-president of the European Commission for the digital single market, delivered The 2015 Guglielmo Marconi Lecture and laid out his vision of a European renaissance fuelled by dramatic leaps in the digital single market before an electric audience of leading European thinkers, regulators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and Internet aficionados. He listened to the debate animated by leading thinkers and practitioners and offered concluding remarks based on what he heard. Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, set the scene with a sprightly overview of Europe’s digital challenge – and potential. Later, high-level speakers shared their perspectives on how European digitally-led entrepreneurship can boost the digital economy. Earlier in the day, the Forum opened with a High-Level Working Lunch on Making the Investment Plan and the European Strategic Investment Fund a Success. Marjut Santoni, deputy chief executive of the European Investment Fund, presented an array of ideas on how to make European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s €315 billion Investment Plan a success. Successful tech entrepreneurs intervened in a rich and fascinating debate on how smart policy choices coupled with targeted investment can empower Europe’s tech and web entrepreneurs.

STARTUP EUROPE FORUM AT ICT2015 IN LISBON. The European Digital Forum took centre stage at ICT 2015: Innovate, Connect, Transform, the European Union’s flagship digital conference, in Lisbon on 20-22 October 2015. This year, the think tank was proud to co-host the Startup Europe Forum, an intellectually vibrant parallel track of unprecedented discussions and debates that took place inside of the conference. Günther Oettinger, European commissioner for digital economy and society, kicked off the opening plenary with a “hard talk,” led by Politico’s Zoya Sheftalovich and Paul Hofheinz. Later, leading entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and thought leaders took the stage to discuss how Europe can become a better place to start and scale up.
Next day, the think tank convened a dedicated session to explore the recent success and future prospects of the “startup manifesto movement,” a grassroots development, led by entrepreneurs, to raise the voice of startups and build more effective eco-systems in the European Union’s 28 member states. The co-authors of all 10 national startup manifestos were on hand to discuss the secrets of their success – and the challenges that remain. Later in the day, the think tank launched the European Digital City Index, a groundbreaking interactive tool that provides compelling evidence of how well different European cities are prepared to support digital entrepreneurship and ranks their digital readiness. On the third day of the ICT2015 conference, Sherry Coutu, serial entrepreneur, business angel and author of the highly influential Scale-Up Report, discussed the challenge and opportunity of “scaling up” businesses – and proposed at 12-point plan for making Europe a better place to develop healthy, prosperous companies.

RESEARCH. The European Digital Forum has developed a first-of-its-kind index that measures how friendly European cities are towards digital entrepreneurship. The European Digital City Index provides a holistic and local view of what matters to digital startups. It describes how well different European cities support digital entrepreneurship, and examines key factors such as the availability of sufficient and appropriate finance, the skillset of the workforce in the area and the quality of the supporting infrastructure and networks. Visit the index at

ADVISORY BOARD. The European Digital Forum has formed a new body – its Advisory Board. This august group of digital stars and thought leaders will help guide the work the think tank does to elevate the voice of web/tech entrepreneurs and cutting-edge digital startups to the highest ranks of European policymaking. Among others, Gilles Babinet, digital champion of France; Xavier Damman, co-founder, Storify; Kaja Kallas, member of the European Parliament; Tom Kirschbaum, co-founder and chief operating officer, Ally; Saul Klein, serial investor; Gergana Passy, digital champion of Bulgaria; Eva Paunova, member of the European Parliament; and Marjut Santoni, deputy secretary-general, European Investment Bank, joined the Advisory Board. The full list of advisory board members is available at:

STARTUP MANIFESTO POLICY TRACKER is an online tool for tracking the implementation of the 22 recommendations set out in the Startup Manifesto, an innovative blueprint for a more entrepreneurial Europe written by founders of world-leading technology companies based in Europe. The main principle of data collection is crowdsourcing – the progress in the implementation of key policies is monitored by communities of web entrepreneurs, practitioners and policymakers. The consortium formed a network of national experts coordinating the crowdsourcing exercise, and collected all necessary data to obtain a comprehensive view on startup-friendly reforms in EU member states. The tool was officially presented at the ICT2015 conference in Lisbon on 21 October 2015. Visit

COMMUNICATION AND OUTREACH. In June 2015, the European Digital Forum welcomed its 1,000th follower on Twitter, and presently this number stands at almost 1,400 people, with more than 1,100 tweets. The eclectic group of followers and friends is made up of leading policymakers, think tankers, digital entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, journalists, and other stakeholders. In addition, EDF boasts a group of supporters in Facebook – more than 800 followers. The project is active on the Google+ platform highlighting a selection of photographs from its events. EDFx communication campaign is supported by the consortium organisation – the Lisbon Council and Nesta – on their respective social media channels and in their professional networks. Two EDFx newsletters have been released and disseminated widely through the EDF networks and beyond.

By conducting these activities the consortium seeks to raise the awareness about the benefits of tech entrepreneurship for a wider economy, as well as to draw attention to bottlenecks preventing successful entrepreneurs from growing and scaling up their digital business in their countries, but more importantly, Europe-wide.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The unique design of the EDFx – combining hard-hitting research, world-class events, community building and professional dissemination campaign – has been instrumental in delivering progress and impact.

In 2015, the EDFx was a leading voice in policy and societal debates around digital economy and tech entrepreneurship. The European Digital Forum offered a platform to Andrus Ansip, European Commission vice-president for the digital single market, to deliver his keynote address on 01 June 2015. Just weeks after the launch of “A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe,” Vice-President Ansip used this opportunity to elaborate on the main aspects of the strategy, as well as to receive constructive feedback from leading entrepreneurs and an engaged audience.

Günther Oettinger, European commissioner for digital economy and society, chose the EDFx-led Startup Europe Forum on 20 October 2015 to talk about the recent advances in the implementation of the digital single market and the role of digital startups and tech entrepreneurs therein. He underscored the high relevance of the Startup Manifesto and the need to rethink it in light of the recent socio-economic developments.

In addition to these high-profile events, the consortium conducted on-going work to elevate the voice of tech entrepreneurs in policy debates, achieving a strong socio-economic impact. The European Digital Forum has become a central hub for constructive exchange on the opportunities brought to digitalisation.

This work was underpinned by cutting-edge research – an innovative methodology behind the European Digital City Index produced a ranking of 35 European cities of how well they support tech entrepreneurship, specifically, digital startups and scale-ups. The effect was overwhelming – it became a trending topic on social media channels, in online and mainstream media. Policymakers and startup communities in virtually each of these 35 cities paid close attention to the ranking. Significantly, an online tool allows to decompose the ranking and to understand the areas where a specific city excels and where it lags behind. This is particularly important for national and local policymakers seeking to enhance competitiveness of their local ecosystems.

Overall, in part due to the tireless efforts of the European Digital Forum, a broader understanding has been built in society at large that the digital economy is not a sectoral issue, and that startups are central players in the 21st century economy.

Related information

Record Number: 186461 / Last updated on: 2016-07-12