Europe’s next generation innovators and their need for a garage


The image of the Silicon Valley university drop-out developing their ideas in their home garage, only to set up a multimillion dollar business a couple of years later, was immediately qualified as inapplicable. \’Anyone who can identify a problem and an opportunity for improvement, coming up with solution for improved products or services, is an innovator\’, claimed Peter Olesen, Chairman at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). This was a definition that participants were ready to accept, alongside the fact that innovation has no age and that \’innovators bring systemic change, just like in the case of climate change\’, as Ebrahim Mohamed, Director of Education at Climate-KIC, added.

Peter Dröll, Acting Director in DG RTD\’s Innovation Union and European Research Area unit, saw education, spaces, scale, governance and administration as key for nurturing an innovation-oriented culture in Europe. He stressed that innovation needs to move from the garage into laboratories. Embracing an education system encouraging risk, scaling up innovative products or services once they are locally recognised as such, financial support from the government and efficient administration would add to the perfect recipe not for a European Silicon Valley, but for a healthier, innovation-prone European landscape.

The idea of efficient administration reappeared in the intervention that Prof. Thomas Schäfer, Chair of Sci-GENERATION COST Targeted Network, made, pointing out the administrative help researchers need universities to provide them with in order to manage and scale up their ideas.

Students and young entrepreneurs from Poland and Romania highlighted their research and projects, ranging from social robotics to platforms for young entrepreneurs enabling them to meet and share ideas. Their presence at the event reflected the existing connections between policy makers, academia and innovation springboards. Participants stressed the role that policy makers have in reaching out to universities in particular, which led one of the hosts, Victor Negrescu MEP, to restate his commitment and relationship with researchers and entrepreneurs in Romania, his home country.

Closing the event, both speakers and participants agreed that increasing support from organisations and tools such as the European Commission’s SME Instrument, Enterprise Europe Network, EIT or Climate-KIC is vital for an innovative Europe.