Cambridge serial entrepreneur and VC Dr Hermann Hauser is spearheading a multibillion European initiative designed to propel more science & technology startups to commercial success.
Hauser said: “Britain is doing very well in Europe in a lot of ways, notably on the research side where universities and companies are benefiting from vital funding for collaborative projects. But we are still not creating enough successes out of the startup community and need to commercialise much greater volumes of our science & technology research.”
The European Innovation Council €10 billion pilot venture could easily triple in value through cumulative buy-in and urges politicians and business executives to crush Brexit and help Europe take its place as one of the world’s three dominant economies alongside the US and China.
Dr Hauser has been named vice-chair of the EIC’s advisory board and in an interview with Business Weekly revealed that superchip architect Arm – Cambridge’s greatest ever technology business – may not have even survived had it not been for European financial support.
The EIC initiative
Hauser said: “Arm’s first CEO, Robin Saxby, has always maintained that when the fledgling business was trying to make ends meet in the early days it only got through the crisis thanks to the financial support of Europe’s Open Microprocessor Initiative.
“It most certainly would not have grown into the incredible global technology world leader that it has become today. Some people mistakenly think Europe is for the birds, but the Arm success story paints the true picture.”
Hauser, who co-founded Arm out of his Acorn empire, said the EIC initiative was timely for Britain for a number of reasons – not least because it offered crucial cash and scale-up support to young UK companies while politicians threatened to ruin the country’s economic prospects by recklessly pursuing Brexit.
“This new €10bn pilot venture, including equity, is so important in that respect and will crowd in two or even three times the initial amount; imaging what €30bn could help us achieve.
“Everyone in Brussels wants Britain in Europe and all the politicians in Britain that I speak to tell me they are keen to participate in initiatives with the EU; we simply cannot allow this venture to suffer from neglect. Brexit is sheer idiocy.
“We need Britain to stand up against the US and China”
Hauser added: “This is time for Britain to get behind initiatives like the EIC, but everyone here seems frozen. The way the world should be going is for the economic powerhouses to be America, China and Europe – there is no other game if people are being sensible.
“The idiocy of Brexit is that we need Britain to stand up against the US and China as an economic powerhouse. If Britain goes with a totally irrational no deal, then we run the risk of struggling to compete against the likes of Malta.
“Cambridge is Europe’s No.1 technology centre but when you look at the figures for the whole of Europe it is still so far behind the US in terms of risk capital.
“We don’t have a money problem – we have an asset allocation problem. Europe has five times less the VC allocation of the US. This is one of the economic issues the EIC is trying to address.”
What does the European Commission have to say about this?
The European Commission echoes Hauser’s sentiments and says Europe needs to capitalise on its science and startups to compete in global markets increasingly defined by new technologies.
The Commission has appointed 22 exceptional innovators from the worlds of entrepreneurship, venture capital, science and technology to the European Innovation Council Advisory Board, which will provide strategic leadership to the EIC.
The Board will oversee the roll out of the current pilot and lead the strategy and design of the EIC under Horizon Europe.
The Commission has also served notice to recruit the first EIC programme managers. Inspired by the renowned US agency DARPA, the EIC programme managers will be experts in their fields, able to work closely with fast moving technology projects and open doors to the wider ecosystem.
Filling a critical funding gap
Carlos Moedas, the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said: “With the EIC, we are filling a critical funding gap in the innovation ecosystem and putting Europe at the forefront of market creating innovation.
“I am delighted that the EIC will be advised by some of Europe’s most accomplished innovators and investors,and that we will be bringing in talented programme managers to get the work off the ground.
“Also, the Commission has announced €149m for the latest round of 83 SMEs and startups to be awarded EIC Accelerator Pilot grants (previously known as the SME Instrument Phase 2).
“The SMEs and startups are all developing potential game-changing innovations, such as: next generation of safe and environmentally-friendly light aircrafts; anti-bacterial textile for hospitals; 3D audio software; motion planning technology for autonomous driving; and a superbot for audio calls.
“In addition, the Commission has announced €164m to 53 new EIC Pathfinder pilot grants for bottom-up high-risk, high-impact research ideas (previously known as FET Open).
“Projects include metal-free MRI contrast agents; treatment to replace antibiotics in lung infection diseases; custom-crafted graphene nanostructures; precise measuring and monitoring of highly penetrating particles in deep space; artificial proteins for biological light-emitting diodes; and many other ideas.”