Europe’s future depends on open innovation

Written by Martin Kern on 20 November 2017 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Europe’s future depends on open innovation, argues Martin Kern.

Martin Kern | Photo credit: EIT

There have been many discussions on innovation in Europe. Based on the seven years’ experience of Europe’s largest Innovation Community, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), I am convinced that it is time for Europe to increase even more its focus on concrete societal challenges, ecosystems and open innovation.

Skeleton Technologies, an Estonian company recognised by Bloomberg as one of ten game-changing companies in the field of clean energy and innovation, started as a research project exploring the potential of graphene. 

Now they are changing the world of energy storage with their disruptive innovation, which is able to solve many challenges (for example, in transport), through their clean and extremely powerful next generation of batteries. 


Their product is unique, ahead of the curve, made in the EU, and being used by the European Space Agency to go into orbit next year. So far, they’ve attracted more than €40m in investment and have grown to 100 staff.

How has this happened? They credit EIT InnoEnergy’s support in making the leap from research to commercial success.

They also credit the ecosystem behind the EIT Innovation Communities for bringing business, higher education and research together to transform ideas into products, services and jobs.

That’s what I call open innovation. The European Commission’s EIT Evaluation Report published in October states that the EIT is unique. 

Forbes features our entrepreneurs in their “30 under 30” list, and highlights that the work of organisations like the EIT is very important.

We not only provide access to funding, but also use our pan-European network of more than 1000 partners to help start-ups bring their ideas to markets across Europe.

Connectivity is key for open innovation, a main economic growth and job creation driver. We provide solutions to societal challenges, supporting innovators and entrepreneurs across areas such as climate, sustainable energy, digitisation, food, raw materials, and health.

Success stories such as Skeleton Technologies show that the EIT model works.

We’ve created more than 300 start-ups and supported a further 800 start-ups and scale-ups. More than 1200 students have graduated from the EIT’s unique entrepreneurial education programmes and we predict 5000 more by 2020. 

Tens of thousands have participated in other innovative and entrepreneurial education activities. They are not only searching or jobs, they are creating them. To date, we’ve created more than 6000 jobs and launched 400 new products and services in the market. 

EIT Community-supported start-ups and scale-ups have raised more than €600m in external capital, with €150m in 2016 alone. This shows that external investors are ready to put their money on the table, and into the innovations of the EIT’s entrepreneurs.

Now it is time to step up. To new countries, new types of entrepreneurial education, and new societal challenges including security and resilience, inclusion, integration, migration, and water and maritime. For this we need your ‘yes’ and your support. Europe’s future depends on open innovation - and we are here to shape it.


About the author

Martin Kern is Interim Director of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

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