When it comes to structural reform of the European economy, some of the best long-term effects will come from making it easier to be an entrepreneur in Europe.
That’s something I truly believe and which is reinforced by the World Economic Forum’s new report, Fostering Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship in Europe.
The digital economy in particular offers us high levels of innovation among entrepreneurs. Not standard corner shops and restaurants, but businesses that often build entirely new business models and markets; that give us things we didn’t know we wanted and needed, services we didn’t think were possible, until innovation brought them to us.
I should probably correct myself. There is no separate “digital economy” today; rather we have an economy that is digital. So there can be no entrepreneurial renaissance in Europe without digital being at its heart.
That’s what people in the start-up scene have been telling me for over two years now, throughout the European Commission’s effort to help businesses start in Europe and stay in Europe. And that message comes through very strongly in the StartUp Manifesto, produced by nine leading entrepreneurs and signed by thousands of others.
Entrepreneurs need a stronger voice in our public debates; they need the chance to start quickly and to fail, as well as to succeed. And they need a real and complete single market to help them scale.
It sounds simple, but it’s a huge legal and cultural challenge – and it’s only the start of a much deeper change of mindset that Europe needs.
So I will repeat those messages again and again: Europeans are currently at a disadvantage compared to those starting businesses in Asia and America. We must take the work of bodies like the World Economic Forum, Lisbon Council and StartUp Europe and make lasting change in Europe.
Author: Neelie Kroes is vice-president and commissioner for the digital agenda at the European Commission @NeelieKroesEU
Image: The European Union flag is pictured in a window reflecting a street in London. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor