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Europe on the search for the best mobility start-ups

Saturday, 02 October 2021

The hybrid launch event was broadcast from Tallinn, Estonia.
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The latest edition of the Europe’s “Start-up Prize for Mobility” has been formally launched, with a clear message from senior political figures for would-be entrepreneurs: “Get involved!”

Speaking at the launch on Thursday, EU commissioner Helena Dalli told applicants: “You can be a game changer. Don’t hesitate to apply.”

The EUSP is a mobility prize aimed at the most promising start-ups in Europe which seek to make their local environment more sustainable and inclusive.

A special team will select the top 10 from the hundreds of start-ups who are expected to apply. All applicants will be invited to present their technology in different categories.

The hybrid event, which was presented by EUSP and The Brussels Times, was hosted by Dan Sobovitz, CCO at EUSP, and broadcast online by the The Brussels Times from Estonia. It featured speakers all over Europe, and focused on why start-ups should apply.

The public-private initiative aims to support and scale up smart and sustainable mobility start-ups across Europe via massive visibility, investment opportunities and business mentoring.

This year there is a special prize for Electro-Mobility. All applications are carefully screened and the winners will be announced in March.  All EU countries can apply, including the UK.

Encouraging entrepreneurship in Europe

The prize was launched 2017 by MEP Karima Delli and two business partners. It aims to reward Europe’s best starts up in the area of clean mobility.

A 50 strong team of independent judges, or evaluators, assess the start ups and each application is seen by three different experts. Applicants are also interviewed. A list of 50 candidates will be announced in January and this shortlist will then reduced to a top ten.

Criteria such the gender balance of the SME and its application and the likely impact of their business model on the environment are all taken into account in deciding the top ten.

About 600 entries are expected and mentorship will be offered to the winners.

France, Germany and Spain are the three best represented countries but start ups from all European states can apply, including EU member-states, the UK, Israel and every associated country of the EU Horizon innovation programmes, the event was told.

The EUSP provides winners with multiple investment opportunities as a “one-stop-shop” to EU funds and private investors.

Joël Hazan, Co-founder, Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group, told the three hour meeting, “There has never been a better time to think big and bold.”

Marie Bonniol, Co-founder, Marketing and Ecosystem Leader at Via-ID, also told would be participants, “You have two months apply but do not wait until the last minute.”

Appealing to entrepreneurs in Europe

The hybrid event, which officially launched the call for applications, was broadcast live.

Opening the event, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, told the online audience, “I always enjoy the opportunity to engage directly with Europe’s innovators and dreamers and I’m here to encourage you to participate in the European Start-up Prize for Mobility.

“In that spirit, I shall attempt a skill essential for any entrepreneur – the elevator pitch. The European Commission is very much on the side of start-ups. We want them to thrive and grow into mature, successful companies.

“I often cite the example of Northvolt: founded in 2016 as a handful of enthusiasts with vision, now a fully-fledged company with some 1,500 employees from more than 90 countries.

“Moreover, as we look to Europe’s post-recovery future and the challenges posed by the twin green and digital transition, we rely on pioneers who can push the frontiers of innovation. This is especially true for mobility.”

The official added, “We work closely with the start-ups to meet their individual needs, be it access to finance, governance or sales. We also offer access to our network of experts, service providers and early adopters.And we put our money where our mouth is. Earlier stage companies attract investments of around 2-5 million Eurosthrough EIT InnoEnergy’s Innovation Projects programme.”

For start-ups at a later stage, the Business Investment Platform typically offers investments of €50 million, he added.

Another keynote speaker was Dalli, Commissioner for Equality at the European Commission, who said she was “honoured” to be at the kick-off of a new edition of the Start-up prize for mobility.

She said, “Accessibility is an enabler of rights, autonomy and equality. It is a precondition for the full participation of persons with disabilities in society. But for many, travelling remains a challenge due to a lack of accessibility or assistance.Removing these barriers is a cornerstone of the European Commission’s efforts to create a Union of Equality.”

“Innovation should leave no one behind. This is all the more important in our ageing societies. A number of EU rules are in place to make the EU more accessible.  Last year, we launched the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy,” she added.

Her message to applicants was, “I encourage you to join this contest.  Be a game-changer for accessible and inclusive mobility. To build a barrier-free Europe, we need you and your ideas.”

The message was echoed by others such as Lilyana Pavlova, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, who, speaking from Luxembourg, said, “This is a great initiative and we are honoured to be involved in it. I appeal to as many start-ups as possible to get actively involved as well.”

“The Bank plays a key role in supporting the EU economy including  SME support and we want to help the EU to take a lead in the next wave of innovation. Start ups play a key role the development of new technologies  and we are happy to screen the most promising start ups,” she added.

Karima Delli, Chairwoman of the Transport and Tourism Committee at the European Parliament and co-founder of the Prize,  said, “This is Europe at its best, bringing all the EU institutions together. Innovation knows no borders and UK start ups are also welcome, despite Brexit.

“My message to all the start ups who are watching us today is this: we believe in you. You have a role to play in the empowerment of women and fighting climate change. You can make a difference. This is just the start of our adventure together. We can help grow your businesses – Europe is your playground so please apply!”

Jennifer Dungs, Head of Mobility at EIT InnoEnergy, emphasised why start-ups should apply, saying that “We, at EIT, look to provide added value services and have invested €500m in our activities. We are also leading industrial alliances. “

Her message to start ups was, “I encourage start-ups to apply for this prize, and look forward to working with you in the future.”

The idea for the prize was established in collaboration with all major EU institutions including the European Parliament, European Commission, European Investment Bank, EIT InnoEnergy, EU Battery Alliance, SESAR-JU and Shift2Rail.

In addition to its own acceleration programme, the start-up initiative collaborates with different incubators in Europe and participates in many projects that support start-ups globally. The application period for the 4th edition will remain open until 30 November. Interested start-ups can apply here.

The Brussels Times

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