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EIT Digital CEO Willem Jonker and Eric Thelen

In 2020, EIT Digital celebrates its 10th anniversary. Founded in 2010, Europe’s leading innovation community went on a tremendous journey, delivering breakthrough digital innovations to the market and breeding entrepreneurial talent for economic growth and improved quality of life.

To commemorate this happy occasion, EIT Digital invited partners and friends to celebrate – and a broad audience from our community and beyond followed the call! Travel and mobility restrictions meant that our anniversary event had to move online, but that didn’t stop us and our community to ‘Celebrate Innovation’.

During a 1-hour long TV-show like event on 29 October, EIT Digital demonstrated its community’s impressive development in these 10 years, presented the results it achieved and the impact it delivered in response to the needs of a strong digital Europe. And participants discussed the way forward towards a New Digital that is inclusive, fair, and sustainable.

To illustrate our organisation’s journey and to reflect on the way forward, our event featured eminent speakers representing EIT Digital’s vast network of partners, supporters, and stakeholders.

Maria da Graça CarvalhoIn her welcome remarks, MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho emphasised the importance of the EIT and pointed out the impact of entrepreneurship and innovation for the competitiveness of Europe and the preservation of European values.

“Our task as policymakers is to improve the innovation ecosystem in Europe. And you can be assured of the European Parliament’s support for your important mission,” Carvalho said.

Pia Sandvik, CEO of Research Institutes of Sweden and Chairman of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, was joined by Ferrovial Chief Information and Innovation Officer Dimitris Bountolos to discuss with EIT Digital CEO Willem Jonker the added value of innovating in a pan-European community of partners.

Dimitris Bountolos“Ferrovial shares the core and fundamental principles of EIT Digital, the mindset and holistic view to capture the opportunity of new ventures,” stated Bountolos.

Pia SandvikConcrete suggestions were made for how academia, research and industry could contribute to further strengthen the European position in digital.

“Universities and RTOs need to provide industry with open and up-to-date research and technology infrastructures,” said Pia Sandvik. “These are the backbone of Europe’s competitiveness and the key to accelerate innovation.”

EIT Digital Chief Innovation Officer Chahab Nastar then was joined by three startup founders that benefitted at different stages of their career from EIT Digital support. ImagiLabs CEO Dora Palfi and PacketAI CTO Abdelhadi Azzouni learned in our Master and Doctoral Schools how to combine technical excellence with entrepreneurial skills.Baher Al Hakim CEO Baher Al Hakim and his company Medicus AI succeeded in the EIT Digital Challenge scaleup competition and won support by our Accelerator to grow internationally.

“With the support of the amazing team of EIT Digital, we managed within 6 months to increase the numbers of investors we were talking to from 40 to 120,” said Al Hakim, and added that “EIT Digital’s business developers also helped us with the successful expansion to the Italian market.”

Abdelhadi AzzouniAbdelhadi Azzouni emphasised that “In Europe, we are extremely fortunate to have excellent ecosystems like EIT Digital that make companies like PacketAI possible in the first place.”

Dora PalfiAsked about their advice for potential startup founders, Dora Palfi shared that “for me, the most important for our future success was to find something that I wanted to commit to and work with in the long run. And with that I don’t mean a technology or product, but a societal problem to solve.”

The final session was led by EIT Digital chairman Linnar Viik and focused on the future: What does Europe need when it comes to digital? How can Europe step up in digital?Risto Siilasmaa And what’s the role of industry and policymakers? Risto Siilasmaa, founder and chairman of F-Secure Corporation, stated that Europe was still a superpower in academic research, but the challenge was to translate the innovative capital into competitive products and services. “For this to happen, we need European policymakers to create a regulatory framework that allows for European global leaders to be born,” Siilasmaa said.

Despina SpanouRepresenting EU policymakers, Despina Spanou, Head of Cabinet of European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, remarked that Europe was in a unique position. “It is the only place in the world where 27 nations meet under the same regulatory framework and are interconnected at digital level,” Spanou said. “We already have well-functioning systems to guarantee privacy of people and data protection. Now we need to invest more in strategic areas like data ownership and security. For this to become reality, we need a true public private partnership to ensure that regulation benefits business and industry whilst protecting the integrity of consumers.”

The event concluded with the festive presentation of the EIT Digital 10th Anniversary Book, taking stock of the first and giving an outlook to the next decade(s) of our work for a strong digital Europe!

Join us on this exciting journey!

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