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EU wants to create 100 deep tech unicorns in digital, green push

The European Commission launched a new initiative this week to help 100 deep tech startups become unicorns as the bloc aims to accelerate the growth of green and digital technologies.

“We will identify 100 of Europe’s future technology champions, engage them and support them on their scale-up journey,” said EU technology chief Margrethe Vestager, who announced the EIC Scale Up 100 initiative at a deep tech conference in Stockholm yesterday.

These “future technology champions” will be chosen from a pool of startups already enrolled in national and EU-led innovation programs across the continent. Only the “top-performing” startups will make it to the cut, the EU executive said in a statement.

Startups are selected in areas that contribute to Europe’s green and digital transition, such as climate, energy, digital and health. “Supporting scaleups isn’t just our best shot at spawning homegrown tech giants: it’s a critical choice for digital and energy resilience,” said Vestager.

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The European Innovation Council (EIC) will oversee the process. The Council, which compared Vestager to a “factory of European unicorns”, has already spawned 12 startups valued at $1 billion or more, such as Dutch vertical farming startup Infarm and Swedish 3D bioprinting startup Cellink. The EIC has also spawned 112 “centaur” companies — companies with annual recurring revenues in excess of $100 million.

EU member states and countries associated with the bloc’s scientific research initiative, Horizon Europe, will be invited to nominate companies from their ecosystems, with their participation pending the selection process.

The selected startups receive support from a group called the EIC Scaling Club, which consists of 100 investors from VC, growth and government funds, 100 companies with innovation units and 100 independent mentors.

The initiative aims to help the startups grow by 40% annually in their valuation, new investments, partnerships and jobs and by 50% for the same parameters for the top 20 performing companies in two years.

“EIC Scale Up 100 will prove that Europe is the most attractive location for future global unicorns and their investors,” said Vestager.

The program falls under the New European Innovation Agenda, launched last year, which aims to boost funding for scale-up, nurture deep technical skills and implement improved policy tools.

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