In the end of June Start:up Alpe-Adria Summit, a two-day online meeting of Slovenian and Austrian actors of the cross-border startup ecosystem and international guests took place with the aim to strengthen cooperation, to reflect together on possible ecosystem improvements and possible measures for improvement as well as to promote a common vision at EU and global level.
Thus far, the Alps-Adriatic region has not played a significant role in the international startup scene, despite favorable conditions with a geographical location in the heart of Central Europe, high quality of life, and low costs of living. On the other hand cultural and social norms are not particularly favorable toward entrepreneurship in Austria and Slovenia. Nevertheless, a vibrant startup scene has evolved in metropolitan areas in both countries, but this is not the case in peripheral regions. And the question is how to counterbalance this trend.
Manifesto as a key document for improvements
At Start:up Alpe-Adria Summit also Alpe-Adria Startup and Scaleup Manifesto, a key "live" document which is open for constructive dialogue, was presented. Kirsten Tangemann, from project team Start:up Alpe-Adria explained: "It's a very important next step to say how to grow this ecosystem and make it bigger. As we have seen in the recent years, international startup ecosystems are growing, mostly in big capitals. The Alps-Adriatic region is special, as it is a peripheral region. It's not a big capital which is usually a huge attractor, like London, Berlin, Barcelona."
Connecting is crucial
How can the Alps-Adriatic startup ecosystem be accelerated to become an international hub for innovative startups? Key to success is building a strong community. As Kirsten Tangemann said: "Our task is to build a well connected system, as only if we are connected locally, we can become visible and connect internationally."
Key outcomes of Manifesto
Based on in-depth analyzing the specifics of this region and finding out what startups really need, the Manifesto was prepared and covers 6 major strategic areas, each of them followed by concrete call to action proposals:
- Creating supportive framework conditions
- Broadening education
- How to activate talents and keep them within the region
- Mobilizing capital
- Power of innovation
In each of these areas some steps have already been done, but there is still need for many improvements. Thus, Austria remains amongst the lowest-performing three EU Member States in terms of the number of procedures required to start a business, and the level to which public administration is responsive to the needs of startups in Slovenia is below the EU average.
Although the administrative and regulatory framework has improved, the administrative burden for startups in the Alps-Adriatic region is still significant and being reduced too slowly and this hinder innovative and growth-oriented startups from competing internationally. The legislative and regulatory framework has to be simplified as well.
This document is expected to initiate discussions among stakeholders in Carinthia, Styria, Burgenland, Slovenia, and Northern Italy, serving as one of many further steps toward a tightly connected network. In this way, local strength will lead to global growth.
Learning from good practice examples
Numerous measures have recently been implemented in Austria and Slovenia to improve the framework conditions for startups. And there are many good practice examples from Slovenian and Austrian startup ecosystem which you can find in the Manifesto as well:
- SPIRIT Slovenia supports SIOs - Subjects of innovative environment, which are mainly business incubators and technology parks. They offer free support for potential entrepreneurs, startups, and scaleups with workshops, mentorship, and expert consulting.
- Slovene Enterprise Fund provides grants for innovative startups and seed capital to support rapid global growth.
- The Startup Plus Program, implemented by the Slovene Enterprise Fund, combines all key support elements that innovative startups need for fast global growth, from financial incentives to mentoring and training.
- The program "Internationalization Assistant" (by KWF) is a two-year training and qualification program where employees of Carinthian companies are supported in the implementation of strategic internationalization projects and benefit from experience and information exchanges.
- Podim is the most influential startup and tech event in the CEE region, where innovation meets business opportunities and capital, as well as knowledge and experience. As a nonprofit platform, Podim serves as an important launchpad for CEE startups to new markets outside the region.
- BABEG Venture Fund invests together with private, independent co-investors in innovative, growth, and technology-oriented SMEs. Additionally, the fund provides a powerful network with know-how and strategic benefits for companies being invested in.
- INNOVUM, a platform run by the University of Maribor, aiming to accelerate transfer of knowledge and technologies to entrepreneurship practice.
- POPRI, an annual Slovenian entrepreneurial competition for young people, co-organized by the Primorski Technology Park, SPIRIT Slovenia Business Development Agency, and Slovene Enterprise Fund, with the aim to support the development of entrepreneurial thinking, creativity, and innovation.
More of them can be found in the Manifesto. Download it now!
It's time for action
In the Start:up Alpe Adria project, the partners Start:up Slovenia (Tovarna podjemov), Lakeside Science & Technology Park, Technology Park Ljubljana, and Kärntner Wirtschaftsförderungs Fonds work together to support the development of the cross-border Alpe-Adria startup ecosystem.
And now, stakeholders and policymakers need to identify the right actions to take at the right times for maximum impact. This is the only way for smaller ecosystems to accelerate and capture a share of the new economy within the coming 10 to 20 years, rather than be left behind.
Additionally, Kirsten Tangemann shared with participants of the Summit: "We want to get better. The Manifesto is an element to tell people what the region has, because we also talk about good examples and what is already there. Our wish is that decision makers would take a look at the paper and start a discussion into this direction and start with implementation and evaluating on a regular basis how we can become visible on international level, so that people would come to our regions because they think it's cool to have a business here. Now the actions have to follow."
Would you like to get your copy of the Manifesto? Download it now!
Content support for recipients of P2, SK75 or SI-SK financial products under the "de minimis" scheme is co-financed from the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund. This is implemented on the basis of the Content Support for Funds Recipients (SMEs) Programme in the 2018-2023 period, under the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the European Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.