Start-up coalition responds to new EU Commission with manifesto

29 Nov 2019

Image: © Andrey Kuzmin/

The Digital Future for Europe coalition is calling on the EU Commission to take a new approach to tech regulation and improve conditions for start-ups.

This week, the new team of European commissioners was revealed. Considering what this new EU Commission could mean for European start-ups and tech businesses, a coalition representing these groups has been formed.

According to The Digital Future for Europe manifesto, many parties in Europe’s digital industries are concerned that Ursula von der Leyen’s new headline tech regulations “could stifle Europe’s burgeoning tech sector, and see Europe fall further behind the US and China in the race to harness AI” and other new technologies.

The group launched its manifesto for start-ups and innovation in Europe at the Slush start-up and tech event in Helsinki this week, in which it argues for a better digital future for the continent in direct response to the EU Commission’s plans to regulate European tech.

Philip Salter, founder of the Entrepreneurs Network and supporter of the manifesto, said that European start-ups “have a lot to fear from the new Commission”, suggesting that “its approach to tech regulation may damage confidence and investment from European start-ups when they face huge competition from rivals in the US and China”.

So, who’s behind the coalition and its manifesto?

The group is comprised of associations, think tanks, start-ups, scale-ups, unicorns and other tech businesses from Europe’s ‘Digital 9’ nations – the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Ireland and the UK.

The manifesto is also supported by a range of European start-up groups including Allied for Startups and the European Small Business Alliance.

The Digital Future for Europe manifesto argues for a new approach to tech regulation, which it says will encourage the adoption of AI technologies and offer greater freedom for start-ups to innovate with data and machine learning. It also calls for a range of measures to attract entrepreneurs and talent to Europe, including a more liberal visa regime for start-ups.

Morten Petersen, co-founder and CEO of Danish start-up Worksome, said: “This manifesto offers the sort of practical steps that European countries and the EU as a whole can take to demystify artificial intelligence for the public.

“For too long, politicians and regulators have portrayed AI as a threat to be mitigated and we need to show them that, [when] used properly, it offers real opportunities to improve the lives of EU citizens.”

Lauri Helenius, senior vice-president of Finnish IT firm Solita, who presented the manifesto at Slush, said: “Many businesses we work with are still confused about what AI means to them, and how it can help their operations. We need policies that encourage AI innovation, particularly in Europe’s traditional industries, which will transform our economy at a time of great change.”

Salter added: “Slush is a great celebration of the world’s tech industry, but this year politics and policy have really been at the front of discussion. With leading figures from the European Commission attending and speaking, the relationship between tech and policy is in the spotlight.

“It is a great time to launch a positive manifesto that could help capitalise on the recent success enjoyed by European tech.”

The manifesto can be read here.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic