Photo credit: EIT ICT Labs

published 7 May 2015 by Manon Pierre 2 minutes 45 seconds to read

EIT ICT Labs to boost European startups

Pan-European startup contest Idea Challenge kicks off to promote and support entrepreneurship. Successful startups win up to 40,000 euros of financial support, as well as partner and internationalisation support and coworking space in Europe’s startup hotspots.


Established in 2010 as an initiative of the European Union and as one of the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT),  EIT ICT Labs seeks to spur innovation and entrepreneurship through a cross-border partnership programme and an annual startup contest.

EIT ICT Labs will be more and more active in the CEE region in order to offer innovation ecosystems of these countries a truly pan-European growth perspective

Supporting the CEE region

Under the umbrella programme ARISE Europe, the organisation is focusing on long-term impact and collaborations with regional innovation centres, incubators and accelerators across the Union. The programme aims to foster innovative technology and entrepeurial ecosystems by bringing together investors, students, academia, startups and SMEs.

Fabio Pianesi, Research Director at EIT ICT Labs, explains that CEE makes up for about one third of the countries targeted by their programme. This emerging economic area benefits largely from the European Commission's structural funds and boasts many tech companies poised for greatness, thanks to its highly educated workforce.

“EIT ICT Labs will be more and more active in the CEE region in order to offer the innovation ecosystems of these countries a truly pan-European growth perspective,” he says.

Idea Challenge - Call for applications

The organisation launched the pan-European contest Idea Challenge to reach out to startups for immediate support from six months up to three years. Dedicated to early-stage businesses last year, this second edition is open to "scale-up" startups from any of the 28 member states and focuses on eight topics: 

  • Cyber Security & Privacy
  • Internet of Things
  • Urban Life and Mobility
  • Smart Energy Systems 
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Cyber-physical Systems
  • Smart Spaces
  • Future Cloud

Prizes consist of 40,000 euros for the winner, 25,000 euros for second place and 15,000 euros for third place in each of the eight fields. In addition to prize money, the 24 successful teams will get access to EIT ICT Labs’ pan-European innovation network with more than 130 partners, international growth support through the EIT ICT Labs’ Business Development Accelerator, access to co-location centres and will gain visibility with support from marketing and communication experts. The call for application is open from 6 May till 6 July 2015. The ten finalists will pitch in front of a jury in each of the eight topic finals, scheduled in Autumn 2015. Last year, more than 1,500 teams registered for EIT ICT Labs Idea Challenge, 790 entrepreneurs from all across Europe submitted ideas and 24 startups convinced the juries of industry experts, investors and researchers.

“The strength of EIT ICT Labs lies in our pan-European ecosystem. We support fast-growing startups that are typically already being noticed in their home country; we help them scale up their business quickly across Europe and beyond,” says EIT ICT Labs CEO Willem Jonker, elaborating on the contest.

In the pipes

In addition to Idea Challenge contest, EIT ICT Labs is going to issue a call for the implementation of the ARISE Europe programme. The call will target any Innovation Centres from (among other EU28 countries) Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Rumania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Croatia , inviting them to work together, benefit from EIT ICT Labs pallet of Innovation and Education tools and co-invest towards fostering the growth of their ecosystems.

This story is brought to you in partnership with EIT ICT Labs.