“We have to accelerate great ideas so we can get ahead of climate change.”

After the winners of the 2015 Venture Competition were announced on the 29th of October in Birmingham, I caught up with Hero Prins, Director of Entrepreneurship, to ask him what he’d thought of the start-ups that had qualified to compete at the annual Climate KIC Festival.

He was buzzing. “You can see why we called it the ‘accelerator’ programme. We have to accelerate great ideas and teams so we can get ahead of climate change.”

“Back when the economic crisis hit in 2007-08 I could see that one of the problems we had in Europe was that entrepreneurial ideas and innovations took a long time to get anywhere near the marketplace. That discouraged especially young people from even forming start-ups. Youth unemployment was rising, and people began to believe that we couldn’t do much about climate change. But I was convinced we could do something positive.”

Accelerating over 400 start-ups!

Hero and a strong team developed the Accelerator Programme which has scouted and supported over 400 start-ups to venture into the business world, test and develop their ideas, and then create business plans strong enough to attract investment. “We’ve been successful at helping them do that,” says Hero. “Young, bright and eager people have been inspired to engage with academia and industry to not only build futures for themselves, but also add dynamism to the clean-tech sector so that the future for all of us can be better.”

So, is the Climate-KIC Innovation Festival where it all comes together each year? “It’s an important event. You can witness the struggle in the early stage of developing a start up. The hard work it takes to go from a good idea to a great one that can be turned into a truly scalable business that generates real income.”

Cross-border European Dynamism

The Festival, and the Venture Competition in particular, brings home the fact that what we’ve created across Europe is a unique generation of entrepreneurs. “What’s encouraging for me,” says Hero, “is the fact that over the last five years we’ve seen a real cross border community of dynamic start-ups develop. There are more and more international teams competing in the competition. We’re working across 30 countries, but we now have a single vision: we’re supporting talent to empower a European economy of innovation.”

As the Venture Competition of 2015 was coming to an end, Hero was already looking forward: “I’ve had the privilege of working with a really great team and they never stop accelerating the programme. We’ve already got a pipeline of great start-ups for next year, and the year after that. They’re working with business coaches to be good enough to get to future finals and win. Then, well, we want to push them out of the building into the real world and test their business model. I’m really proud of what my Entrepreneurship team has achieved.” And the achievements are very real: IN 2014 64 start-ups raised over €68 million, and in 2015 the numbers are expected to be even higher.

2016 is going to be just as exciting – if not more. I’m looking forward to it.

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