Headlines 2017

Seminar in Brussels: EU has to open up to new ideas and new business


The seminar in Brussels engaged the audience. Photo: John Thys/TT.

Brussels | Magnus Henrekson, IFN, presented the report Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: An Agenda for Europe (Project Fires) at a seminar hosted by the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU and jointly organized by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and IFN. The study calls for more productive entrepreneurship to improve the quality of life of EU citizens, and for the EU to enhance the competitiveness in the global marketplace. The panel agreed that the same recipe doesn't apply to all member states. Though, Gunnar Hökmark, MEP (M), argued that some things fit all member states, for example less regulation and more openness for competion.

Magnus Henrekson.jpgMagnus Henrekson, IFN, presented the report Institutional Reform for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: An Agenda for Europe (Springer) which he has authored in cooperation with Niklas Elert and Mikael Stenkula, IFN, whithin Project Fires. Photo: John Thys/TT.


Presenting the research study Magnus Henrekson emphasized that to create a better European entrepreneurship ecosystem we must have a holistic perspective. Innovations are not enough. Products must be successfully commercialized for companies and the economy to grow.

However, there are major differences between the Member States. Today we have 28 varieties of capitalism and reforms must be based on the conditions of each country.

In the study the researchers propose reforms in nine areas, including taxes – which they explain should be low and general. It is also crucial that pension funds – which today account for a very large proportion of all saving – can be invested as venture capital in start-ups. In addition, it is important that social insurance is not tied to the current employer; on the contrary it should be portable. The Danish flexicurity system, which provides security while encouraging dynamism is exemplary in this respect .


Slawomir Tokarski, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing in the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs  at the European Commission, was part of the panel – part of the time. Photo: John Thys/TT


Slawomir Tokarski, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing in the DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs at the European Commission, said that innovations are becoming increasingly complex in terms of policy. He mentioned, for example, intellectual property rights.

“This means that more people, sectors and ministries must work towards the same goal,” Mr. Tokarski said, agreeing with Professor Henrekson that a holistic view is needed. A view that also goes for EU’s numerous DGs whose cooperation must improve.

Slawomir Tokarski mentioned that several EU regions have cooperated by pooling skills to accomplish projects. This has turned out to be a formula for success. The Commission is now investing in the continuation of this work.


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Ambassador Åsa Webber kicked off the seminar that was held  at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU. Photo: John Thys/TT



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From left Magnus Henrekson, IFN, Jakop dalunde, MEP (MP) and Gunnar Hökmark, MEP (M) listening to questions from the audience. Photo: John Thys/TT

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Gunnar Hökmark, Member of European Parliament (M). Photo: John Thys/TT.


Gunnar Hökmark, MEP (M) argued that nobody could create a more competitive Europe by political decisions in Brussels. “It is a question of creating an environment that allows for competition and entrepreneurship,” Hökmark said.

“True that no one-size fits all. But it is also true that there is a size that fits all, meaning that some ideas are general. For example: less regulation and more openness for competition are crucial. Still you need to take different actions in the member states to achieve this.”

Gunnar Hökmark referred to statistics presented by Magnus Henrekson showing that the number of billionaires is much higher in the US and China compared to Europe. “One reason for this is that in Europe we love competition until we get it,” said Hökmark. He explained that in Europe we have a lot of big firms with close ties to old structures. These mature firms get the governments to cater to their needs and making it more difficult for newcomers to enter the market. “We must allow old industries and firms to be phased out and be replaced by new firms and industries. And we need to like this process, which is a cultural thing.” Hökmark summed up: “To accomplish this we need lower taxes, less regulation and to open up for competition.”


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Jakop Dalunde, Member of European Parliament (MP). Photo: John Thys/TT.

”Much of the sound advice professor Henrekson has given is easier to implement on a national than the EU level,” said Jakop Dalunde, MEP (MP).

He asserted that in Horizon2020 (EU’s Research and Innovation program) the money funded goes to innovations that are easy to implement from an entrepreneurial perspective. ”It is important in this program to focus on excellence, not on regional or social diversity. There are other programs for that,” Dalunde said, adding that it is important that EU funding goes to infrastructure for innovation such as test beds that allow newer actors to test their products: ” We must be able to support newer and incoming businesses.”


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Jens Hedström, Head of Brussels Office at Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, moderated the seminar about entrepeneurship in Europe. Photo: John Thys/TT.


Concluding the seminar Magnus Henrekson explained that Europe needs its own new large successful firms. He also called for a change of mind, in terms of today’s shielding of European industries. "We should not fret about the Chinese state-sponsored production of less expensive solar panels. Instead, we must make sure that there are European companies that use these cheap panels in a smart way to solve our problems. These large-scale companies working on a systemic level will always be the ones that create the most value.”

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