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The Community First action plan for innovation foresees, among its priority actions, a thorough exchange with the Member States and leading players in the field on the issues of start-up and growth of technology based enterprises and companies with a strong component of radical innovation.
This exchange was launched with a round table chaired by Edith Cresson on 9 December 1997 in Paris, and which gathered government officials, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and researchers, etc.
The round table helped to identify relevant themes and factors conditioning the success of technology-based and other innovative firms.
Further to the round table, three working groups have been set up to examine each stage in the development of the firm (gestation and birth; start-up and consolidation; growth). The list of participants is included in annex.
The objectives of the working groups were:
• to identify what constitutes good practice,
• to point out weaknesses and insufficiencies which may exist in the European Union (or in certain of its regions) relative to competing areas elsewhere in the world (especially the United States)
• to make proposals for possible action, in particular at European level.
These proposals for action concern private actors in a first instance. However public actors have an important role to play in fostering a favourable environment or in stimulating interaction between the different actors (in particular though public/private partnerships), without necessarily adding to public expenditure.
The work was carried out in three stages. Written contributions were called for by 20 March. A core group drawn from each working group met on 26 or 27 March 1998 in Luxembourg with the objective to analyse and further elaborate on the submitted contributions. A first discussion paper was then issued and circulated to each group. The current set of documents attempts to synthesises the contributions and comments to date.
The three discussion papers were reviewed in detail at the Luxembourg conference on 18 and 19 of May.
A careful reader will notice some overlap between the analysis and recommendations by each group. This shows that the process from the initiation of the idea to the growth of the company is a continuum and cannot easily be split in discrete phases. At this discussion stage, no systematic attempt has been made to suppress this overlap. It is a task to be carried out further to the conference. Only the more striking misallocation of suggestions or examples have been tackled.
To facilitate the synthesis a similar structure has been adopted for each group, reflecting the main issues at stake. Besides the description of the relevant boundary conditions, each group has therefore focused on four main influential factors:
• a conducive environment,
• access to skills and competencies,
• access to financing,
• access to markets,