EIC Planet.tech interview with Advisory Board Member Jim Hagemann Snabe

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Last week, 3 and 4 June, saw the kick-off of yet another new EIC-initiative, Planet.tech, an event focused on EU Green Deal-challenges. It brought together 28 EIC-backed start-ups/scale-ups with four large corporates, namely AB InBEV, Deme, Nestle and P&G, with the objective to develop a number of Proof of Concepts (PoC) and enhance the cooperation between all parties.

In the course of the upcoming weeks the EIC will introduce the different challenges and participants in dedicated series. For the first session Mr Jim Hagemann Snabe, EIC Advisory Board Member and Chairman at Siemens and AP Moller – Maersk, who was present for the kick-off event, will explain the importance of Planet.tech, talk about the Green Deal, while also discussing the future of innovation in Europe and the prime role he foresees for the EIC.

You opened your speech last week with your views on the future of innovation in Europe. Could you expand on these views?

We are currently living in an inflection point, where digital technologies are redefining the way our lives and our businesses. I’m a big believer in innovation to drive growth, prosperity and societal progress. The technology available today enables us to solve most of the big issues that the world is facing and innovation is a key factor in that. The United Nations defined the critical problems to solve through the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One example is SDG #7: Affordable and clean energy. We have been burning fossil fuels for many years to generate electric. We are now at a stage where the cost producing one kWh of electricity is lower if we use sustainable sources like wind and sun than even the cheapest fossil fuels. That’s a good illustration of an inflection point. 

You gave the opening speech in your capacity as EIC Advisory Board Member. Could you explain how you got involved as Advisory Board Member?

We are now in the pilot-phase of the EIC, but I joined before that. Carlos Moedas (former EU Commissioner) called me and asked if I would join to represent the corporate side. I joined because I believe the key to unlock a better future is innovation. Europe has great ideas, great innovators, but we often miss out on scaling those great ideas. I was asked to join in order to bring my global corporate experience to the EIC. I felt that it was an opportunity to combine start-ups and entrepreneurship with the scale and global reach of large corporates. The EIC is orchestrating the combination of start-ups with great ideas with funding and scale find solutions to relevant problems. We have a clear European direction towards to Green Deal and digitalisation as two of the key drivers. I also believe the EIC Advisory Board is symbolic for Europe: it is a very diverse group that manages to work very well together. And that defines the future of innovation; embracing diversity to get the big ideas.

How does EIC Planet.tech fit into the direction that Europe is going and what are your thoughts on this new EIC-initiative?

I am excited about Planet.tech for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it’s using technology to help solve challenges in a way that’s sustainable and at the same time converting great ideas to business value. This is also what I like about the Green deal, it is converting an issue into a business opportunity. With the EU Green Deal, Europe drives relevant innovations in a significant way, in a world that really needs it.

Second, I would like to highlight the dedicated focus of Planet.tech and the creation of innovation ecosystems that rolls out of that process. The way I see it, there is always a debate ‘can you pick the winner?’. That’s hard to do, but you can pick the issue you want to solve. For me innovation is the solution to a specific problem. Rather than having a generic interest for innovation, Planet.tech has a specific focus on sustainability. These are big challenges to solve, and the benefits of solving them are significant. Planet.tech brings the right people together around a relevant topic. And its unique because it requires a combination of companies in various sizes and industries in order to solve those big problems.  You can innovate within a category or sector, but if you want create a breakthrough, you often have to look in between the boundaries of sectors. That is exactly what Planet.tech does. I call it innovation ecosystems. With that approach you can accelerate the impact, more than when you would apply a generic approach. And it can be applied to more specific challenges like the future of sustainable energy, health or transport. 

On a closing note, what does the future hold for the EIC?

The EIC is the essence of the future of Europe. The EU had an important role in creating collaboration in Europe and through that ensuring peace. In that sense EU has already proven its unique value. In addition the Single Market has created scale opportunities for European companies. EU is now at an inflection point. Europe has the opportunity to innovate the next generation solutions for a more sustainable, more digital and more human centric future. The EIC is a catalyst for that Europe. The EIC converts money into ideas, and accelerates a better future of Europe. This is truly the next phase of the European project. I am an optimistic person and I firmly believe the next decade fits the characteristics of Europe: a network of entrepreneurs, diverse teams, large corporates and a ‘can-do’ attitude – and a human centric approach!

In the upcoming weeks the EIC will post regular updates about the EIC Planet.tech challenges and go in-depth with the different corporates and SMEs. Keep your eyes on our EIC Community and the EIC social media accounts for more EIC Planet.tech.

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