In a former railway yard in southeast Paris, a €200 million project is underway to create a global hub for Internet development that will be the largest start-up incubator in the world. Dubbed Halle Freyssinet (or Station F), this is just one project that will make Paris a global player in terms of Internet technology, as well as create up to 4,000 jobs and attract 1,000 French and foreign tech entrepreneurs. Funded by a private investment from “the French Steve Jobs,” Xavier Niel (co-owner of the newspaper Le Monde), this project is one example of how start-ups and entrepreneurs are leading the way to help Europe build its own version of Silicon Valley, one city at a time. This is a trend we’ve noticed taking place everywhere from Sicily to Lisbon, as European start-ups step up against big players in the United States and Asia, proving that Europe is home to “real pioneering innovation.” Below, we take a deeper look into the expansion of Europe’s start-up culture and how the continent is rapidly gaining the reputation as a Silicon Valley.— Philippe Leonard
The growth of Europe’s start-up culture
Once upon a time, Europe’s tech sector was known for e-commerce businesses that were copycats of American companies, but now Europe is leading the way in terms of “deep tech” artificial intelligence, designed by Google’s DeepMind. According to an article on World Economic Forum, this sector accounted for €1.13 billion in European venture investments in 2015, up from €260 million just four years before. This is just one area where Europe is advancing. Start-ups are taking speed across the continent as new tech hubs emerge outside of traditionally tech-savvy cities like London, Berlin and Stockholm. With projects like Halle Freyssinet in Paris, it’s no surprise the French capital is already “challenging London and Berlin in terms of the number and volume of venture-capital-financed deals.”
For Europe to really create its own Silicon Valley, however, cities need more than start-ups; they need “an entire ecosystem: a constant stream of entrepreneurs, capital and companies of all sizes,” according to World Economic Forum. Sicily, for example, looked to crowdfunding to raise the initial investment it needed to install Internet-connected sensors around the harbour city of Messina, which connects objects through an Open Data network and compiles information to improve services for citizens. Lisbon is another example of a city that is connecting start-ups and entrepreneurs with the financial partners they need to develop and build on their ideas, helping the city create a strong digital infrastructure.
By building these innovative ecosystems and new technologies that allow local governments to improve the services they offer citizens, European cities are well on their way to developing their own version of Silicon Valley.