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Estonia is a country that has never had much wealth, a huge internal market or any mineral resources, but we have a lot of entrepreneurial people. We are the pathfinders in the ICT and startup world today, searching for new solutions to get things done cheaper and faster. And the government supports it. In 2016, startup founders foresaw the growth of the startup sector and the additional need for talented people in the ecosystem. As a potential solution, they suggested a startup visa program, which was implemented already 11 months after the initial idea by entrepreneurs and the government working together. Today, with the program having been active for 3.5 years, more than 2,500 start-up founders and employees from outside the EU have gained the right to relocate to Estonia to be part of our start-up ecosystem.
The UK is the tech powerhouse of Europe.
We want to make sure that UK tech comes out of the Covid-19 crisis stronger than ever - supporting the sector through the recovery just as tech supported all of us through the pandemic. Our forthcoming Digital Strategy will unleash the full potential of tech innovators and entrepreneurs across the country, driving a new era of growth.
The UK has long been one of the best places to start and grow a tech business and we intend to keep it that way by taking an unashamedly pro-tech approach.
The German ecosystem has seen some major investments, despite the crisis. For many years it was hard for German entrepreneurs to find money, in terms of seed investments as well as in growth funding. That has changed completely. Every good idea is finding money right now. What the ecosystem needs is more business models and ideas in order to build unicorns. We have enough money; we need better ideas. One promising area is the digitalization of manufacturing, another are all aspects of business automation. We have seen quite a few quickly growing startups in these areas. A lot more could come out, if business, universities and research institutes would collaborate more closely. A close network between big corporations, small and mid-sized companies, research institutes and the startup scene is crucial for achieving success. A good example for that is the network UnternehmerTUM in Munich.
While going through a major challenge like this year is not something any of us would have wanted, I think the resilience it builds in the tech community, its companies, its teams and employees is fundamentally a good thing for the longer term.
The societal impact of lockdown has driven more rapid adoption of a variety of digital services, including in areas where Europe has a particular strength. For example, in fintech, where people were more likely to switch to a service like Revolut when traditional banks still required them to go into branches to manage their accounts.
Similarly, European healthtech is really strong, and while not the driver anyone wanted, COVID led to huge investment and activity which has led to strong growth, including in areas like AI-based diagnosis and remote primary care. While going through a major challenge like this year is not something any of us would have wanted, I think the resilience it builds in the tech community, its companies, its teams and employees is fundamentally a good thing for the longer term.
A global pandemic presents my company with more opportunities than threats. When people are unsure about their future, there's a chance to guide them through these changes, be it financially or even psychologically. That's certainly not the case for every business. Tech companies in travel or hospitality have been hit hard. Like elsewhere on the planet, they need to reinvent the relationship with their customer to survive. The Netherlands has the social support system and government support to weather the storm, but the lowest incomes are still hit hard. I sincerely believe that tech, as an industry, does not exist. Tech is a part of every industry. We should create equal opportunities for anyone, regardless of background or income level, to contribute.
For Europe to create more health tech breakout success stories, one of two things is required.
I'm looking at areas that benefit from community-based healthcare. Broadly, this includes chronic diseases, long-term diseases, and under resourced areas like menstrual and mental health. These are areas where public healthcare has limited budget and resources and where private healthcare can often be prohibitively expensive. In addition, even if you do receive healthcare for it, there's a social and community component that is lacking which can be highly value add from the perspective of knowledge transfer, mental well-being and peer support. We've already made one investment in this space, Second Nature, and I'm looking for more.
For Europe to create more health tech breakout success stories, one of two things is required: pan-European plays or companies that can successfully grow their business in the US. Both have their issues. Each country in Europe has a different national healthcare system and different cultural attitudes towards healthcare, so while in aggregate it's a compelling market, scaling across Europe is very challenging. The US on the other hand has a large market with a very different, profit driven attitude towards healthcare, but the healthcare system, payment coverage and attitudes towards healthcare are quite different from the most of the world, which makes it a daunting market to conquer.
More broadly I think Europe needs to find a way to get its best companies to not sell too soon - especially as deep tech gets deeper and much more patient capital will be needed to meet some of the huge challenges we face as a world. People don't really talk much about technology sovereignty but if recent events have taught us anything it's that geopolitics is getting more not less volatile and as a European, I'd feel a lot more comfortable if we not only developed but owned more of the future too.