Today at the Digital Assembly in Bucharest, the European Commission together with the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation agreed to launch the Digital Innovation and Scale-up Initiative (DISC).

group photo of DISC meeting

DISC will focus on providing support to strategic future-oriented digital innovations and deep technology that are capital intensive, risky by nature and require longer-term financing (patient capital). In particular, the initiative will focus on the early stage and the scale-up of innovative startups and deep tech SMEs in the Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE) region. 

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society said:

This investment initiative is crucial for fostering innovation and competitiveness, promoting sustainable economic development, and addressing societal challenges in the region. Innovation is happening in all corners of Europe and it is important that everyone has equal opportunities.

World Bank Digital Development Director, Boutheina Guermazi, sums up DISC’s unique value-added and its significant contribution to the region:

The proposed regional digital innovation initiative constitutes a critical milestone for the digital transformation of the CESEE region. We fully support the initiative and its emphasis on strengthening the regional digital enabling environment, including infrastructure and skills, as one of its integral elements.

Dirk Werner, Director of EBRD’s Information and Communication Technologies Team added:

Increasing the competitiveness of innovative SMEs represents a strategic growth opportunity for countries in the region, reinforcing the move towards a knowledge-based economy. At EBRD, we believe that a combination of finance and business advice for digital innovation SMEs and the scaling up of digital start-ups can create a sound basis for further growth in the region.

Debora Revoltella, Director of the Economics Department at the European investment Bank and member of the steering committee of the Vienna Initiative said:

The CESEE region has to focus more on innovation and digitalization. There is a clear investment gap, which needs to be filled. Such a gap calls for more innovation finance and financial instruments can play a role.

Specifically, it was agreed that DISC will explore potential funding structures and support mechanisms to leverage resources from the EU, international financial institutions, National Promotional Banks and the private sector in support of highly innovative startups and SMEs with higher risk profiles in the CESEE region.

What are DISC’s main objectives?

  • to develop a regional joint initiative supported by the EC, the EIB Group, the EBRD and the World Bank Group to leverage funding and competencies;
  • to enhance financing and the access to advisory services for early stage and scale-up of innovative, high-risk deep tech startups with high growth potential;
  • to provide advisory support, connect innovators with investors, and enhance the visibility of digital champions though and Investment Support Program;
  • to offer technical assistance to public agencies to strengthen their capacity to design, develop and implement digital innovation programs;
  • to strengthen strategic investments in the enabling environment for digital innovations;
  • to connect digital innovation ecosystems across the region.

Background

46% of startups incubated in the CESEE region raise financing from investors outside. There remains a substantial investment gap in the region which represents an important bottleneck for the successful scale-up of digital startups.

More information