Bridging Europe through Entrepreneurship

World Economic Forum

Ron Kok, Founder, OTB-Group, Netherlands
Michele Appendino, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Net Partners Ventures, Italy
Lucy Marcus, Founder and CEO, Marcus Venture Consulting, United Kingdom
Mel Young, President, International Network of Street Papers, UK
Ronald Cohen, Chairman, Apax Partners, United Kingdom
Richard Bobrow, Global CEO, Ernst & Young, United Kingdom


Bridging Europe through Entrepreneurship Initiative to be launched at Annual Meeting 2003 in Davos

Geneva, Switzerland, 14 January 2003 – The World Economic Forum’s 2003 Bridging Europe Initiative will build a network of 100 entrepreneurs from current and future EU member states as well as from non-accession countries from the CIS and South-East Europe. “After the positive experience of last year, when the World Economic Forum helped facilitate a dialogue between 1,000 youths from 33 countries, we realized that other societal groups, such as entrepreneurs, also wanted to build bridges across Europe,” says Ann Mettler, Director for Europe at the World Economic Forum. “Young entrepreneurs in particular are looking for opportunities to meet peers from other countries and need channels to communicate their needs vis-à-vis policy-makers and the public at large.”

Bridging Europe Through Entrepreneurship will be kicked off at the Annual Meeting in Davos with a private brainstorming of policy-makers and entrepreneurs. The group is drawn from Forum communities such as the Global Leaders for Tomorrow, Technology Pioneers and Social Entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is possible and advisable in any economic climate. We have to give people the tools and the confidence to succeed,” says Pia Hahn Marocco, Chairman, International Presentations, a UK-based company. Stefan Vilsmeier, Founder of BrainLAB, a leader in advanced medical systems, adds, “German entrepreneurs especially face significant structural hurdles that make it much more difficult to achieve their vision and be successful. Current bankruptcy laws and onerous tax rates create an environment of high personal risk and reduced personal incentives.”

Compared to other regions of the world, the European Union and Central Europe are dramatically underperforming. According to Paul Reynolds, Professor of Entrepreneurship at London Business School, “The level of European entrepreneurial activity must double or triple to match that of other parts of the world. Drastic measures are needed or Europe’s competitiveness may decrease even further.”

The 2003 Bridging Europe Initiative coincides with the launch of a comprehensive European Commission study on entrepreneurship. Erkki Liikanen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society, will provide guidance to the group and share insights on the report’s key conclusions. He confirms that, “Europe needs to foster entrepreneurship more effectively. New entrepreneurial initiatives, either starting a new firm or reorienting an existing one, boost productivity, efficiency and innovation. Entrepreneurship is relevant for firms in all sectors, technological or traditional and for small and large firms.”

Senior business executives have signed on to the Initiative in an effort to highlight the need for more entrepreneurship in Europe. Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, believes that, “enabling young people in particular to realize their potential and create new enterprises is essential to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for all Europeans. We are pleased to be involved in this important World Economic Forum initiative.”

In the coming months, the World Economic Forum will survey and profile the Bridging Europe entrepreneurs, organize national round tables with policy-makers and experts, and feed key conclusions on Entrepreneurship in Europe into its European Competitiveness Summit 2003.

Selected plenary sessions will be webcast live over the Internet. In addition, special reports, press releases and speeches will be posted on the Forum’s website ( during each day of the Annual Meeting.


25 January 2003


World Economic Forum


Annual Meeting 2003


Davos Switzerland

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