Can President Macron Scale Up Europe’s Tech Ecosystem?

Can President Macron Scale Up Europe’s Tech Ecosystem?

Maria Magdaleena Lamp
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On June 15th, Jobbatical CEO Karoli Hindriks joined other key players in the European tech ecosystem to meet with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The event brought together a pan-European community—named Scale-Up Europe—aiming to collaborate across the union to make Europe the world’s foremost tech and innovation hub. 

To that end, the 170-strong group presented President Macron with a report that identifies the key hurdles between Europe and the next level of global tech leadership. 

Scale-Up Europe brings select tech founders, investors, researchers, CEOs, and government officials together around one goal: to accelerate the rise of global tech leaders born in Europe. Because as fast as it’s developing and churning out unicorns, Europe today still lags behind other regions. 

As part of a unique initiative to turn things around and kick Europe’s tech development into gear, the report unveiled 21 recommendations aimed to fix the biggest pain points in the ecosystem. At the event in Paris, President Macron committed to executing on the recommendations during the French EU Presidency, set to kick off in January 2022. 

A part of the report focuses on Europe’s significant problem with highly skilled tech talent. Namely: it’s running out, and bringing more in from outside the EU is a nightmare for both the talent and the companies employing them.

Jobbatical founder Karoli Hindriks is one of the members of Scale-Up Europe advocating for a sweeping overhaul of European immigration processes to give the region better access to top global talent. In the talent section of the report, Hindriks highlights that the biggest problem of international hiring isn’t the hiring itself, but the immigration and relocation process.

As it stands today, immigration into Europe for tech talent from outside of the EU is stressful, time-consuming, and can drag out for months. Sometimes two or three, but all too often closer to nine. The stress and loss of productivity this entails is hard to measure, but easy to imagine. 

In short—migration into Europe’s strongly talent-starved tech hubs is ripe for disruption, if the ecosystem is to thrive.

Because far from being over, the notorious global talent shortage has only taken a turn for the worse since the onset of the pandemic. According to the most recent ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage survey, almost 7 in 10 (69%) of companies report talent shortages and difficulty hiring—a 15-year high.

There quite simply isn’t enough talent to go around. So companies, countries, and entire regions need to go above and beyond to attract what scarce top tech talent is out there today.

“When the pandemic started, there were predictions that local markets would have a surplus of great talent due to the economic downturn,” Hindriks says. “What we saw in reality was that even though unemployment grew, companies that could afford it were holding on to their people even more.” 

It’s clear, then, that to win in the competition for talent, companies need to expand their hiring globally. It’s up to policymakers to make it easy for them.

To make this happen and bridge the ever-widening talent gap for the European tech ecosystem, the Scale-Up Europe report recommends these steps: 

For public authorities: 

  • Implement an EU-wide Digital Nomad Visa: The report recommends starting with a ‘digital nomad’ status in European countries, allowing employees to work legally anywhere across the EU on a remote basis. Among European countries, Estonia has been a pioneer in creating a legal framework for the location-independent workforce, having launched a visa scheme for digital nomads in 2020, in cooperation with Jobbatical.
  • A European Tech Visa: The report also suggests a fast-track European tech visa for non-Europeans, along with a favourable expat tax regime to be issued by all member states.
  • Competitive stock option framework: As a further incentive for highly skilled workers, establish competitive stock option schemes in European countries and then align best practices Europe-wide.

For the tech ecosystem, the report urges:

  • Developing a European diversity rating based on tech companies' reporting.
  • Developing an international culture early on in startup development with English as the working language.
  • Helping foreign employees settle in, for example with aid schemes for opening bank accounts and finding housing.

Having been at the forefront of digital transformation in the immigration space in recent years, Karoli Hindriks firmly believes that changing the way talent flows into Europe is one of the most impactful ways of moving the needle on the region’s tech scene. The rest of Europe, she believes, should learn from her home country of Estonia and replicate the country’s model of smooth and efficient digital processes that would allow employers to bring in new international employees as fast as within 24 or 48 hours.

Some countries and cities have taken note: In collaboration with Jobbatical, Berlin introduced an immigration fast track in 2020 that allows the immigration process to shrink from a whopping 90 days down to two or three. 

In the long term, Jobbatical’s goal is to create better immigration systems that will allow software to take relocation speeds to a whole new level, giving a leg up to countries and businesses that understand the importance of a frictionless immigration experience.

The EU can’t even dream of any competitive advantage on the global tech scene without the crucial people-element of the equation. Fixing immigration and access to talent is an absolutely unmissable step on that journey. Technology is the way to do it. Will President Macron be the one to make it happen at scale—and scale up Europe? Jobbatical will be keeping tabs.

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