Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation ecosystems

Digital entrepreneurship: An idea bank for local policymakers

nesta digital enterpreneurhsip logoThis publication by nesta.org is an idea bank aiming to help local European policymakers and influencers create better conditions for entrepreneurship at the regional or city level. The publication is detailed and covers all the major areas on which local policy makers should address different challenges. The publication includes as Annex a Policy Action Guide with a template for policy makers to support the designing of a useful mix of policies to support digital entrepreneurship suited to different environments. The included guide contains ten-steps which comprise an idealised policy process and are not so straightforward in reality.

The following graph presents the areas that are included in the publication and local policy makers can find ideas.
nesta digital enterpreneurhsip publication areas


  1. Access to Capital
    Debt; Equity Investment; Crowdfunding; Grants
    Case Study: Hong Kong
  2. Business Environment
    Tax Incentives; Regulatory Sandboxes and Testbeds; Fast-track Permits; Labour Market Regulation
    Case Study: Italian Startup Act
  3. Digital Infrastructure
    Broadband; Wireless Connection; IoT Testbeds; Access to Data
  4. Entrepreneurial Culture
    Attitudes towards Failure; Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship; City Branding
    Case Study: La French Tech
  5. Knowledge Spillovers
    Collaborative Research and Consultancy; Facilities Hire; Cross-pollination; Academic Entrepreneurship; Case Study: Office of Business Development, UC Merced
  6. Lifestyle and Creativity
    Cost of Living; Cultural Quarters and Attractions; Creative Experimentation
  7. Market
    Public Procurement Programmes; Pre-procurement Programmes; Corporate Procurement; Overseas Expansion
  8. Mentoring and Managerial Assistance
    Accelerators; Mentoring Networks; Business Angels
  9. Non-Digital Infrastructure
    Mobility; Science Parks and Incubators; Urban Innovation Districts; Coworking Spaces
  10. Skills
    Enterprise Education; Digital Education; Attracting and Retaining Talent; Startup Visas
  11. Policy Process and Implementation
    Cluster Policies; Ecosystem Coordination; Public Engagement
    Mapping City Resources

Key findings

  • The starting and scaling of new ventures is of such importance to our economic wellbeing that it must be on the agenda of policymakers at all levels.
  • Digital entrepreneurship is particularly significant given the role of digital technologies in enabling innovative business models and driving economic growth.
  • Local policy conditions can have significant impact on entrepreneurs but have historically received rather less attention than national policy.
  • Entrepreneurship policy should not be pigeon-holed as a subset of business policy, but seen as a cross-governmental issue which should also be the concern of science and technology policy, education policy, planning and multiple other areas. ‘˜Joined-up’ government is therefore important.

While national policy is vital, we must remember that entrepreneurs are also affected by their local environment. Sub-national bodies like chambers of commerce, cluster managers, councils and local regulators ‘“ as well as universities and big business ‘“ can all influence entrepreneurs’ decisions and affect the framework within which startups thrive or die.

The idea bank is therefore intended specifically to help local policymakers and influencers create better conditions for entrepreneurship at the regional or city level. Intended as a ‘˜bank of ideas’ , it draws together examples from all over the world of policies and initiatives that support startups, especially digital startups, in an effort to provide inspiration and options to European policymakers.

Policies are grouped together under the 10 themes used in the European Digital City Index (EDCi) ‘“ which this guide is intended to complement ‘“ together with an 11th, cross-cutting theme relating to the process of policymaking. It concludes with some tools to assist in choosing, developing and implementing these policies.

Policy recommendations

Start with an evaluation of your local digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in order to identify strengths and weaknesses. (The EDCi can assist with this).
Be aware that start-ups are a special subset of SMEs, and that early stage start-ups have different priorities than later-stage scale-ups; each may require a different policy focus.
Policymakers should aim to cultivate the ecosystem as a whole, which requires a holistic view. Relying on one or two mechanisms is unlikely to create a sustainable ecosystem.

Download the idea bank from here