Three British companies made the final 25 (from 800 entries) of the European Venture Competition held in Madrid this week.
This annual competition, like many European processes, involved a vast advent calendar of stages in multiple countries. I myself had to dust down a map and fly to Mons, Dusseldorf and then Madrid for the final as moixatechnology was one of eight finalists representing cleantech.
Unlike most other business awards this one actually had a money prize of €30,000 each for the winning ICT, life sciences and cleantech companies. After all the effort of starting from the original 800, this seemed a rather small amount. But I guess it reflects how hard it is to actually get capital from funds these days, or perhaps the lack of euros actually left.
More monetary prize are awarded for the annual ‘Shell Spring Board’ competition, Technology Strategy Board & Carbon Trust grants and similar high street-bank cash awards. All seem to follow the trend of turning SME fundraising into modern day gladiator fights as a distraction during the last few days of yet another crumbling European empire.
Like all entrepreneurs entering the casino, I’d laid bets across each of the competitions. Then on Friday I awoke, like most people, to the shock news of the UK veto – and in my mind the reduced chances of a British coup at the EVC awards.
Whilst the veto was right against the threat of a £50 billion plus annual Tobin tax on London, diplomatically it was executed poorly. It would perhaps have been more honest to say: ‘We’ve already spent hundreds of billions bailing out our own banks and sold our gold reserves to reduce debt, so we don’t have anything left to help you.’
For me this is why our debt is now so bad. Isn’t it time Europe did the same thing and got Italy to sell its $100 billion gold reserve? It’s totally wrong for the UK to be asked for €50 billion a year just to allow France and Germany collateral to borrow a trillion from China to pay off their banking losses. Meanwhile, CERN says the ‘Higgs boson’ may have been found in a tunnel in Switzerland hiding between Waldo and Clegg.
So it was with great nervousness that three British companies arrived in Madrid yesterday to present our case. I panicked realising my cuff-links and wallet carried the union jack, so I quickly swapped the cufflinks for a silver ‘matador’ at the airport.
Our pitch at the final went well but we soon realised with a cleantech jury biased around oil, chemistry and material science investors, the award was going elsewhere. The winner ended up being a ‘new liquid crystal’ technology prospect from a company called Orthocone.
The other British companies had more luck. Mark Evans, CEO of Radius Diagnostics, won the overall life sciences category, collecting a cheque for €30,000, for its pioneering miniature x-ray chip technology. Similarly, Will Addison from Phasor Solutions, which is developing a flat/portable phased array antenna, came second in the overall ICT category.
So it appears, despite our veto, Europe still loves some things from the UK, whether it’s our money, houses, our inventions or our innovative SMEs.