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“Healthy Investment Central Eastern Europe” project aimed at building a robust early-stage investment pipeline in CEE region launched

22nd January 2024

Healthy Investment Central Eastern Europe (HICEE) aims to boost innovations in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), where start-ups receive only a third of the European average for VC investments.  
The project consortium is spearheaded by EIT Health, Europe’s leading network of healthcare innovators, and a part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. The project partners represent business acceleration service providers and investor networks from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, as well as innovation hubs from Belgium and the Netherlands. The two-year initiative is strategically implemented under Horizon Europe, a flagship EU research and innovation programme. 

The CEE region accounted for only 3.2% of Europe’s total venture capital investment in 2021. The start-ups receiving support in this region received an average venture capital investment of €1.2 million, representing a third of the European average of €3.8 million1. Attracting capital is one of the biggest challenges in developing European regions, known as modest and moderate innovation ecosystems, according to the European Innovation Scoreboard. The reasons include both fewer venture targets and a low number of investors, as well as an unwillingness to invest capital across borders. 

 

Attracting €3M in capital with cross-border co-investments 

The aim of the HICEE project is to create sustainable early-stage investment ecosystems, attract local and international investors, provide de-risking support, and actively share successful outcomes to foster continuous investor engagement. It will run its first activities in countries where partners are based, namely Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. However, its outreach and training opportunities will extend to other modest and moderate European regions. The programme is expected to equip at least 10 start-up support organisations, such as Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), with new methodologies. It also aims to train an additional 30 trainers who have the potential to impact up to 150 innovation projects/start-up ventures annually. Other expected outcomes include vetting 25 health start-ups for advanced investment readiness in international markets and attracting millions in cross-border co-investments. Digital investment handbooks and a white paper on investment policies, published as a part of the project’s commitment to knowledge-sharing, will serve as invaluable guides for investors, contributing to a more informed and empowered investment community. 

Targeting TTOs, universities, investors, and innovators, HICEE emphasises collaboration for sustained innovation in the region. The programme seeks to directly engage with the European Investment Fund, regional and national innovation agencies, and European policymakers to create an environment fostering long-term growth and forging living and lasting connections between innovation players in the region and beyond.  

 

HICEE consortium partners 

The project consortium consists of 10 partners from 7 European countries. This includes EIT Health (DE) as a coordinator, its affiliated entity EIT Health SI (DE) and the primary beneficiaries, namely Civitta (SK), Cobinangels (PL), Crowdberry (SK), EIT Health InnoStars (InnoStars) (DE), Hungarian Business Angel Network (HunBAN) (HU), Ljubljanski univerzitetni incubator (SI), MEDVIA (BE) and TU Delft (NL). 

 

Additionally, the initiative will be drawing on the expertise of external stakeholders and advisory group members, i.e.  KU Leuven (BE), Danube Angels (AT). Hungarian Export Promotion Agency Nonprofit, Inc. (HU), Business Angels Europe BAE (BE), Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB KII (SE), European Investment Fund EIF (LU), Invest Europe IE (BE), Arima d.o.o / Business Angels of Slovenia (SI). 

Most of the HICEE consortium partners are already involved in activities closely linked to the project’s scope in their regions. Civitta runs an accelerator programme. Additionally, Civitta, TU Delft, Ljubljanski univerzitetni incubator and InnoStars have a very strong track record of collaborative joint programmes like the DRIVE programme or the RIS Jumpstarter programme. EIT Health and the EIF already have a trusted working relationship and provide de-risked deal-flow to associated European investors through joint development of the Venture Center of Excellence (VCoE), a public-private co-investment programme connected to the €150 million Sustainable Development Umbrella Fund (SDUF).

“HICEE is a key step towards cultivating a dynamic innovation ecosystem in Central and Eastern Europe. To ensure the widespread adoption of the project’s outcomes, we will leverage the expansive reach of EIT Health InnoStars and its Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) programme, operational in 13 modest and moderate regions. With the joint commitment of stakeholders, investors and innovators, I am optimistic that the programme will leave a lasting mark on the region’s economic and health landscape,” adds Balazs Furjes, Managing Director for EIT Health InnoStars.

For more information about the HICEE programme, visit Funding & tenders (europa.eu) 

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