EU4Digital has developed a framework to build and enhance the growth of the ICT entrepreneurial ecosystems in the six Eastern partner countries, by delivering a guide that provides a maturity assessment of each country, as well as country-level recommendations for developing the
ecosystem.

Understanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem:
the entrepreneurial ecosystem can be defined as the union of public and private entities, within a national or international scope, that joins efforts to promote the creation of new companies and ensure their success by offering them access to knowledge, capital, market and resources.
In this way companies are motivated to invest their profits in the same ecosystem, as a result, creating economic wealth and boosting the development of industries.
ICT entrepreneurial ecosystems are mainly focused on innovations, generating new business models, products and services, in addition to creating more competitive and efficient markets and improving the customer experience.

Composition of the guide: the guide provides an evaluation of the performance of ICT entrepreneurial ecosystem stakeholders in the partner countries, such as educators, investors, facilitators and connectors; it also offers a benchmarking of the Eastern partner countries and the East-Central European countries. Finally, the guide provides countrylevel analysis and recommendations, including practical actions, approximate timing, budget and required expertise for implementation.

In producing this guide, the experts developed and applied a custom methodology for evaluating the maturity of the ecosystems and performance of their stakeholders through several growth elements such as access to finance, knowledge, market and resources (facilities). The guide was developed by gathering information from several public sources as well as holding multiple rounds of interviews and consultations with stakeholders of the ICT innovation network in the Eastern partner countries,  experts, educators, investors and others.
Providing access to finance: the persistent growth of start-ups largely depends on the funding made available to support players of the ecosystem – local stakeholders and start-ups. In terms of investment capacity in the Eastern partner countries, the previous EU4Digital study “Market Assessment for Digital Innovation and Scale-up Initiative (DISC) in Eastern partner countries” confirmed the funding gap for technology start-ups. In order to address this gap, the guide for developing the ICT entrepreneurial ecosystems has contributed with recommendations for building the investment capacity.
One of the tools to implement these recommendations will be the EaP DISC Capital regional venture funding facility, which was designed by EU4Digital ICT Innovation team experts. The facility should offer access to capital and knowledge for technology start-ups from idea to growth stages in the six Eastern partner countries.
In the current stage, EU4Digital will support the European Commission in the selection of the International Financial Institution to start a tender process for the facility implementation. The EaP DISC Capital will potentially start operating in the coming years.

Stakeholders’ perspective on implementation:
during the country level presentations of the ICT entrepreneurial ecosystem analysis and recommendations organised by EU4Digital back in February 2021, stakeholders from the Eastern partner countries noted the need to work towards the entrepreneurial mindset of innovators and educators. For that, the stakeholders identified several components as a key to greater growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems. These are the development of education opportunities through R&D activities and adaptation of best practices from other countries through joint programmes. They also emphasised the importance of transparency on investments and actions for implementation of the recommendations, and identified the government to act as a connector and empower the best ecosystem builders.

Next steps: EU4Digital aims to provide partner countries with assistance in boosting the growth of ICT entrepreneurial ecosystems. The next steps for the EU4Digital Facility are therefore to initiate and facilitate discussions with local governments, EU delegations and other public entities involved in the development of local ecosystems. The main objective will be to find the way forward in implementing the recommendations on country level, taking into account potential owners and donors.
The guidebook is available for download on the EU4Digital Library here.