The European Investment Bank (EIB) and World Economic Forum have issued a call to action for social inclusion to be put at the heart of EU economic policy. It comes as a new joint White Paper by both organizations, with contributions from the think tank Bruegel, is launched to make the case for more private-public sector partnership to drive a more inclusive approach to growth in Europe.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are the prime ways that growth and inclusion in Europe can be supported, says the White Paper, which puts forward key recommendations for action: from supporting public-private partnerships for technology diffusion, investing in smart transport infrastructure, supporting schemes for migrant entrepreneurs, a better strategy for teaching advanced digital skills as well as better access to venture capital and non-traditional sources of financing for small businesses.

EIB Vice President Andrew McDowell who is hosting today’s gathering of policymakers, business representatives and academics at the European Investment Banks Brussels Headquarters, said: “As we launch our report, EU finance ministers are meeting across the road. They know only too well the costs of growing inequality and uncertain prospects for the European economy. Our report is saying inclusion can no longer be treated as an afterthought. It is not a luxury - it is a catalyst for growth. What our very concrete and practical study shows and indeed what we see on the ground at the EU bank, is there is a win-win space where we can promote both inclusion and competiveness at the same time. Now we have to scale this up and bring the private and public sectors together to do this.”

Richard Samans, Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum said: “We need a major shift in mindset in how we think about inclusion – as a positive catalyst for growth. It’s about rethinking our economic model and moving away from treating growth and inclusion as two separate processes. A partnership between the public and private sector joined by academic and civil society can help bring this about. The report we are launching and discussing today - and our Europe Growth Lab project provide starting points for implementation. I would urge policymakers to take heed - and use this study and our partnership as a valuable guide to how we can move forward.”

Today’s paper is a direct product of the WEF-EIB partnership, with contributions from Bruegel under the Europe Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness Lab set up in February 2016. The Lab aims to support the design and implementation of private-public partnerships in EU member states to increase competiveness and inclusive growth in Europe.

The Beyond the Equity-Efficiency Trade-Off: Practical Ideas for Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness in Europe paper identified around 25 concrete examples in Europe of real initiatives focused on innovation and entrepreneurship that can serve as starting points for implementation, acceleration and scaling up.

These examples include:

  • Work by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology in teaching in teaching digital skills and attracting talent is featured.
  • The approach of Austrian public-private partnership Pilotfabrik 4.0, and Tech City UK‘s Upscale programme in supporting start-ups and spreading innovation demonstrated how treating growth and inclusion together pays off, according to the report.
  • The link between smart infrastructure, competitiveness and inclusion is successfully shown by initiatives like Superfast Cornwall, Madrid’s Real Time Passenger Information System and Enexis in the Netherlands.
  • Hamburg’s “Working Group of Immigrant Entrepreneurs” is presented as an approach to encourage social integration and the contribution of migrant entrepreneurs to the economy.

The study proposes key areas for action including:

  • Promoting innovation and diffusing existing technologies more rapidly across all types of firms.
  • Pushing and supporting entrepreneurship - including the transition from start-up to scale-up.
  • Investing in people, particularly society’s youngest and promoting a better strategy for advanced digital skills teaching.
  • More investment in a connected Europe with broadband for all and investment in smart transport and smart grids.
  • Stepping up of credit guarantees for small business, more support for venture capital and growth capital funding – such as through the InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility.

For more information, see the full report: Beyond the Equity-Efficiency Trade-Off: Practical Ideas for Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness in Europe