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TECHCITIESOFTHEFUTURE


GLOBALOUTLOOK


more than 200 million in 2022. Thanks toemployee-retention schemes, unemployment rates within the EU were not as severely affected as in other regions. How- ever, a study by the insurance com- pany Euler Hermes found that the vastmajority of workerswho lost their jobs in early 2020, or were already unemployed, will struggle to findemployment as furloughed workers will be the first to be reab- sorbed into companies. To address risingunemployment,


the city of Gothenburg,Sweden, launched theCompetence+ project with the help of its tech community. This is centred on reskillingworkers who have beenlaid off due to the pan- demic, and findingemployment for themwithin start-ups and scale-ups. Small and medium-sized enter-


prises also faced significant chal- lengeswhen social distancing meant going digital or going bust—a group that, according to a study by McKin- sey, accounts for more than two- thirds of the workforce and more than half of the economic value added in Europe. To help these small local busi-


nesses, the London-based crowdfund- ing platformCrowdfunder part- nered with themayor of London’s office to launch the Pay It Forward London initiative. This supported businesses who sell directly to the public bymaking it possible to pre- sell their goods and services to


deliver in the future, ensuring vital cash flow during the crisis.


Finding solutions to themost pressing social issues The transition to remote working was perhaps even more abrupt for schools than it was for businesses. To help teachers transition their stu- dents to remote schooling, Helsinki’s Koulu.me developed a database of edtech solutions. Loneliness brought on by life in


quarantine was another issue that permeated throughout society. And the group most affected by this was the elderly who, in many cases, were completely isolated for their own safety. Yet another Helsinki based start-up, Fiksari, created a solution to connect pensioners with stu- dents, providing much needed social contact.


Supporting tech communities If start-ups were amajor source of innovation during the pandemic, many also experiencedmassive drops in revenue. Venture capital (VC) investment boomed in sectors such asmedtech and reached record highs, whilemany were wary to invest large sums into industries that were facing a downturn. With lowgrowth rates and fewinvestment opportunities,many start-ups faced difficulties making ends meet. To keep these struggling start-


ups afloat, the EU and local govern-


ments introduced a raft of new schemes and loans. The city of Berlin developed a broad funding pro- gramme in 2020 to support start-ups during the pandemic. It includes a matching facility for private inves- tors to mirror the investment amount provided via government funds. As per March 2021, 48 VCs and business angels and more than 100 start-ups took part in the match- ing process. Meanwhile Copenhagen


launched the first-ever union dedi- cated to tech start-ups, the Associa- tion of Tech Startups inDenmark, to advocate for better business support packages for start-ups that sawheavy losses due to Covid-19.


Building back better with tech Although there are signs of recovery, itwill take timeto get back on track. And it is not just the economy—the pandemic has exposed several vul- nerabilities that need to be addressed, such as supply chain effi- ciency and newsocietal challenges, including long-termunemployment andmental health issues. But, based on what we have seen


over this past year, those cities that take thismoment to createmore opportunities for collaboration between start-ups, governments and universities could build amore resil- ient infrastructure for the future.■


Andrea Hak is an editor and writer atTNW.


THE STRONGEST COVID-19 RESPONSES CAME FROMCOLLABORATIONS BETWEEN TECH, UNIVERSITIES AND GOVERNMENTS


August/September 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 37


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