European ranking reveals scale of corporate-startup collaboration

Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars were unveiled at the Startup Europe Summit in Berlin today. The new ranking of Europe’s leading corporates working with startups reveals that an increasing number of industries – beyond high tech – are tapping into the potential of collaboration. 

Led by UK innovation foundation Nesta and the Startup Europe Partnership (SEP), Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars ranks big businesses working with startups. The ranking recognises the contribution of these within the startup ecosystem and aims to highlight role models for large firms. 

Corporates included on the list span banking, consultancy and advertising and were included for their high levels of effective engagement with startups, shining a light on the diverse approaches to these successful partnerships for mutual benefit, including direct investment, mentoring, intrapreneurship programmes, and competitions.

Leading examples include Cisco whose investments arm manages a $2bn portfolio, and Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence, a corporate venturing programme, which operates in London and across Europe. Rabobank, one of the founding partners of Startup Europe Fest, launched an online platform to connect 700 promising startups with entrepreneurs, and Unilever can count 100 pilots with startups and has invested over €550 million in promising businesses.

The list follows on from research by Nesta and SEP that revealed one-third of accelerator programmes in Europe are now run or supported by corporates.1 

Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars 2016 are:

Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars 2016

1. Cisco 6. Orange 11. KPMG 16. Microsoft 21. EDF
2. Rabobank 7. Telecom Italia 12. RBS 17. Sky 22. Diageo
3. Unilever 8. BBVA 13. WPP 18. KLM 23. BMW
4. Telefonica 9. KPN 14. Eneco 19. Accenture 24. PWC
5. Virgin 10. EDP 15. MSD 20. SAP SE 25. METRO

The panel of eight judges included Sherry Coutu, author of The Scale-up Report and angel investor, Alberto Onetti, Chairman Mind the Bridge, Dolf Wittkamper, Head of EIT Digital’s Accelerator, and Candace Johnson, entrepreneur behind SES, Loral Teleport Europe and Europe Online.Read more about the corporates’ working relationship with startups at

Chris Haley, Head of Startups and New Technology Research at Nesta, comments: “Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars celebrates the myriad ways that corporates are now working with startups. The number of interactions has grown in the last five years as increasing numbers see new companies as an opportunity rather than a threat, with both learning from the other. We hope the ranking acts as food for thought for big businesses wanting to stay at the forefront of trends and grow their market share.”

Alberto Onetti, Coordinator of the Startup Europe Partnership, adds:  “A lot of corporations today speak about open innovation and its importance. But the companies that are concretely executing it and pro-actively working with startups are not that many. With this research as well as the work we do every day through the Startup Europe Partnership platform we aim at identifying best practices and helping startup-corporate interaction to grow.”

The Startup Europe Summit takes place from 9th-10th June 2016 in Berlin and brings together startups, mature technology companies, policy makers, venture capitalists and the established industry to discuss the challenges and successes of technology and policy in Europe.

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More than 70 corporates from across Europe entered or were nominated for Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars in March 2016.


  1. Winning Together: a guide to successful corporate-startup collaborations, Nesta, 2015 

Europe’s 25 Corporate Startup Stars Judging Panel:

  • Alberto Onetti, serial entrepreneur and Coordinator of the Startup Europe Partnership
  • Candace Johnson, entrepreneur behind SES, Loral Teleport Europe and Europe Online
  • Sherry Coutu, author of The Scale-up Report and angel investor
  • Andy McCartney, former CEO-in-residence at Microsoft and Founding Partner of Whitespace Ventures
  • Bart Clarysse, entrepreneur and Chair in Entrepreneurship at Imperial College, London
  • Dolf Wittkamper, Head of EIT Digital’s Accelerator
  • Edward Wray, entrepreneur and angel investor
  • Ian Wallis, editorial director of 

About Startup Europe Partnership: Established by the European Commission in January 2014 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) is the first pan-European open innovation platform dedicated to transforming the best European startups into scaleups by linking them with global corporations and facilitating business and strategic opportunities. SEP Corporate Partners have access to the most interesting startups from all over Europe and have the opportunity to meet them in a curated setting (SEP Matching Events). The ultimate goal is to initiate qualified business and strategic opportunities whether that means procurement, partnerships, investments and eventually acquisitions/acqui-hires. SEP is led by Mind the Bridge, a global organization based in Europe and United States, with the support of Nesta, Factory and Bisite Accelerator. | @sep_eu 

About Nesta: Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833 / @nesta_uk