Digital contractors to reap rewards of EU manifesto

Friday 13 September 2013

The so-called digital economy is the subject of much discussion at the moment. In the midst of a well-documented skills shortage for a range of disciplines, reports have repeatedly pointed out that the area where this will be most keenly felt in the next few years is also where the growth will be - in technology-related roles. Now the European Commission (EC) has acted on these growing concerns with a new range of initiatives aimed at kick-starting the EU’s digital industries.

This week the EC launched its new ‘Startup Manifesto’, containing a wide variety of measures aimed at getting rid of the obstacles that stand between prospective entrepreneurs and setting up their own businesses. One of the key problems it acknowledges is the difficulty of finding staff with the right skills to meet the needs of a growing digital company, which can easily end up holding back expansion.

As part of the solution, entrepreneurs will soon be able to obtain a Startup Visa, which makes it easier for them to set up businesses within Europe rather than venturing overseas, as well as breaking down the barriers which stop them from bringing in talent from outside the EU.

However, the EC acknowledges that although workers can move freely between EU countries provided they are citizens of a member state, the process by which businesses recruit staff from outside their home country is still complex and expensive. Crucially, officials say they want to make it much simpler to hire workers from other member states - a move which will make it much simpler for UK contractors and freelancers to access a wide range of opportunities across the bloc.

European officials are clearly keen to make sure that talent can move around the union to fill ever-growing skills gaps. Earlier this year, it was announced that the EC would be working with member states to develop a new common IT certification for the whole of the union. As part of the “grand coalition” set up to fight what will soon be a chronic shortage of IT skills, the new certification is intended to level the playing field and ensure that professionals from all member states have comparable skill levels to boost their chances of finding assignments overseas.

It is hoped that businesses will be in a better position to provide those opportunities too, with plans to increase investment in startups from both private and public sector organisations. Tax reliefs will be offered to those who invest in high-risk firms to prevent businesses from leaving Europe to find sources of funding. At the same time, businesses will be encouraged to reinvest some of the funds they have earned into the next generation of new startups. A number of options currently exist for this, according to the commission, including allowing investors to offset wealth taxes if they invest in small EU firms.

In addition, fast-growing companies will be given better opportunities to raise funds from the markets without moving outside Europe. For example, the EC is calling for EU stock markets to set up an Internet and Mobile category, encouraging companies to go public in the EU rather than moving to the US.

By Victoria McDonnell

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