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PRESENTED BY INVEST STOCKHOLM

Top ten European tech stories of 2020

Every year is now a big year in tech. But in 2020 innovative digital solutions were more in demand than ever before, as disruption became a fact of life rather than simply a business buzzword.

Top ten European tech stories of 2020
Photo: Getty Images

So, what were the big stories and trends over the year in European tech? And what do they tell us about the future? The Local, in partnership with Invest Stockholm, presents a top ten (in no particular order) of highlights from the past year in European tech.

Check out Invest Stockholm’s Talent Guide and Entrepreneur’s Guide

1. European tech set for record investment

We were not far into 2020 before the impact of Covid-19 had economists making comparisons with the Great Depression. Investment in tech slumped dramatically in the second quarter.

So, how well has the industry recovered since then? Pretty impressively, actually. According to the 2020 State of European Tech report, published by venture capital firm Atomico, total investment in European start-ups for the year is set to reach $41 billion – slightly up on 2019.  

2. Paris and Stockholm on the rise

London remains the leading hub for investment in Europe, followed by Paris and then Stockholm, which Atomico says squeezed Berlin out of the top three. Sweden – driven by Stockholm’s thriving tech scene – ranks highest among countries in terms of capital invested per capita.

France also weathered the storm better than most to achieve a record year – with its tech investment expected to pass $5 billion in a year for the first time. Paris’s Station F is the world’s biggest start-up campus and President Emmanuel Macron has called for a European tech ecosystem that could rival the US and China.

3. Fintech thrives as cash is out

European fintech companies raised more than any other industry in 2020. Many people have turned to fintech solutions as an alternative to handling cash during the pandemic. 

Photo: Getty Images

London and Berlin are major centres of innovation and rank first and second respectively for investment, according to the latest Stockholm Fintech Guide. Based on the three-year average for 2017 to 2019, the Swedish capital ranked third in Europe. 

Top performers in 2020 include Stockholm-based Klarna – which became Europe’s most valuable privately-owned fintech start-up – and London-based Revolut, which raised $500 million. 

Click here to download the latest Stockholm Fintech Guide

4. Lisbon shows how to get smart about sustainability 

Cities around the world are focusing efforts on using technology to help them go green. In 2020, Lisbon won the European Green Capital award and was a finalist in the World Smart City awards.

The city has used digital platforms to improve the lives of residents through transparent policies that enhance trust in authorities. Smart technology is benefiting cities in transportation, retail, energy and other areas – with the benefits more apparent than ever over the past year.

5. Investing to make an impact

Is digital tech a force for good? There may not be a single answer to that and every year brings new social media controversies.

But luckily some of Europe’s best-known innovators and investors continue to focus on using digital technology to improve our lives. Back in February, London-based Atomico announced $820 million of funding for “mission-driven” start-ups. 

Niklas Zennström, Atomico’s Swedish founder, says entrepreneurs rather than politicians are the real “changemakers” in today’s world. The State of European Tech report highlights how investment in “purpose-driven” tech has soared in recent years.

A number of businesses in this category achieved funding “megarounds” in 2020 led by Stockholm-based Northvolt ($600m), which is building a gigafactory for lithium batteries. Also in Stockholm, the Norrsken Foundation launched Action Against Corona to provide capital to projects helping to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

6. Health tech up, travel down

Investment in travel companies started the year well enough before inevitably falling dramatically. But with so many of us stuck at home, demand for some digital services increased sharply. These included not only video apps and streaming services like Netflix, but also the already fast-developing health technology sector.

Health tech start-ups had a record year, according to Atomico, particularly in remote primary healthcare and diagnostics using artificial intelligence (AI). The UK has the most health tech start-ups in Europe. They include Visionable – described as “Zoom for healthcare professionals” – and Bit Bio, which combines synthetic and stem cell biology to support research.

Mental health start-ups had a big year globally, with Swiss company MindMaze – which is developing virtual reality therapies – raising $100 million. In Sweden, one of the leaders in health tech, investment hit its highest level for several years. Successful Stockholm-based start-ups include Doktor24, which enables digital consultations with doctors, nurses and psychologists, and FirstVet, a digital veterinary clinic. 

Learn more about Europe’s most creative life science hub

7. Eastern European talent remains underfunded 

Which country has the most start-ups per capita in Europe? Estonia, that’s where. Lithuania also makes the top ten. It’s no secret in the tech industry that there’s plenty of talent in Central and Eastern Europe.

The region has produced a number of star performers, such as Czech cybersecurity firm Avast and TransferWise (founded by Estonians in London). But the figures show that overall companies still struggle for investment. Will that soon change given the attractive combination of talent and low costs?

8. Progress on gender stalls

Gender equality and diversity remain big issues in the tech industry. Almost 91 percent of investment capital in Europe went to male-only teams this year – which is almost identical to the 2019 figure. 

But there are some bright spots for women. In Vienna, more than a third of founders or co-founders are women – compared to a European average of 15.5 percent.

Stockholm, where the figure is almost 20 percent, hosted Europe’s biggest hackathon for women in 2019. Through initiatives such as A Woman’s Place and Stockholm Scaleup Program, it’s seeking to emulate Vienna.

Europe’s largest hackathon for women in Stockholm. Photo: Najeb Albakar

9. Here come the robots

They may not have taken your job or learned to cook your dinner for you yet. But new figures from the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics confirmed that record numbers of robots are in operation.

The global figure for industrial robots hit 2.7 million. While Asia is the biggest market, 580,000 robots are operating in European factories – an annual rise of seven percent. Germany has by far the biggest number in Europe, ahead of Italy and France.

10. Unicorns: Europe matches the US 

Silicon Valley and China continue to lead in the global tech race. But could Europe’s tech scene prove more competitive than some think?

According to Atomico, Europe is producing firms with billion-dollar valuations at the same rate as the US; seed-funded companies in both regions have around a one percent chance of becoming a unicorn.

Stockholm is a major talent and tech hub – find out more by checking out Invest Stockholm’s Talent Guide and Entrepreneur’s Guide

 
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Readers reveal: What it’s really like to give birth in Spain

Having a baby is an exciting experience, but it can also be daunting with many unknowns. Even if you’ve given birth before, having a baby in a new country where the language and customs are not your own, can be difficult. Here's everything you need to know about what it's like to give birth in Spain.

Giving birth in Spain
Photo: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Going private or public?

Many foreigners in Spain have private health insurance, meaning they can choose whether they want to give birth in private hospitals or in public ones. The general consensus among our readers who have given birth in Spain, was that it didn’t matter if you go private or public, as people had both positive and negative experiences with both.

Women didn’t think that by going private you necessarily had better facilities or were given better attention, so it all depends on the actual hospital itself. Several said they had chosen to go public because they had read that rates of cesarean sections were higher in private hospitals in Spain.

Generally, most mothers we spoke to had a positive birthing experience in Spain and felt that the doctors and midwives were very attentive wherever they went. 

Casandra Benalcazar, who had children in both public and private hospitals said: “[In the public hospital] it was actually a great experience. The encouragement was never done in a bad manner and they were always super respectful. In the private hospital, they wanted to do everything I didn’t want and didn’t respect my birth plan”.

Anja Alvarez Petrovic from Croatia agreed when she told us: “I had two babies here and as soon as I arrived in Spain, I learned that public hospitals are better for births than private ones”.

Maya Haim Cicos on the other hand had only had good things to say about the private hospital she gave birth at and not such a glowing review for the public one. “I gave birth twice at Quiron Hospital (in Barcelona) and the treatment, nurses and all the experiences were amazing. They treated me with the utmost care. Due to complications, I had to be transferred the same day to a public hospital and the maternity ward was horrible to say the least”.

Carol M. Arciniegas-Mendoza disagreed with this saying: “We gave birth in a private hospital twice and I expected better. From the moment our baby was born, it was a bad experience…. I was super disappointed with how the hospitals here treat mums after being discharged”.

Our advice is to do as much research as you can on the specific hospital you choose and its practices, so you know what to expect.

Pain management

Epidurals seem to be the pain management of choice in Spain. Epidurals are used in 98 percent of births, which gives you some idea of just how common they are here. Gas and air, which is widely used as pain management when giving birth in the UK, is not widely available. You may only find it at certain hospitals, but it’s not something you should expect to have access to.

Many women also told us that in Spain they increase the epidural when the time comes to start pushing, which seems in direct contrast to their experiences giving birth in other countries where they turn it down.  

Limited options for home births

There are limited options for home births in Spain, mostly because there is no insurance for delivery at home. If you do want to give birth at home and have a low-risk pregnancy, this is something you’ll have to organise and often pay for yourself too.

Anna Korenromp told us that in the Netherlands, “home births are big things, as well as doing it completely naturally”, but that here she did not have that option.

If you really want a home birth in Spain though, it is possible. Nina Krause told us: “I gave birth in Malaga and it was a home birth with midwives (all paid from my pocket). The experience was amazing, and if I have another child, I would wish exactly the same”.

What’s it like to give birth in Spain? Photo: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Alternative birth plans

Many hospitals in Spain are more traditional when it comes to birth plans, offering limited options for things such as water births, pilates balls, and walk-in birthing showers. However, if these are things that are important to you and you want to do things a little alternatively, then you will find hospitals in Spain that offer them, you may just have to do more research and looking around first.

Is there anything I should be aware of?

Yes, you should be particularly aware of something called the Kristeller manoeuvre, which is not uncommon in Spain, but is actually banned in some other countries such as the UK. The manoeuvre is when the doctor or midwife forcefully presses down on the mother’s womb in a series of strong, sharp movements to create fundal pressure and help deliver the baby during the second stage of labour. It was found to be used in approximately 26 percent of births in Spain. 

READ ALSO: Parents’ reveal: These are the best and worst things about having children in Spain

The World Health Organisation doesn’t recommend the technique because of the potential for broken bones, organ damage, and other complications.

Lindsay Forrest told us: “I specified I didn’t want it used before my birth, but was convinced by my doctor while in the midst of pushing that it was necessary”.

Jasmine Sic also had the manoeuvre performed during the birth of her child in Spain. “I was begging them to stop pressing because it was super painful and was make me throw up, but they wouldn’t stop. The doctor also said it was necessary”.

If you do not want this manoeuvre practiced when you give birth, make sure the doctors know. Tell them verbally and also put it in writing in your birth plan.

Paperwork 

Like many things in Spain, the birthing experience is also hampered down by bureaucracy and paperwork. Many mothers reached out to us to say that the paperwork was one of the most frustrating things about giving birth in Spain and unlike in other countries, you’re expected to do it all yourself. 

Patricia Adjovi told us: “I was mostly surprised that you have to do all the paperwork yourself, and I didn’t find it easy at all. In Denmark, where I’m from, the midwife does all the paperwork when the baby is born, so you can focus on taking care of your newborn instead of running around to 100 different offices to get the birth certificate”.

Shayna Black agreed when she told us: “Our first outing with the baby (before we were ready) was forced on us by an archaic bureaucratic system. I could barely walk and it was a really hot day. So stressful!”

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