European Investment Fund and EIT Digital team up to close digital skills gap in Europe

The agreement between EIF and EIT Digital, an innovation community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) supporting the EU's digital transformation, has a maximum volume of €2.5 million. This financing will allow EIT Digital to offer deferred payment schemes for students and learners participating in its courses, thus improving access to education. Future EIT Digital students and learners will be able to apply for the new scheme from June 2021 onwards, it is expected that around 500 people can benefit from the scheme.

The evolution of professions, rise of new technologies and digital transformation of industry and society require new educational profiles and skills sets. In response, EIF and EIT Digital jointly facilitate access to education and training that provide a combination of digital and entrepreneurial skills to students and professionals. The agreement is part of the EFSI Skills & Education Guarantee Pilot, a new initiative dedicated to stimulating access to finance in education, training and skills, backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “The digital transition profoundly changes the way we live, study and work. We must equip people with the right skills to master this transition and make the most out of the opportunities the future brings. Thanks to the EU Skills & Education Guarantee Pilot and the EIF, even more students and entrepreneurs looking to expand their digital skills will benefit from the education and learning offers of the EIT Digital School.”

Roger Havenith, Deputy Chief Executive of the European Investment Fund, points out that 120 million Europeans will have to upskill or reskill in the next five years. “In a constantly changing economy, the Skills & Education Guarantee is an excellent instrument to share financial risk with partners like EIT Digital, and as a result allow more Europeans to acquire the skills they need to be successful in the jobs of the future.

EIT Digital's education programs deliver a unique blend of technical excellence and entrepreneurial skills and mindset to students and professionals at all stages of their careers. This agreement will allow more students and learners to equip themselves with urgently needed digital knowledge and skills,” emphasises EIT Digital CEO Willem Jonker.

EIB Group Vice-President Kris Peeters added: “There is no denying that ‘digital' is the way forward and we should prepare for the future. It is a very good thing that European initiatives like the EFSI can combine furthering education, training and skills, with promoting access to finance for students throughout the Union.”

According to the latest Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), four out of ten adults in the EU lack basic digital skills. More than 70% of business report the lack of staff with adequate digital skills as an obstacle to investment. Europe also faces a shortage of digital experts who can develop cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of all citizens.

The EIF guarantee will allow EIT Digital to support a number of students and learners of its Master School, Summer School and Professional School, facilitate in this way access to EIT Digital's education and training portfolio, and provide more Europeans than ever before with digital knowledge and skills in support of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Background Information:

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe's micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth and employment.

EIT Digital is a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an EU body and integral part of Horizon Europe. EIT Digital believes in making and shaping a competitive digital Europe that is inclusive, fair and sustainable, and it aims at global impact through European innovation fuelled by entrepreneurial talent and digital technology. EIT Digital embodies the future of innovation by mobilizing a pan-European multi-stakeholder, open-innovation ecosystem of top European corporations, SMEs, start-ups, universities, and research institutes, where students, researchers, engineers, business developers and investors address the technology, talent, skills, business, and capital needs of digital entrepreneurship. EIT Digital builds the next generation of digital ventures, digital products and services, and breeds digital entrepreneurial talent, helping business and entrepreneurs to be at the frontier of digital innovation by providing them with technology, talent, and growth support.

The Skills & Education Guarantee Pilot (S&E Pilot) is a debt financing initiative dedicated to stimulating investments in education, training and skills – as part of the solution to get more people into jobs and to better respond to the European economy's changing needs. Investments in skills contribute to growth, competitiveness and social convergence, while addressing the challenges linked to digital transformations and the transition to a carbon-free economy. The EIF implements the S&E Pilot on behalf of the European Commission and thus, the initiative benefits from the EU's budget support under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

Source: European Commission press release, IP/21/2001

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