EU should keep out of innovation's way, Wikipedia-founder says
By Philip Ebels
To encourage innovation in Europe, policy-makers should just keep out of the way, Wikipedia-founder Jimmy Wales has said.
"I agree with the idea of streamlining and simplification. The only thing is that I would be much more extreme," he told EUobserver on Tuesday (8 May) on the sidelines of a conference in Brussels on EU innovation policy organised by global accounting firm Ernst & Young.
Dear EUobserver reader
Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.
Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.
- Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
- All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
- EUobserver archives
EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.
♡ We value your support.
If you already have an account click here to login.
"The most important thing that Europe needs to do to spur innovation is to eliminate barriers," he added. "To make it easier for investors and entrepreneurs to start businesses and to make it easier to fail."
Compared to his native US, founding a company in Europe is famously burdensome - even though big differences exist between the north and the south of the continent.
In the US, the whole process does not have to take longer than five minutes. In Greece, it can take up to ten months.
Wales, who recently started work as an (unpaid) advisor to the UK government in London, is a strong believer in the free market.
According to Wikipedia, he is “a self-avowed objectivist-to-the-core, referring to a philosophy emphasizing reason, individualism and capitalism”.
He said that government funding often “seems like a way to help, but it actually may be doing more damage than good,” citing “unintended consequences”.
“There is a lot of tax money being spent on things that entrepreneurs and investors would not [spend money on],” he said. “And the reason why they do not is because they make no economic sense.”
The result, said Wales, is that “instead of getting a genuine, world-class infrastructure, you get some sort of government-funded mess that does not quite work.”