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Kaunas: Not All Quiet on Our Front

StartupBlink has launched the Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report 2019 that now ranks 1,000 cities and 100 countries worldwide and is available for download here.

Saying goes that it‘s better if something happens later than never. It could be said that Kaunas is exactly the case to this point.

Ostensibly, Kaunas had all the necessary ingredients for successful development of Startup ecosystem – top-level universities, tech-driven companies with an interest in R&D activities, access to financial instruments right around the corner. For a long period of time, the city was forgotten in the eyes of incoming startups or ecosystem players, however, things started to change when various ecosystem players started joining their forces to position the city as a place with all stages of ecosystem needed for successful idea realization covered.

Probably the biggest asset to be discovered in Kaunas is its enormous talent pool coming from city‘s universities – 35,000 students of higher education institutions and more than 9,500 at vocational schools provide an enormous boost for local companies and innovation endeavors. More than half of all students are coming from either technological or health science fields, which creates perfect synergies for MedTech sector development. One of the examples could be the development board of Health Sciences University, which systematically helps ideas in MedTech field to gain value from networks, access financial markets and receive top-notch consultations. A large boost for developing startups also comes from the current infrastructure of national, municipal and academic incentives. Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) opened it‘s Startup space – a business incubator for business in 2012 and hosted more than 70 startups since then. Kaunas Science and Technology Park was established in 1998 and more than 350 companies were incubated there since then.

To further facilitate the existing infrastructure and combine different competencies needed for startup development, Kaunas city municipality decided to fill in the missing gaps in Kaunas ecosystem and took active steps back in 2015, when a programme dedicated for SME development was established. The initial concept was to provide grants for the ideas with the highest potential and the programme existed under this concept until 2018, when the programme was revamped to provide necessary services to enhance business and network scope of Kaunas residents and guests. Equity-free accelerator and rounds of free networking events are taking place regularly ever since the programme was revamped.

The city believes that development of already existing startups is crucial, but might not be enough for sustainable growth of Kaunas startup ecosystem. To promote innovative mindset amongst young Kaunas residents, the city is developing two major objects in the city. Kaunas Science Island will be a science museum dedicated to young pupils to learn how science works in practice and where researchers will be able to test their prototypes empirically. Planned to be finished in 2021, the object will not only increase the city‘s tourism but also will become a cherry on an already impressive academic pie. The second project is Kaunas
Aleksotas Innovation Park. An urban territory which will be developed into one of the most innovative and high-tech places in the Baltic states will be developed in a 32-hectares territory in extremely close proximity to Kaunas city center. This new innovation center will give an additional boost for incoming tech companies to develop their R&D in Kaunas city. The Park will be developed in close cooperation between the city, ministries, universities and most innovative local businesses.

With recent developments and announcements of future plans, Kaunas proves to be the next startup hot-spot in Baltic & CEE regions. A stable economy, ever-growing office, and co-working markets add fuel to the startup ecosystem engine and the only question remains – who will be able to capitalize on these opportunities.

Written by Kaunas IN.