Writing about Europe is hard today. Russia is invading Ukraine as we write, and global markets are in freefall. This is the continent’s political and military backdrop.
Last week, this column took a look at the European technology market’s deep tech expertise. Europe’s economic future, in other words.
We could have held off a day or two to compile this follow-up piece. But as many of the comments below are positive about Europe’s future, it felt reasonable to continue.
The Exchange started its look at European deep tech with a report from Angular Ventures. Its data paint a picture of record-setting capital disbursement into companies on the continent that are working on complicated, hard-to-commercialize, fundamental technologies.
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Today, we’re discussing responses to the data from a number of European investors, including Michael Jackson of the Cottonwood Technology Fund, Isabel Fox of Outsized Ventures, Nick Kingsbury and Andrea Traversone of Amadeus Capital Partners, and Cyril Bertrand of XAnge.
We’ll recap the data in question and then dive into differing perspectives on where European deep tech investing is going. The core views are that the pace of investment will slow some in 2022 from record highs set in 2021, that things appear stable thus far, and, finally, that this year could bring an acceleration in European deep tech investment and startup activity.
Out of fairness to our sources, it’s worth mentioning that they started drafting their answers before today. But the prospect of war was already looming, so considerations on what it might mean for private markets not immune to stock market dives, cyberattacks and other woes were already part of the conversation
On the other hand, it goes without saying that some deep tech projects will lower global – and therefore European – dependence on oil, gas and other similar fuels. There’s politics inside technology, in other words; it may be even clearer to say that technological change impacts politics.
Traversone hit on this in an email to TechCrunch, writing that “the current geopolitical situation is fuelling” a lot more interest in “healthcare and cybersecurity deep tech” and so-called “sovereign tech,” with focus sometimes landing on “strategic areas such as semiconductors, telecom equipment, and power technologies.”
Our starting point last week was Angular’s report, with an important caveat: It focused on both enterprise and deep tech investments. The pairing of the two groups makes sense in a way, as it helped detail how Europe’s venture capital market is moving its focus away from consumer tech. But for our purposes, we want to be clear about what deep tech is and is not.
Jackson argues that deep tech “can mean a lot of things … and because of how nebulous a term it’s become, it means less and less.” We agree. And while we don’t want to narrow our focus too much, especially as new disciplines continue to emerge, we want to make it clear that we too are talking about what Jackson describes as “the ‘deep’ end of the deep tech pool — robotics, semiconductors, energy transfer, medical devices, hardware, all that fun stuff!”
What’s ahead for deep tech in Europe
In the wake of a record-setting venture capital market in 2021, seeing minor declines in dollar or deal volume in 2022 would hardly be a retreat. At the same time, there are some venture investors who anticipate that the European deep tech market will accelerate further. As we explore our question, please keep in mind that those forecasting a deceleration are hardly pessimists; when we consider deep tech investment on the continent in 2019 and 2020, they are still likely anticipating bullish results.