The European Commission is to set up a new Web Entrepreneurs Partnership as part of an offensive to catch up with the US on technology innovation, according to the EU's Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

The announcement came in a message delivered by Kroes’s adviser Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau at the ‘UNconvention’ staged by the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF) in Brussels last week.

“Over in the US, start-ups create three million jobs per year – even during a recession,” she said in the relayed statement, calling for more recognition for entrepreneurs, better resources, and “the right rules”.

The European Web Entrepreneurs Partnership will be composed of private companies offering resources for online businesses such as free hosting and advertising and mentoring support.

The European Commission is currently putting together a core group of private partners to provide stimulus for a launch later this year.

Clinton innovation adviser warns of tech dangers

The forum also saw a top US official make the case for the internet industry's innovation and job potential in Europe.

Alec Ross, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior advisor for innovation, said that internet technology was providing a fertile space for entrepreneurial opportunities.

But he also underlined the dangers, telling delegates that cyber security and defence were both areas where there is much demand for innovation.

In a speech that underlined difficulties in the US-China relationship relating to technology, Ross claimed that most cyber attacks were coming from Russia and China, and challenged demands by Chinese companies for US contracting partners to hand over their technology source codes.

The technology revolution is not sapping power away from the US to China, but from all “hierarchical systems”, Ross said, remarking that that social networking sites were increasingly exposing corruption in hitherto remote Chinese communities.

However, delegates at the ‘UNconvention’ expressed some doubt about the benefit to European innovation of some big names in the US tech industry.

Following a presentation by Facebook’s global public policy chief, Marne Levine, delegates were straw-polled by moderator and EurActiv publisher Christophe Leclercq. Only a quarter of delegates at the plenary session said they believed Facebook “innovates enough in Europe and for Europe”.