Lobbyists backed by the European Parliament are seeking Commission endorsement of a new Erasmus-style fund to help young innovators to take their ideas from the drawing board to the boardroom.

Under the scheme, designed by the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF), young people between the ages of 16 and 36 would simply type an idea into a box on a web site and send it off for consideration for funding.

The proposal has received cross-party support within the European Parliament, where MEPs Damien Abad (France; European People's Party) and Judith Merkies (Netherlands; Socialists & Democrats) amongst other parliamentary supporters are seeking to obtain an explicit endorsement for the project within the Parliament's motion on the EU budget, set to be voted upon later this year.

That would clear the path to a Parliament-funded pilot and subsequently allow the scheme to garner wider institutional support.

The new fund is hoping to back more than 100 Young Innovators to spend time in another member state, where they could develop their ideas at host organisations, including large corporations, SMEs, universities, government agencies or NGOs.

Young innovators differ from entrepreneurs

The idea differs from the existing Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, which focuses instead on funding fully costed business plans, which need not be explicitly innovative.

Aimed at Europeans aged between 16 and 36, the scheme is designed to bridge a gap in the market for early-stage idea development, to encourage risk-taking by young Europeans, and to stimulate a culture of innovation.

Maria Dantz, project manager of the initiative at the EYIF, said: "The Young Innovators Mobility programme is designed to address the dual priorities of narrowing Europe's innovation gap by changing the mindset and promoting cross-border mobility."

"We envision the costs of each mobility project to be partly funded by the EU, with both the innovators and the host company contributing the rest. Thus the risk of innovation would be shared amongst all three actors," Dantz added.

Idea inspired by new innovation scheme

The idea reflects a new approach to innovation pioneered by IT company Ericsson and rolled out this year. Under Ericsson's scheme, all staff members in the global company are encouraged to send rough innovative ideas to the company's innovation department.

The department then selects the ideas it likes, and asks the relevant department head to relieve the staff member with the idea of duties for two weeks, giving them a credit card with $500 dollars credit. If – after the two weeks – a more tangible idea has evolved, the employee is given more time and money to develop the idea further.

Jeremy Fleming