European softwaremakers create ‘virtual Silicon Valley’

Twenty six software companies based in Europe or with major European subsidiaries have set up a new association to boost their industry and to represent it better on such issues as intellectual property rights.

The new industry alliance, called the European Software Association (ESA), will look for cooperation rather than compete with existing associations such as the Business Software AssociationEICTACompTIABASDA and NESSI, ESA chairman Jeremy Roche said at the launch event of the association at the European Parliament on 20 October 2005. It aims to overcome what Mr. Roche called the “fragmentation” of the European software industry, which according to the ESA chairman has led to its being politically ineffective. A first working group on public policy has already been set up to lobby EU institutions. 

ESA sets out to speak for the whole of the software industry based in Europe or with major European subsidiaries. One purpose of the association, according to Mr. Roche, will be to challenge US dominance in various sectors of the software market, “in particular desktop software”. Still, the EMEA branch of Microsoft, by far the biggest US producer of desktop software, is also a member of ESA. Another main purpose will be to give (in particular) small and medium-sized companies better access to venture capital. This is something achieved in the US via networking between software firms and venture capitalists located in the Berkeley region in Northern California. For this reason, Mr. Roche said, ESA will try to be a ‘virtual Silicon Valley’ for Europe. 

DG Information Society Head of Unit  for Software Technologies Jesús Villasante, who played an important role in setting up the new association, said its launch was “an important, an emotional event”, and it was needed in particular in order to react to transformations in the information society, such as convergence, the growing importance of services and emerging competition from countries such as India or China. 

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