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5G, AI, cybersecurity and renewable energy set for investment boost under EU coronavirus recovery plan

The European Commission is proposing to direct billions of euros of financial relief into high tech and green investments to help the bloc recover from the coronavirus crisis.
Technologies such as 5G, AI, cloud, cybersecurity, supercomputing and renewable energy look set to benefit from a €750BN pan-EU support package set out today — aligning with the Commission’s pre-existing policy priorities before the pandemic struck the region, causing thousands of deaths and major economic damage.
“Urgent action is needed to kick-start the economy and create the conditions for a recovery led by private investment in key sectors and technologies. This investment is particularly crucial to the success of Europe’s green and digital transitions,” it writes in a factsheet on its budget proposal set out today — which is being slated as a wider “recovery plan” for Europe.
“Investment in key sectors and technologies, from 5G to artificial intelligence and from clean hydrogen to offshore renewable energy, holds the key to Europe’s future,” it adds.
On the green deal front, it’s touting:
A massive renovation wave of our buildings and infrastructure and a more circular economy, bringing local jobs;
Rolling out renewable energy projects, especially wind, solar and kick-starting a clean hydrogen economy in Europe;
Cleaner transport and logistics, including the installation of one million charging points for electric vehicles and a boost for rail travel and clean mobility in our cities and regions;
It also plans to funnel more financial support into a Just Transition Fund to support re-skilling and help businesses tap into the economic opportunities offered by digitization and going green.
The Commission estimates that at least €1.5 trillion will be needed to reboot the EU’s economy as a result of the pandemic crisis in 2020-2021 alone — so the budget proposals include a revision of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework as well as a financial framework for the 2021-2027 period.
The Commission is proposing to borrow €750BN on the financial markets, through the issuance of bonds, for a ‘Next Generation EU’ fund which will be channelled through EU programs between 2021 and 2024 — with the loan to be repaid over “a long period of time throughout future EU budgets” (not before 2028 and not after 2058).
It’s proposing three investment pillars for this fund: One focused on support for EU Member States via direct investment and reforms; a second focused on kick starting the EU economy by incentivizing private investments; and a third aimed at learning lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, with a big focus on health, as well as civil contingencies and foreign aid.
Under the first pillar, digital and green technologies are set to benefit from a proposed €560BN Recovery and Resilience Facility that will offer EU Member States financial support for related investments and reforms, including a grant facility of up to €310BN and up to €250BN available in loans.
“Support will be available to all Member States but concentrated on the most affected and where resilience needs are the greatest,” the Commission said today.
It’s also proposing €15BN extra for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development — to “support rural areas in making the structural changes necessary in line with the European Green Deal and achieving the ambitious targets in line with the new biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies”.
Under the second pillar, a new Solvency Support Instrument is intended to mobilize private resources to support what the Commission bills as “viable” European companies in the sectors, regions and countries most affected. It wants this support to be operational from 2020, and is suggesting a budget of €31BN with the aim of aiming to unlock €300BN in solvency support for companies from all economic sectors (to “prepare them for a cleaner, digital and resilient future”, as it puts it).
There’s also more money for the InvestEU investment program which the Commission wants to see hitting €15.3BN over the budget period to spin up more private investment in projects across the EU.
It’s also proposing a new Strategic Investment Facility be built into InvestEU which it wants to generate investments of up to €150BN to boost the resilience of “strategic sectors”, again notably those linked to the green and digital transition — with €15BN set to be chipped in here from the Next Generation EU pot.
Under the third pillar, the Commission is earmarking €9.4BN for a new health programme, EU4Health, that’s intended to strengthen health security and prepare for future health crises.
While the Horizon Europe research program is set to get €94.4BN — including to support what it dubs “vital research” in health, resilience and the green and digital transitions.
Commenting in a statement, European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The recovery plan turns the immense challenge we face into an opportunity, not only by supporting the recovery but also by investing in our future: the European Green Deal and digitalization will boost jobs and growth, the resilience of our societies and the health of our environment. This is Europe’s moment. Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are all facing. With Next Generation EU we are providing an ambitious answer.”
In terms of next steps, the Commission’s budget proposals will need to gain political agreement from the European Council. It’s hoping will be achieved by July, with the EU’s executive keen to impress on Member States there’s no time to lose in financing coronavirus relief.
The EU parliament will also need to have its say but the Commission has penciled in early autumn for the adoption of the revised 2014-2020 framework and December 2020 for adoption of the revised Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (as well as Member States’ Own Resources Decision) — with the aim of implementing the latter framework in January 2021.

Tech-driven change a key priority for new EC president

5G, AI, cybersecurity and renewable energy set for investment boost under EU coronavirus recovery plan

Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries

Enterprise barcode scanner company Scandit has closed an $80 million Series C round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm G2VP. Atomico, GV, Kreos, NGP Capital, Salesforce Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round — which brings its total raised to date to $123M.
The Zurich-based firm offers a platform that combines computer vision and machine learning tech with barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR), object recognition and augmented reality which is designed for any camera-equipped smart device — from smartphones to drones, wearables (e.g. AR glasses for warehouse workers) and even robots.
Use-cases include mobile apps or websites for mobile shopping; self checkout; inventory management; proof of delivery; asset tracking and maintenance — including in healthcare where its tech can be used to power the scanning of patient IDs, samples, medication and supplies.
It bills its software as “unmatched” in terms of speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to scan in bad light; at any angle; and with damaged labels. Target industries include retail, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, travel, transport & logistics and more.
The latest funding injection follows a $30M Series B round back in 2018. Since then Scandit says it’s tripled recurring revenues, more than doubling the number of blue-chip enterprise customers, and doubling the size of its global team.
Global customers for its tech include the likes of 7-Eleven, Alaska Airlines, Carrefour, DPD, FedEx, Instacart, Johns Hopkins Hospital, La Poste, Levi Strauss & Co, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toyota — with the company touting “tens of billions of scans” per year on 100+ million active devices at this stage of its business.
It says the new funding will go on further pressing on the gas to grow in new markets, including APAC and Latin America, as well as building out its footprint and ops in North America and Europe. Also on the slate: Funding more R&D to devise new ways for enterprises to transform their core business processes using computer vision and AR.
The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated demand for mobile computer vision on personal smart devices, according to Scandit, which says customers are looking for ways to enable more contactless interactions.
Another demand spike it’s seeing is coming from the pandemic-related boom in ‘Click & Collect’ retail and “millions” of extra home deliveries — something its tech is well positioned to cater to because its scanning apps support BYOD (bring your own device), rather than requiring proprietary hardware.
“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for rapid digital transformation in these uncertain times, and the need to blend the physical and digital plays a crucial role,” said CEO Samuel Mueller in a statement. “Our new funding makes it possible for us to help even more enterprises to quickly adapt to the new demand for ‘contactless business’, and be better positioned to succeed, whatever the new normal is.”
Also commenting on the funding in a supporting statement, Ben Kortlang, general partner at G2VP, added: “Scandit’s platform puts an enterprise-grade scanning solution in the pocket of every employee and customer without requiring legacy hardware. This bridge between the physical and digital worlds will be increasingly critical as the world accelerates its shift to online purchasing and delivery, distributed supply chains and cashierless retail.”

Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries

Google highlights accessible locations with new Maps feature

Google has announced a new, welcome and no doubt long-asked-for feature to its Maps app: wheelchair accessibility info. Businesses and points of interest featuring accessible entrances, bathrooms and other features will now be prominently marked as such.
Millions, of course, require such accommodations as ramps or automatic doors, from people with limited mobility to people with strollers or other conveyances. Google has been collecting information on locations’ accessibility for a couple years, and this new setting puts it front and center.
The company showed off the feature in a blog post for Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To turn it on, users can go to the “Settings” section of the Maps app, then “Accessibility settings,” then toggle on “Accessible places.”

This will cause any locations searched for or tapped on to display a small wheelchair icon if they have accessible facilities. Drilling down into the details where you find the address and hours will show exactly what’s available. Unfortunately it doesn’t indicate the location of those resources (helpful if someone is trying to figure out where to get dropped off, for instance), but knowing there’s an accessible entrance or restroom at all is a start.
The information isn’t automatically created or sourced from blueprints or anything — like so much on Google, it comes from you, the user. Any registered user can note the presence of accessible facilities the way they’d note things like in-store pickup or quick service. Just go to “About” in a location’s description and hit the “Describe this place” button at the bottom.

Google highlights accessible locations with new Maps feature

Extra Crunch Live: Join Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a live Q&A May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, is a busy man. He’s also a business man. He’s a busy businessman, but has graciously made time to join us for an episode of Extra Crunch Live, our ongoing speaker series for Extra Crunch members.
We’re thrilled to have Vestberg as a guest on the show! The episode will air on May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT.
Full disclosure: Verizon is the parent company to TechCrunch, which means that Vestberg is our boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.
Vestberg was previously CEO at Ericsson and joined Verizon as chief technology officer and EVP of network and technology in April of 2017. In June of 2018, the company announced that Vestberg would succeed Lowell McAdams as CEO of Verizon Communications. The promotion was made official that August.
Vestberg is unlike some of our previous guests on Extra Crunch Live — VCs like Kirsten Green, Roelof Botha and Charles Hudson and entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban. Vestberg is an operator at the helm of one of the world’s biggest corporations, and, as such, provides a unique perspective on adaptation strategies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only can attendees plan to hear about how Verizon is thinking both short and long-term about the effects of this pandemic on business, but also about how things are changing internally at the company, from re-opening offices to keeping morale high.
Vestberg leads a company with thousands of employees and can help founders understand how to manage a company at scale, particularly during a time when decisions are being made quickly and the stakes are high.
We’re also interested in talking to Vestberg about the company’s 5G rollout. 5G technology has huge implications for startups, especially as video conferencing and high-bandwidth communication formats become more popular in the midst of physical distancing.
Oh, another important thing! We’re not going to be the only ones asking questions. Extra Crunch members can also ask their questions directly in the Zoom call. So make sure you come prepared! If you’re not already a member, you can join Extra Crunch here.
Again, this episode of Extra Crunch Live with Hans Vestberg goes down on May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT. You can find the full details below the jump.

Extra Crunch Live: Join Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a live Q&A May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT

Daily Crunch: Disney’s streaming chief departs for TikTok

TikTok enlists a big name from Disney as its new CEO, Walmart is shuttering its Jet e-commerce brand and EasyJet admits to a major data breach.
Here’s your Daily Crunch for May 19, 2020.
1. Disney streaming exec Kevin Mayer becomes TikTok’s new CEO
Mayer’s role involved overseeing Disney’s streaming strategy, including the launch of Disney+ last fall, which has already grown to more than 50 million subscribers. He was also seen as a potential successor to Disney CEO Bob Iger; instead, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek was named CEO in a sudden announcement in February.
Mayer was likely an attractive choice to lead TikTok not just because of his streaming success, but also because hiring a high-profile American executive could help address politicians’ security concerns about the app’s Chinese ownership.
2. Walmart says it will discontinue Jet, which it acquired for $3B in 2016
Walmart tried to put a positive spin on the news, saying, “Due to continued strength of the Walmart.com brand, the company will discontinue Jet.com. The acquisition of Jet.com nearly four years ago was critical to accelerating our omni strategy.”
3. EasyJet says 9 million travel records taken in data breach
EasyJet, the U.K.’s largest airline, said hackers have accessed the travel details of 9 million customers. The budget airline said 2,200 customers also had their credit card details accessed in the data breach, but passport records were not accessed.
4. Where these 6 top VCs are investing in cannabis
The results paint a stunning picture of an industry on the verge of breaking away from a market correction. Our six respondents described numerous opportunities for startups and investors, but cautioned that this atmosphere will not last long. (Extra Crunch membership required.)
5. Brex brings on $150M in new cash in case of an ‘extended recession’
Where upstart companies aren’t cutting staff, they are often reducing spend — which is bad news for Brex, since it makes money on purchases made through its startup-tailored corporate card. But co-founder Henrique Dubugras seems largely unbothered on how the pandemic impacts Brex’s future.
6. Popping the hood on Vroom’s IPO filing
Yesterday afternoon, Vroom, an online car buying service, filed to go public. What does a private, car-focused e-commerce company worth $1.5 billion look like under the hood? (Extra Crunch membership required.)
7. Experience marketplace Pollen lays off 69 North America staff, furloughs 34 in UK
Founded in 2014 and previously called Verve, Pollen operates in the influencer or “word-of-mouth” marketing space. The marketplace lets friends or “members” discover and book travel, events and other experiences — and in turn helps promoters use word-of-mouth recommendations to sell tickets.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Daily Crunch: Disney’s streaming chief departs for TikTok