Microsoft named 2023 Corporate Startup Star Mariya Gabriel named Startup Ecosystem Star

  • 7 December 2023

Microsoft has been named overall winner of the 2023 Corporate Startup Stars Awards (CSS), for exceptional corporate-startup engagement.

Microsoft was named overall winner from 100 companies recognised with Awards during an official Awards ceremony on Thursday, hosted by ICC and Mind the Bridge. The top 100 “best in class” list comprised companies in 29 countries (full list here); France (17), Germany (11), US (8), Spain (7), South Korea, Switzerland and UK (6), Japan (5), the Netherlands (4), Brazil and China (3), Denmark, India, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Sweden (2), Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Thailand, Togo and UAE (1). 

The 8th edition of the annual Corporate Startup Stars Awards (CSS) ran alongside the inaugural edition of Startup Ecosystem Stars Awards (SES), which recognised Mariya Gabriel, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, for her vision and unwavering commitment to fostering innovative ecosystems.   

ICC Executive Board member and President of the CSS Judging Committee, Candace Johnson, said: 

“Our partnership with Mind the Bridge and the Open Innovation Ecosystem is an inspiring journey. Together, we’re not just promoting Open Innovation for businesses; we are making certain that large corporations benefit from the innovation of startups. This is the quickest way to bring about positive change in creating a new innovative, entrepreneurial paradigm in the world.  Learning from winners who involve entire communities in innovation, we’re shaping standards for corporate-startup collaboration, driven by a shared commitment to serve a larger cause through practical and inclusive innovation practices.”  

The two Awards ceremonies took place in the presence of Carlos Santiso, Head of Division for Digital, Innovative, and Open Government at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and András G. Inotai, Head of the European Commission Unit on Innovation Policy and Access to Finance, DG Research and Innovation. 

Special Awards acknowledging companies mastering specific models and pioneering new approaches, were also awarded to the following companies: 

Case studies are detailed in the annual Report “Welcome to the Age of Hybridization and Results – Evolve or Be Extinct Season 2023“, showcasing best practices in Open Innovation demonstrating the so-named ‘Age of Hybridisation and Results’.  

Alberto Onetti, Chairman of Mind the Bridge said: 

“The more Open Innovation enters maturity, the more the pressure to generate results. CEOs are less impressed by the ‘cool’ factor associated with startups and are asking for impact. Entering into the ‘Age of Results’ presents novel challenges, as the value derived from collaborating with startups – strategic market insights, culture, branding – is often intangible and not easily measurable in the short and medium term.” 


Startup Ecosystem Stars (SES) Awards  

The Startup Ecosystem Stars (SES) Award presented to Mariya Gabriel was given as part of broader recognition across four categories, comprising the following 15 regions and cities: 


  1. Basque GovernmentSPRI (Startup Programme, Industry and SME Support)  
    A model of how government agencies can catalyse regional innovation and scaling, particularly in technology sectors.  
  2. EIT Climate – KIC (Startup Programmes)  
    Highlights the significance of focusing on climate-positive innovations, showcasing how targeted initiatives can drive substantial impact in critical sectors.  
  3. EIT Global Outreach (Industry and SME Support)   
    These cases exemplify the importance of global networks and tailored support in aiding startups to penetrate top international innovation hubs.  
  4. Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Startup Programmes, Industry and SME Support)  
    Showcases a city-led initiative to innovate public administration through startup collaboration.  
  5. Global Digital Innovation Network – Born2Global (Startup Programmes)  
    Illustrates the transformation from a government entity to an independent foundation, focusing on global digital expansion and collaboration for Korean startups.  
  6. Global Victoria (Industry and SME Support, Investment)  
    Show the role of state-level organizations in facilitating SME and startup entry into global markets  
  7. Investissement Québec (Investment) 
    Focuses on how, through a strategic investment fund, the country’s innovation ecosystem has been empowered, propelling the growth of numerous startups. 
  8. Investment NSW (Startup Programmes) 
    Demonstrates how strategic initiatives can facilitate market expansion and attract investments, support diverse businesses, and establish key hubs, thereby accelerating the country’s global leadership in innovation. 
  9. Jetro (Startup Programmes) 
    Highlights how, through a comprehensive suite of programs and initiatives, achieving the growth of thousands of startups is possible, propelling them onto the international stage and contributing to the country’s position as a global leader in innovation. 
  10. Michigan – Economic Development Corporation (Talent and IP)  
    Focuses on aligning local workforce capabilities with the demands of emerging industries, demonstrating the importance of holistic ecosystem development.  
  11. Municipality of Ravenna – ORa! Project (Industry and SME Support, Talent and IP)  
    Demonstrates the effectiveness of applying the Venture Client model at a territorial level, facilitating partnerships between local companies and international startups, and emphasising the importance of upskilling local talent.  
  12. Start for Future Consortium (Talent and IP, Startup Programmes)  
    Highlights the creation of regional innovation hubs as a strategy to catalyse tech talent and startup creation across multiple European regions, underscoring the power of regional collaboration.  
  13. Taiwan Tech Arena (Startup Programmes)  
    Showcases the role of a leading entity driving innovation and playing a pivotal role in positioning the country as a major hub for disruptive global startups. 
  14. The Innovation Hub South Africa (Startup Programmes, Talent and IP)  
    Exemplifies the role of incubation, networking and skills development in nurturing a vibrant innovation ecosystem.  
  15. UK Venture Capital Unit (Investment)  
    Reveals the strategic role of government entities in bridging the funding gap for startups, connecting them with international venture capital.  


The groundbreaking case studies are highlighted in “Building Startup Ecosystem Stars. The World’s Life Cycle of Innovation 2023”, which spotlights exemplary practices and pivotal figures shaping the landscape of global innovation. 

Marco Marinucci, CEO and founder of Mind the Bridge said:  

“In this new report, we introduce the concept of the Innovation Life Cycle. This framework facilitates international comparisons among global innovation ecosystems, transcending constraints associated with their present stage and size. It also enables the projection of future growth trajectories. This allows for an assessment of gaps when compared with similar ecosystems. The fundamental premise is that the world of innovation is not flat.”  

For more information about the Awards, reports and winners mentioned in this article visit Mind the Bridge.