Estonia is out to lure U.K.-based academics and entrepreneurs into becoming e-residents with the hope of continued access to EU funding and markets following Brexit, the Financial Times said in its Tuesday edition.
"We have heard from academics in the U.K. who are concerned by the potential impact of Brexit but see e-residency as a solution," said Kaspar Korjus, head of the e-residency program. "A 'virtual institute' registered in Estonia through e-residency would enable them to continue working in the U.K. but also preserve their presence within the EU's academic environment . . . as well as apply for EU funding."
U.K. financial technology companies could be particularly interested in finding out what else e-residency could offer them, Korjus said.
According to the Financial Times, the U.K. receives a disproportionate share of European research funding but fears are growing that researchers in other countries could turn their backs on collaborating with British-based academics now that the Brexit process has begun.
James Oates, head of the British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce, said Brexit could give e-residency the boost that the program was looking for. The prospect of being shut out of EU institutions had "put the fear of God into [U.K.] business and academics," he said.
Estonia has a considerable presence in the growing FinTech industry through startups such as Transferwise and Monese, which were both founded by Estonians but are headquartered in London. Korjus said U.K. businesses and entrepreneurs would "need some entity in the EU" following Brexit in order to comply with EU regulations.
Oates, who is also head of Cicero Capital, an investment company focused on Central and Eastern Europe, said that the triggering of Article 50 last month had sparked another bout of interest.
"People are asking us: can e-residence do everything it says on the tin?" he noted. "We don't know yet — but for €100 euros you can test it out."
According to the article, Estonia has had a surge of interest from the U.K. since the Brexit vote last year, with about 1,000 U.K. citizens already having applied for e-residency. This is double the pace of applications before the referendum, with a flurry of interest being noted immediately following the vote on June 23 last year.
Korjus stressed, however, that Estonia was not looking to poach people from the U.K., as European cities such as Paris and Frankfurt have been doing, as academics and businesspeople would not have to relocate. "We see this situation can have advantages for both Estonia and the U.K.," he said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla