Policies that promote start-ups are increasingly taken up by governments as measures to fight unemployment and to overcome crises. However, it remains uncertain whether short-term policies like that also contribute to long-term growth. Long-term growth and survival of young firms crucially depend on the founders’ abilities as well as on their investment into their firms’ human capital. So far, little is known about the effects of crises on human capital formation within young firms. Do firms that are founded during a crisis suffer from disadvantages from the very beginning? Or is it easier for them to build up their stock of human capital due to the fact that they face less competition from established firms on the labour market?

Knowing the answers to these questions is essential for the development of policies that enhance innovativeness and competitiveness of the national economy. Therefore, the project examines two closely related topics: (1) the impact of the recent economic crisis on the composition of founders in a cohort of new firms; (2) the influence of the crisis on the build-up of the human capital stock in young firms.

The crisis hit northern and southern European economies with different impact. Germany and Portugal are taken as two extreme examples in order to examine the different impacts of the crisis on both countries. On the basis of these results conclusions will be drawn as to whether a Schumpeterian perspective on the crisis in southern European countries is applicable and whether the promotion of start-up activity may be of major importance for leading Europe to a new growth path.