The European Union has announced a €15 million (£12.6 million) fund to support IT entrepreneurs and web start-ups.

The money will be distributed to start-ups at all stages through the seven-year Horizon 2020 project, which has been established to promote research and innovation across the 28 member states of the EU. 

The EU said the fund has been set up to transform entrepreneurial culture, give students the confidence, know-how and support to set up their own businesses and to help promising web start-ups launch in Europe and go global.

“I have seen many great innovative start-ups around Europe, from Barcelona to Berlin, from Stratford to Sofia; and they need our help,” said Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission. “We need to build a thriving web and app economy which embraces and accelerates the digital revolution.”

The fund is divided into two, with the first €5 million (£4.2 million) aimed at accelerators and incubators helping young people take their first steps after school or university to become entrepreneurs. This will include a competition across at least 10 EU states to find the best business idea, as well as summer academies to "inspire and nurture" the next generation of digital entrepreneurs.

The Commission said it also wants to back IT entrepreneurship labs that bring students, entrepreneurs, designers, universities and professors together in experimental spaces.

The remaining €10 million will be allocated to startups which use web and mobile technologies as the key part of their business model and be available to everyone, from co-working spaces and accelerators to technology blogs and crowd-funding platforms.

“We need to support the entrepreneurs who will launch innovative online businesses which will change the world, and create jobs for our young people, and this Horizon 2020 funding will go a long way to help,” added Kroes.

The deadline for proposals is 23 April 2014, with seminars running in January to help applicants develop their plans.