The European Commission’s second annual Digital Agenda Assembly is currently underway in Brussels, Belgium, and Spanish startup CogniCor has been announced as the winning startup in the EU-wide Tech All Stars Competition.

Some background: last year, the European Commission held its inaugural Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels, aiming to thrash out the issues affecting the European Union’s digital future. As we noted at the time, amongst the politicians and public sector leaders, one important group was largely missing – the entrepreneurs building Europe’s next generation of cutting edge online businesses.

In a bid to represent Europe’s thriving startup scene, the Commission this year ran Tech All Stars, a competition designed to highlight the ‘best of the best’ from accelerator programs, incubators and Web camps around the EU.

The 13 semi-finalists in the competition pitched on Wednesday at LeWeb in London, with an emphasis on stripped-down pitches using a handful of slides and no flashy tech demos. I was privileged to be part of the judging panel alongside Alex McCracken, director of Silicon Valley Bank UK; Ivan Farneti, Partner at Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures; Charles Grimsdale, Partner at Eden Ventures, and Harry Briggs, Principal at Balderton Capital.

It truly was tough narrowing the 13 pitches from excellent companies (full list below) down to the three who would progress to today’s final. Criteria included the quality of the founding team, their progress and traction to date, and the size of their market and opportunity.

Here’s the three we selected, with an honorable mention for a strong fourth place.

The three finalists were:

  • Commerce Guys – this France-based e-commerce solution for the open source CMS Drupal was commended for its high quality team, and its work building on top of an open source platform – something Europe does well.
  • CogniCor – Having completed Teléfonica’s Wayra program in Barcelona, CogniCor is adding a dose of artificial intelligence to customer service conflict resolution. It was praised for its innovation within the well-defined market of consumer customer service departments.
  • Spain’s Change Your Flight is looking to help airlines resell tickets that customers no longer need, while offering a partial refund to the customer. Its ‘secret sauce’ finds the optimal price refund, while keeping the customer ‘locked in’ by refunding in travel vouchers.

The honorable mention went to France’s real-time social photo search startup Teleportd, which we have previously covered here on The Next Web. They’re a strong team operating in a risky but potentially highly lucrative market.

tech all stars finalists Smart complaint resolution service CogniCor wins the European Commissions new grand startup prize

The Tech All Stars Finalists pose for a photo at LeWeb London

The three winners were whisked off from central London to the super-exclusive Founders Forum event in south-east England, where they pitched again yesterday. Neelie Kroes traveled from the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels to meet the team in the afternoon and declared CogniCor as the overall winner.

Congratulations to CogniCor, and we’ll be following their progress closely.

The full list of the 13 startups who made it through to pitching at LeWeb on Wednesday (in no particular order) is: Teleportd, Senseye (now known as The Eye Tribe), Roozz, Kantox, CogniCor, Change Your Flight, Fractal, Commerce Guys, Recite Me, Cobook, Scrazzl, Infogr.am and Conferize.