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The main organizations responsible for accompanying innovative companies are technopoles (Science parks), incubators, business and innovation centers (Centres Européens d’Entreprises et d’Innovation), and competitiveness clusters (pôles de compétitivité).
In addition to these, new actors and structures – working at different local levels – are fostering new and dynamic economic models and achieving positive results.
Technopoles (Science and Technology Parks)
Technopoles encourage collaboration by supporting regional innovation and the crossbreeding of ideas. The goal of a technopole is to support and promote networking between companies, innovative entrepreneurship, and investment in new start-ups and spin-offs. As the French representative of the IASP, RETIS is responsible for granting the ‘technopole’ label.
Technopoles are created by local initiatives. While there is no standard definition for how they must be organized, they stem from local governments’ realization that they need to act to boost innovation and entrepreneurial development from the local level.
As such, the technopoles fit closely to the needs of their local creators, and are rooted in a specific area. Their development is itself a dynamic process between local authorities at several levels, local educational and research institutions, and the corporate world. Together, they establish a strategy that must to be formalized.
Certain factors determine if a technopole can earn the label issued by RETIS. They include criteria that fall into three groups:
- The conditions within the region and partnerships
- The organization of the process
- The missions of the technopole:
- Promote and foster networking among local scientific and industrial actors
- Innovation engineering and incubation
- Marketing the area hosting the technopole and welcoming companies to the area
Public incubators (Incubateurs Allegre) support innovative businesses spinning out or linked to public educational and research institutions and supported by the French Ministry of Research. The French government passed laws to create public incubators in March 1999 and July 1999. There are currently thirty incubators in France.
Public incubators support:
- Creators of projects started in university laboratories, who wish to test their innovate ideas or technology in the market before launching a company.
- Founders of companies from other ecosystems, who need technological components to make their project competitive and viable.
Other incubators, specifically “private incubators” and “school incubators” (some of which are also RETIS members) have similar missions.
There is no single model for all incubators. They are local tools to support innovation that are strongly rooted in the local environment and that can adapt to their ecosystem.
Incubators located in financially challenged regions, such as PREMICE in Bourgogne, support innovation as “super” incubators and offer more services and programs. Meanwhile, in other regions, the incubators have a more targeted mission, such as supporting other existing tools (BICs, technopoles, universities, etc.), like the incubator PACA Est in Var and the Alpes Maritimes.
Certain French incubators are more specialized than others, such as Paris Biotech of Agoranov in Paris that supports biotech companies and Belle de Mai in Marseille that supports digital innovation.
The majority of incubators are nonprofit as defined by French law (Association Loi 1901).
Learn more about French incubators and get key figures.
The BIC (Business and Innovation Centers)
The European Centers of Enterprise and Innovation (CEEI), also known as the European Union Business and Innovation Centers (EU|BIC) are support organizations for SMEs and innovative entrepreneurs. Their objective is to detect and accompany projects for creating innovative companies or developing existing companies through innovation.
The European Commission created the first BICs in 1984. There are now 160 BICs located in 21 different countries in the European Union. Twenty-five BICs (called CEEI) are located in France. They have been certified by the European Commission and use the label “EU|BIC.”
Invested with a public interest mission, EU|BICs are built by the principal economic actors of a zone or region to offer a range of integrated services aimed at the orientation and accompaniment of innovative SMEs, and to contribute to the local and regional development.
The BICs are connected through the European BIC network (EBN) and are committed to supporting local innovative projects. BICs offer the following services and support:
- Assessment of innovative projects and founders;
- Strategic positioning and support of all aspects of a project, including market research, financing, human resources, marketing, etc…
- Help accessing to financing and partners;
- Support during the internationalization process, and the search for clients and partners in the markets outside the region of the BIC;
- Organizing regional inter-enterprise cooperation (expansion, mergers, clustering. subcontracting, etc);
- Hosting new enterprises and their founders in incubators with the necessary equipment and common services (BICs contribute to the creation of authentic entrepreneurial communities);
- Training programs specific to entrepreneurship;
- Follow-up with projects after their launch.
The CEEI also provide services to local governments, including support for programs such as the promotion of entrepreneurship, identification of innovative projects, innovation publicizing, etc…
Competitiveness clusters are groupings of research labs, training and teaching institutions, and large/small companies that operate in a particular field and that are all located in the same geographic area. Clusters encourage the development of collaborative projects to increase the competitive productivity of companies and to support innovation.
The French government implemented new industrial and economic policies and created competitiveness clusters in 2004. Their goal is to encourage growth and to foster employment in high potential markets.
The vision is to rely on synergy and trust created by cooperation on concrete innovation projects. The companies involved are to be helped in becoming leaders in their fields both in France and aboad.
Accelerators are incubators of innovation. They usually involve an intensive (usually 3-6 months), business program that includes mentorship, educational components, networking and aims at growing business rapidly, ending in demo-day.
Usually an entrepreneur moves into a shared office space with other new founders for a period of time to work under the tutelage of advisors and experts to grow their business rapidly. In exchange for the expert mentoring, exposure to investors/future capital and cash investment that entrepreneurs get from the accelerator, the entrepreneur gives a portion of his or her company’s equity to the partners of the program and for this reason is often called a “seed” or “venture” accelerator.
Accelerators emerged in the United States in 2005. Today the model is being used in Europe, including France.
Find more information from the RETIS Network Directory.