Innovation Playground #3 – There is a new sheriff in town!

Fall is here and that means a new academic year full of exciting innovation is upon us! However, summer still has some news in store, including major advances in the fight against Covid-19 and a wave of recognition for Paris-Saclay startups.

There is a new sheriff in town! On August 15, Paris-Saclay has taken the Shanghai world university ranking by storm, claiming 14th place overall and 1st in continental Europe. As Sylvie Retailleau, President of Paris-Saclay University, explains: “I am extremely satisfied as being ranked 14th as of this year gives credit to those who, for years, have believed in the new university model we have created so that the potential of the French higher education and research can be expressed at its best.”

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Interview of Lionel Grotto, CEO of Choose Paris Region and Jérémy Hervé, Director of Innovation and Economic Development
A crowning achievement for Paris-Saclay, the university’s No. 14 spot in the Shanghai Ranking brings the first international recognition to the decade of groundwork behind its creation, as well as the successful policy to boost the appeal of this unique research and technology cluster.

That policy has certainly paid off, attracting to Paris-Saclay a broad partner ecosystem ranging from leading corporations like Total, IBM, Fujitsu or Servier to innovative startups like Astrome ; India’s high-speed telecommunications pioneer. In 2019 alone, Paris-Saclay hosted 29 projects including six R&D centers and five decision centers on its campus, notably in sectors like mobility, deep tech and industrial services. As Jérémy Hervé observes: “In terms of building and attracting projects, I think there is a clear acceleration”. Rightly so, as the project portfolio managed by Choose Paris Region for the Paris Region represents “30,000 potential jobs over the next 18 months, with more than 20,000 coming from reinvestment projects”, according to the agency’s CEO Lionel Grotto.

Much of this success has come from the collaborative approach taken by Choose Paris Region, which is also in charge of promoting Paris-Saclay. As Lionel Grotto reflects: “It’s not enough to be the best in your corner; it’s important to work together and that is what we are trying to do with our appeal”. And the challenge for Paris-Saclay, because of its dual focus on technology and services, is that all the premises have to function simultaneously as offices, business centers and laboratories for testing and prototyping.

The university’s high marks in the Shanghai Ranking should continue to attract more innovative projects and companies. As Lionel Grotto recalls, “Paris Region is the top region worldwide for attracting foreign investment, according to the 2019 IBM ranking”. Building on this strategic position, Paris-Saclay stands to benefit from all that these investors can provide in terms of diversity, openness and jobs. “Clearly, we are telling the world that the place to be for recruiting the best talents is right here”, exclaims Jérémy Hervé.

Showcasing the country’s leading talent and expertise is one of the keys to Paris-Saclay’s success. As Lionel Grotto asserts, “There is a dynamic ecosystem and a lot of skills and talent already in place”. In Jérémy Hervé’s view, connecting these skills and talents is a crucial part of the path forward: “France has always been strong in fundamental research and mathematics, we simply had to organize to make that fact more visible. I think the success of the Paris-Saclay project relies essentially on having built a major academic and scientific hub. This year has shown that we are on the right path. But it’s only the beginning”.

In fact, Jérémy Hervé believes that the upcoming integration of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University into Paris-Saclay and its partnership with HEC Paris will clear the way to an even higher spot in next year’s Shanghai Ranking. Can things really get any better? At Paris-Saclay, the answer is a resounding yes!

Just between us

Inspired by the fins of fish and marine mammals, Paris-Saclay start-up FinX is revolutionizing marine propulsion by developing propellerless boat engines using hyperactive wave propulsion. This technology is both more energy-efficient (around 30%), easier to maintain, safer and more respectful of the marine ecosystem than conventional propeller engines.

In a major boost for the startup, FinX Founder and Chairman Harold Guillemen announced at the beginning of the summer that his company had finalized a fundraising campaign for a total of 600,000 euros. These funds will enable FinX to continue developing its range, which will receive a commercially launch this fall.

Finally, FinX also won the i-Lab 2020 competition, organized by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in partnership with Bpifrance to reward the most promising deep tech innovations. The startup received a €250,000 grant to finance its growth. Full speed ahead!

In cased you missed it

1. With Green Tech as one of the 5 themes of next year’s Paris-Saclay SPRING fair, CNNum and the High Council on Climate have revealed an ambitious roadmap of 50 measures to achieve an objective of zero net GHG emissions and 100% of digital goods and services eco-designed by 2030.

2. In the midst of the Covid-19 global health crisis, the Medtech and Biotech industries raised 47 million euros in July in France: good news for Paris-Saclay, where about 40% of startups work in the Health – Biotech field.

3. Like the football data analytics firm pivoting to an exercise app, many startups are changing their business model during Covid-19, including IncubAlliance startups Devellyn and Labcoor, which have adapted their production units to help fight the virus.

4. AI is bringing quantum computing one step closer: due to slight imperfections, these systems must be “tuned”, a process which took human operators several weeks, but machine learning can complete automatically – talk about a quantum leap!

5. An exercise in trust: by analyzing facial expressions, scientists hope a personality-based approach may improve the way people partner with robots, an avenue that may hold promise for IncubAlliance startup Moten Technologies and its exoskeletons designed to help human operators avoid musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

All the buzz at Paris-Saclay

  • Building on the long agricultural tradition of its surroundings, Paris-Saclay launched an agricultural co-development lab called LEADER, bringing together public and private players around projects like the creation of a conservation orchard devoted to training and research in biodiversity, as well as the TerriBio Saclay project dedicated to studying agricultural spaces in semi-urban areas. The goal is to connect researchers and locals together through the land!
  • With 80% of projects coming from digital and health, and 20% led by women, the results of the 22nd i-Lab competition are in! Testifying to the strength of its research, 13 of the 73 recognized startups come from Paris-Saclay:
    1. Pasqal (Université Paris-Saclay)
    2. Skymab (Incuballiance)
    3. FinX (CentraleSupélec)
    4. InBolt (X, HEC, student-entrepreneur program)
    5. SportsDynamics (X)
    6. IMESCIA (Institut Galien Paris-Sud – Université Paris-Saclay)
    7. GENELPIS (UVSQ – SATT)
    8. THERANOVIR (GENOPOLE)
    9. CERES BRAIN Therapeutics (CEA Saclay)
    10. VEESION (HEC graduate, X)
    11. ENTROPY (Vedecom)
    12. ARKHN (UPS, Centrale, ENS, CNRS)
    13. Aqemia (ENS, CEA Saclay)

Save the date

26 November 2020 / 6:00 – 10:30 PM
TEDx Saclay conference: Earth Our Vessel
Get tickets here

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Jérémy Hervé
Senior Project Manager

Speaks : French, English, Japanese and Spanish

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