How InnoEnergy selects its start-ups in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region (France)

European business accelerator InnoEnergy has made start-ups one of its main missions. In France, InnoEnergy has been supporting new business creation since 2012 and has helped 35 start-ups to date—but just four in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

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Hysilabs, NAWA Technologies, Solable, and HDSN have one thing in common: they are the only start-ups in the region to have been selected to receive support from InnoEnergy, a European business accelerator with a very rigorous selection process. Plus, entrepreneurs haven’t necessarily heard of InnoEnergy. So where did the accelerator come from?

“At first, InnoEnergy was a sort of alliance between stakeholders from energy and industry. The European Commission wanted to invest money in making the sustainable energy sector more competitive, so the search was on for organizations capable of forming a consortium of relevant stakeholders. And the KIC (for Knowledge Innovation Community) was launched, with three clearly-stated objectives: to support higher education programs, facilitate joint innovation projects between public- and private-sector stakeholders, and invest in start-ups. Which is where the cleantech-specific funds come from,” said InnoEnergy Business Creation Project Manager Frédérique Pédréno.

InnoEnergy reports an annual operating budget of €90 million spread over the six European countries covered by the accelerator’s activities. That’s around €13 million per country. “In France, we have a budget of €2 million a year for start-ups, which have been part of our strategy here since 2012.”

Just 10% of candidates selected

A total of 35 start-ups across France have received InnoEnergy support. “We become shareholders in these companies. That is one of the conditions for us supporting them.” InnoEnergy project managers turn to local organisations to source potential start-ups. “In the south of France, we work with organizations like SATT Sud-Est [part of France’s national network of tech-transfer companies] and the Capenergies cluster. We also attend industry events to see who is winning awards.” Given the small number of start-ups from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region selected, the criteria are obviously strict.

“To be selected, a project has to be in the sustainable energy field. And their application has to be solid, really strong. They have to be innovative, either in terms of technology or their business model. Finally, we have to believe that there is a market for whatever they are developing and believe in the management team. So, yes, the bar is pretty high. On average, over the past few years, only around one out of every ten candidates makes it through the process. That’s 10%.”

Coming soon: a fifth start-up from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region

Once a start-up has been selected, InnoEnergy provides three types of support. “First, we provide services in the form of consulting, coaching, and market and technology research. Second, we offer targeted networking, introducing the start-up to our network of 200 partners across Europe to get them in touch with their markets as quickly as possible. ”

For now, just four start-ups from the region have received this support. But a fifth one will soon be added. The interview process is currently in progress and start-up Improved Savonius is expected to join InnoEnergy’s ranks. The company is developing a new type of marine turbine developed by researcher Stephan Guignard, who won the first “My innovation is…” award given out by SATT Sud-Est. And it was SATT Sud-Est that introduced the project to InnoEnergy—proof that cooperation between the regional tech-transfer organization and the European accelerator is working.

 

Article initially published in La Tribune PACA by the journalist Carole Payrau ().