How SATT AxLR will identify the innovation potential in the drawers of French SMEs

Based on the significant source of gray matter that researchers constitute, the 13 acceleration and technology transfer companies (SATT) in the SATT network in France are intended to give greater influence to public research in the world by creating deeptech that is capable of to position itself in a market.

“What we have learned to do over the course of ten years of existence is to implement technology that makes it possible to clearly trace the path from research to the economic goal by finding the right partners and identifying the barriers in a competitive environment, f. eg as a question of global intellectual property or the very capital-intensive dimension of the projects “, remembers Philippe Nérin, president of SATT AxLR in Montpellier.

As part of the France 2030 Recovery Plan and the 4th Investment Program for the Future (PIA4), the government has been working on a new technological roadmap for France, defining in particular national acceleration strategies * in relation to future key economic and technological issues in order to invest consistently in them.

“The government’s desire is to bring groundbreaking innovations and more industrial start-ups into these sectors: today, an average of 200 deeptechs with high industrial content are created per year, and the ambition is to increase to 500 by 2030, explains Philippe Nérin. In particular, the SATTs are all mobilized to launch this machine to identify innovation opportunities to create this stream of start-up creations and direct major investments. »

A comprehensive national investigation plan

In order to accelerate this necessary acceleration, the SATTs will have to develop a new way of working and track innovative projects with great potential. And for that, expand their reach and take a side step by going to take a closer look at what is happening in French SMEs.

One of the new axes will be close cooperation with SMEs, explains Philippe Nérin. In France, there is a large structure of SMEs, many of which have a leading position in their market but internally do not have all the skills or capabilities that would enable them to develop innovative projects. We need to implement a major national exploration program to identify these projects in SMEs, provide them with scientific, technological, financial and human resources and use the start-up vehicle that will receive these resources. The start-up then falls into a financing ecosystem to which the SME does not have access. Identifying these opportunities in SMEs can double the number of deeptech creations. »

It remains to identify these opportunities at the heart of SMEs …

Until now, “SATTs discovered opportunities at random meetings with SMEs at trade fairs”, says Philippe Nérin. But we understand that times are no longer random.

Market-pull VS techno-push

To carry out this comprehensive exploration in the heart of SMEs, the SATT AxLR is the pilot project, which will be funded under the PIA3 framework (SATT has been allocated 28 million euros for the next three years). His idea: a platform called “IA Transfer”, which will be a matching tool whose engine is artificial intelligence and fuel data.

“To identify these innovative projects in SMEs, the platform will integrate the SATTs’ own data – and I must point out that the CRM for the 13 SATTs has 10,000 identified companies and that 13,000 projects have been analyzed in ten years – and a whole lot of data about companies from press articles, social networks, patent databases, tax returns, research publications from companies, etc. indicates the president of SATT AxLR. Artificial intelligence will explore the possible combinations to identify the best options, and then project managers will validate or not these identified projects. »

In summary, the SATTs that have so far essentially driven techno-push (from the creation of start-ups as a result of research projects or the transfer of technology to a company) will increase the opposite: market-wide, innovative projects dictated by market needs .

“Today we have already a prototype and the first version of the platform will be put into production in the first half of 2023, announces Philippe Nérin. Three or four SATTs will be beta testers. »

PIA4: a consortium of 5 SATTs

At the same time, SATT AxLR applied for the PIA4 call for projects in consortium with four other SATTs (SATT North in Lille, SATT Ouest Valorisation in Brittany and Pays de la Loire, SATT Toulouse Tech Transfer and SATT Sayens in Dijon) to work on seven of the national acceleration strategies, including artificial intelligence, energy systems, decarbonized hydrogen or the cloud.

These topics is part of the regional innovation strategies in the six regions where the SATTs are located, and the goal is to have a global vision to avoid developing the same project in two places and to be able to consider co-investment. The result of PIA4 will be known in the autumn and will enable us to increase our investment capacity significantly. »

* Decarbonized hydrogen, decarbonization of industry, decarbonization of mobility, AI, quantum technologies, sustainable agricultural systems, digital health, biotherapy, cloud, cybersecurity, 5G, energy systems, bio-based products and sustainable fuels or recycling.