France is experiencing a surge in startup activity and this week, the south received a big boost for promoting its digital economy when the joint cities of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence became part of the French Tech movement.
French Tech is the banner given to support the French digital economy and the startups within it. It’s a national movement supported by President Macron which brings investors, startups, accelerators and promoters under the same logo, helping them to network and find and retain top talent (for example, French Tech is helping startups employ top talent from overseas by streamlining the application process to obtain work visas). The big news is that Aix-Marseille was one of 12 French cities to receive French Tech accreditation on April 3rd, 2019, making it much more of an attractive investment prospect.
France in general is experiencing a huge surge in entrepreneurialism. French Tech are working hard to support the boom,
According to INSEE (Institute of National Statistics), business creation is hitting record highs: French entrepreneurs set up new companies last quarter at the fastest pace since 2010.
It’s a feeling that is being replicated in the south of the country. Aix-Marseille is aiming to become a hub for tech; with an international airport (albeit small), an international seaport, and the largest francophone university in the world (Aix-Marseille university has nearly 8,000 students enrolled in its courses). According to Invest In Provence, in the past 4 years, Marseille has doubled the number of underwater communication cables which connect it to the rest of the world, hoping to reach 18 cables in 2019. This has led to a huge increase in the number of data centres settling in the area (it has the most outside of Paris). Provence Promotion, which encourages inward investment to the region and supports local startups, has doubled the number of startup projects it supports since 2015, which now employ nearly 2,000 people.
It’s a big boost for the image of the local economy which has been working hard to make itself attractive to new investors and startups. The region now has over 800 startups under its wing in the newly renamed Aix-Marseille French Tech Région Sud. Its president, Pascal Lorne, is working specifically to exploit the opportunities under the national “Tech for Good” strategy, which explores the ways in which digital technology can improve people’s quality of lives. By teaching inner city youth in Marseille how to code or by creating a regional hub for new African technology, Lorne aims to make the fused cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille a national capital for “Tech for Good”. He states,
We are launching new technologies in the aim of living in a better world. The sun provides Provence with an image as a tourist location. But the sun also provides energy to change the way we innovate and live.
His aim is also to provide local startups with an international stage - recently, 25 local startups presented at CES in Las Vegas (one of the world’s largest consumer technology fairs), including BeeLife a high-tech hive startup based in Aix-en-Provence, which won the award for ‘Best Innovation’ and will begin mass commercialisation in summer 2019.
Local startups in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille increasingly have access to a number of organisations in a position to help them grow. Since the end of 2018, there are three new specialised accelerators which have set themselves up in a renovated Art Deco dockside building in the newly revamped port of Marseille - ZEBOX is the new accelerator from CMA CGM the local transport logistics giant (it is the fourth largest maritime transport company in the world), the M accelerator (established with government funding) and Obratori, the cosmetics incubator from French cosmetics giant L’Occitane. These are in addition to Kedge Business School in the centre of Marseille and accelerator, P Factory. All of them are located inside southern Europe’s largest regeneration area, Euroméditerranée, which itself has recently launched its own WeSprint accelerator.