C’était en février dernier, à l’occasion de la publication des nouveaux lauréats du prestigieux Next40/FT120, indice phare de la French Tech. À l’Élysée, Emmanuelle Macron annonçait viser la création de 100 sites industriels issus de l’écosystème des start-ups françaises d’ici 2025. Dont acte. Quelques semaines plus tard, un nouveau programme favorisant les jeunes pousses innovantes voyait le jour : le « French Tech 2030 ».
This customized support device aimed at boosting emerging actors in innovation and decarbonization is the latest addition to a now extensive list of dedicated measures. For the past four years, the State and its investment bank Bpifrance have been focusing on startups with potential for industrialization in France, particularly deep tech companies that develop disruptive innovations and now account for nearly half of the country’s industrial startups.
After Bpifrance’s Deeptech plan, launched in 2019 with the aim of making France a major player in this advanced ecosystem, the government announced in early 2022 a strategy specifically dedicated to « industrial and deep-tech start-ups ». As a cornerstone of the movement, it is endowed with a budget of 2.3 billion euros from the Future Investment Program and the France 2030 plan. Its action levers are multiple: support for industrialization through project calls entitled « first factories », equity investments, loans, financial support for technology development…
To transition from the laboratory to the stages of industrialization and commercialization, deep tech companies indeed require specific programs that involve both long periods of time and significant capital investments. However, according to Paul-François Fournier, the executive director in charge of innovation at Bpifrance, it is worth it.« I cannot reword »« I cannot reword »La Tribune. « I cannot reword »
To embody this desirable future of the French industry and restore both the aging image of its factories and the damaged image of the French Tech, a few standout companies are already emerging. This is the case, for example, with Innovafeed and Ÿnsect, two companies based in Hauts-de-France specializing in insect farming, as well as Verkor, an electric vehicle battery company that is preparing to open a gigafactory in Dunkirk. Most notably, Exotec, a champion in warehouse automation, became the very first French industrial « unicorn » in early 2022, meaning a start-up valued at nearly one billion euros.
Autant d’exemples que sont en train de suivre un nombre croissant d’entrepreneurs visionnaires et audacieux. Zoom sur quatre deep tech qui pourraient bien réinventer notre vision de l’industrie…
FLYING WHALES, L’AÉRONEF RÉINVENTÉ
She is one of the star representatives of the breakthrough of industrial start-ups in the new Next40 and French Tech 120 rankings. Founded and led by Sébastien Bougon, the company Flying Whales aims to build the largest airships in the world. Inflated with non-pressurized helium and initially equipped with hybrid electric propulsion, these future « Flying Whales » will measure 200 meters long and 50 meters in diameter. Their motto? Decarbonized transportation of heavy loads to and from isolated regions. Planned for the first half of 2025, a first French factory is set to be established in Laruscade, a small town in the north of Bordeaux, Gironde. With seventy-five hectares, two gigantic warehouses, and a flight area… To build this extraordinary assembly site, which promises to employ 300 workers by 2032, the company benefits from the support of several French industrialists, as well as active public support. As a member of the French Tech and Deeptech communities, both Bpi France and the Nouvelle Aquitaine region have a stake in the company.
UMIAMI, DU POULET VÉGÉTAL PLUS VRAI QUE NATURE
In the wake of the American pioneer Beyond Meat, several French companies have positioned themselves in the market for plant-based meat in recent years. Only Umiami has developed a technology that recreates a fibrous texture similar to that of meat and fish fillets, making it one of the leading start-ups in the food tech industry in France. Thanks to the « Première usine » call for projects, a program derived from France 2030’s « industrial start-ups and deep tech » strategy, the start-up led by Tristan Maurel has received a grant of €7.4 million to complete the necessary financing for its industrial establishment. Supported by the Grand-Est region as well, the company is preparing to open its first production site in a former Unilever factory in Duppigheim near Strasbourg. Its ultimate goal? To produce up to 22,000 tons of plant-based products per year and create up to 200 jobs.
NÉOLITHE TRANSFORME LES DÉCHETS EN PIERRE
In the field of non-recyclable waste treatment, there were two methods: incineration and landfilling, both of which emit a lot of greenhouse gases. Thanks to Néolithe, there is now a third, much cleaner method: accelerated fossilization. This alternative approach, which sequesters CO2 instead of emitting it, is based on a unique process that transforms waste into usable mineral aggregates in the construction sector. Still very young, only four years old, the start-up is experiencing rapid growth. Just awarded in the second round of the « First Factory » project, where it received a sum of 5.6 million euros, it is preparing to open an industrial hub in Beaulieu-sur-Layon, in the Maine-et-Loire region, by the end of the year. The site will be used for the assembly of fossilizers initially targeting industrial waste. Already employing 180 workers, the company based in Angers, led by Nicolas Cruaud, hopes to double its workforce by 2025.
3D-TEX, LE TEXTILE ZÉRO DÉCHET ET RELOCALISÉ
A textile factory in Saint-Malo? Have the three founders of 3D-Tex lost their minds? Two years after launching their business, Gwendal Michel, Basile Ricquier, and Marc Sabardeil are proving the opposite. In this highly competitive sector, their model seems to demonstrate that in France, it is still possible to manufacture textiles and remain competitive. Their secret? Creating garments using 3D knitting machines. This seamless technology has a dual advantage: it generates almost no waste and saves valuable time. Already having contracts with several major fashion brands such as Beaumanoir, Eram, and Decathlon, the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) is one of the winners of the « First Factory » project for 2023. By 2026, they hope to move into their own industrial site, a building they plan to construct on a local plot of land they have already secured. This prospect should provide them with the means to achieve their ambitions, particularly in terms of potential future opportunities in the medical textile and automotive industries.