Based at the Argelès-sur-Mer Business Center, the start-up Microbia Environnement has just won a national competition that highlights its technology for measuring water quality. To accelerate its development, the start-up plans to raise funds. Interview with Delphine Guillebault, Manager of Microbia Environnement.
You have just won the Cleantech Open France 2022 competition and are positioned to compete at an international level. How were you noticed?
Delphine Guillebault: Microbia Environnement is the winner of the Cleantech Open France 2022 competition, category Water, Air and protection of biodiversity among 45 start-ups (out of 180 applications) selected for this competition that rewards the best Cleantech solutions (a sector where technology allows to meet the challenges ecological, Editor’s note) at the service of the environment. We we are also one of the three French start-ups, ranked among the six finalists of the international competition Global Ideas 2022 organized by Cleantech Open🇧🇷 We designed genetic biosensors to anticipate microbial proliferation in water. It was our Carla device that got us noticed. This specific, high throughput, automatable and fast solution targets toxic species such as algae that degrade quality water microbiology threatening aquatic ecosystems, human health and local economies.
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What is your feeling?
In addition to the surprise, it is a source of pride for our team of six employees, our investors, partners and customers. It also demonstrates that the Occitania region, Bpifrance and the AquaValley competitiveness cluster support local businesses by encouraging us to submit our application. Typically, water is not part of Cleantech, which most often addresses decarbonization, for example, while more than 80% of the economy is water-based.
This competition brings you visibility and what else?
We are already working with the national water agency and the biodiversity office to make them aware of our technology, like many other start-ups. Competition lighting can open doors for us. We operate in a very sensitive sector when water is a critical issue, as we have clearly seen this summer. We need to be taken seriously and demonstrate the credibility of our technology to educate investors, for example. We also intend to raise funds worth 500,000 euros to recruit a seller who knows the water market and our business development both in France and internationally. We would then have to move on to pre-industrialization and industrialization, perhaps relying on an investment fund that will share our values where people are at the center of the system.
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Precisely, is the period we are living in conducive to the development of the company?
In fact, this year we can clearly see the effects of global warming on water, both in terms of the quality and quantity of water available. The team, made up 100% of girls, is even more motivated and strives at all costs to develop technologies to anticipate microbiological problems in water. It’s a good time to offer our technology to help solve the problems of water pollution and health risks. Even if we are not at a technological breakthrough in the water market, we still have to take a step!
Is water microbiology still an unknown sector?
It is the global sector of environmental microbiology that includes water that is relatively unknown. I have the feeling that the period we are living will help the sector to change eras. Furthermore, I invite the girls to embark on this sector that has a future. Girls are often passionate and engaged in what they do to face this challenge related to water, the environment, etc.
How are you selling your kits?
Our water microbiological analysis kits are already of interest to the international market. We made our first sales in Canada and Luxembourg to laboratories sensitive to our early warning kit system. We note that the French national market still resists operational investment in innovations. It’s a real paradox, start-ups have less difficulty finding funding to develop their innovation than investors do to use their innovation. However, we have entered into negotiations with a network of partner laboratories.
Do you have new R&D and development projects?
We are studying a co-development project with French manufacturers. Discussions are ongoing. We are developing a new kit to track microalgae” ostreopsis that create health problems, particularly in the Basque Country. With the Rhône Méditerranée Corse Water Agency, we are working on biosensors and also developing an app for the Suez group…