Third places: ways to reinvent and develop them

per Virginia of Kerautem

Third places “are neither home nor work”, described in 1989 the American sociologist Ray Oldenburg, the first to talk about these hybrid places. Since then, these spaces have multiplied, almost everywhere and in a myriad of areas. They are cultural, associative or called “activity”, but their visibility is not always very clear.

In a study dedicated to settlers in Île-de-France and their use by companies in the region, Emmanuel Bacholle, manager of territorial studies projects at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Paris Île-de-France de -France, however, he sees in it a common denominator. These places are open, welcoming individuals linked to different organizations. There they not only share offices and workshops, but also tools or services and implement actions to animate a community.

In addition, companies use them in different ways, whether to support project leaders in day care centers, incubators, or to accommodate their employees in coworking spaces or business centers. Sometimes they are dedicated to the production of artisans, designers, industrial start-ups and are called “Fab Lab”.

In the Ile-de-France region and according to the Institute of the Paris Region, there are just over 1,000 of these so-called third places of activity. A study published in June on the use made of them by companies describes them as “a strong increase for ten years, according to its author Emmanuel Bacholle. In fact, there were only 140 in 2012. This growth is mainly due to the development of entrepreneurship. ideal habitat for the self-employed”, explains the specialist.It is also for start-ups that prefer the flexibility they offer.

Lack of production space

Currently, the number of these coworking spaces, battered by Covid, owned by both large operators (IWG, Wojo, Morning, etc.) and independents, is sufficient, believes Emmanuel Bacholle. Especially because telecommuting did not have the expected effect on their development. “The problem for companies is, above all, bringing employees back to the office to recreate a collective”, underlines the specialist.

On the other hand, there is a greater shortage of outsourced production sites to meet the needs of industrial start-ups🇧🇷 considers Emmanuel Bacholle. Nordine Jafri, elected member of the Paris Île-de-France CCI and rapporteur on behalf of the regional economic development commission, also chair of the Demicours school support group, joins him. “Fab Labs are good, but not good enough for companies that want to test industrial methods and have private spaces,” she says.

Both underline another problem: that of the territorial network. “75% of the third places in the Ile-de-France are concentrated in Paris and the suburbs”, observes Emmanuel Bacholle. A situation linked to the economic model, based on the occupancy rate. “Its location, close to public transport, is decisive”, insists the specialist. So that some areas of Île-de-France do not have third places.

Its creation, says Emmanuel Bacholle, “requires a real reflection on the long-term viability of the project and experience in its management or, failing that, broad support”. Nordine Jafri also considers it important to “diversify income”. In addition to renting the premises, he recommends holding seminars and offering catering services. Another key to his success is managing the venue, he explains: “He has to live with a maestro. 🇧🇷

Eléonore Blondeau, president and co-founder of the Start-up Industrielles collective

The witness. “We want industry references, Station F style”

At the head of the Industrial Startup France collective, Éléonore Blondeau lists the panoply of solutions that the ecosystem must put in place to support these companies that are much less supported than their digital or service counterparts. It advocates the emergence of specific third parties for the pre-industrialization phase, to store the pre-series in complete secrecy and security.

What is your concept for third places?

ELEONORE BLONDEAU. We want reference places in the industry, Station F style, with a surface area of ​​100 to 1,000 m2, that allow us to gather a park of equipment, tools, with a Fab Lab that goes beyond 3D printing and laser cutting but equipped with lathes, milling machines, etc. We also want enough to manage logistics, meeting rooms, a cafeteria… Very important, you need a community leader who organizes conferences, hackathons, breakfasts… We want us less than an hour in transport public from a TGV station. They must also be able to accommodate the public to show how a shoe, bicycle, etc. is made.

Where is your campaign?

We identify what is closest to what we want and support its creation. Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme) is developing such a place. In Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine) we follow the Celsius project, dedicated to the climate.

What will the business model be?

The owner of the walls and the facilitator of a private structure are not necessarily the same. When it is different, the second leases the entire surface to the first and then sub-leases jobs to companies. The Fab Lab, the industrial part, must have its own model so as not to overload the whole, possibly managed by third parties. To be profitable, the machines must be working and accessible to tenants, according to two options: permanent or occasional, or rented to non-residents.

How many would you like to see emerge?

We set a national target of at least one per region. We are far from the mark, but the matter is under control and if we continue at the pace of the last twelve months, the ecosystem will be well structured by 2025. We are also working hard to make innovation actors known in these places: incubators, accelerators, investment funds . That’s why we’re developing another concept with Banque des Territoires, an industrial Airbnb. Instead of finding apartments and log cabins, we would reference local factories, turnkey locations and industry landmarks on the Fab Lab platform. The entrepreneur can then choose what interests him according to his region, his rent…

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