How Paris-Saclay becomes a driving force for innovative SMEs

Posted on Jan 5, 2023, 6am

“Playground”. It is under this name – “playground” – that the new “temple of incubation” has just been inaugurated at the Palaiseau in Essonne. Right in the heart of the Paris-Saclay cluster, this 6,000 m2 building combines an incubator, a nursery and a business hotel. It is the first building of this size dedicated to innovative companies of all sizes, and not to a large group… Around 600 jobs are planned for around a hundred companies, start-ups and innovative SMEs.

At the end of the 2000s, attracting this type of company was not at the center of the concerns of the creators of the operation of national interest for the development of the Saclay plateau. (so-called “urban campus”) located in the municipalities of Palaiseau, Orsay, Gif-sur-Yvette, Saclay and Saint-Aubin. “Of the thirty files of innovative start-ups and SMEs that we support in 2022, 17 come from Paris-Saclay. It’s a mine”, emphasizes Renan Ayrault, president of the Essonne Entreprendre Network.

“On the mat”

“In our 27 municipalities, the business fabric is increasingly complete, from start-ups to SMEs and large groups”, observes Michel Bournat, mayor of Les Républicains de Gif-sur-Yvette and former president of the Paris-Saclay conurbation. It is in the areas of health, advanced technologies, transport or aeronautics that we identify more and more SMEs.

Like the activity zone of Courtaboeuf, one of the largest tertiary zones in Europe, which welcomes around thirty in the health professions. “The R&D centers of large groups always lead to the installation of SMEs in their wake. In Paris-Saclay, this phenomenon develops to the maximum”, analyzes Jean-Philippe Martin, head of the economic studies division at INSEE.

He likes earn MS​, specializing in the diagnosis and monitoring of electrical cables, many of these companies have managed to establish links with public laboratories or private research centres. Remember that, with 15% of French R&D and 40% of public and private research jobs in Ile-de-France, the Paris-Saclay science and technology cluster is one of the eight most powerful innovation centers in the world. , next to Silicon Valley, California, Tech City, London or Israel’s Silicon Wadi.

It now brings together the University of Paris-Saclay (ranking fifteenth in Shanghai and first in mathematics), prestigious schools such as Polytechnique, public research centers (CEA, CNRS, Onera, etc.) and R&D centers of large groups ( EDF, Danone, IBM, Renault, etc.). In the entire Paris-Saclay territory, located in Essonne and Yvelines, there are 71,000 companies, generating 428,000 jobs.

“complex” universe

But there is still significant progress to be made in supporting SMEs. “The ecosystem is still young. Startups are supported by incubation structures; then supply becomes scarce,” laments Arnaud Peltier, co-founder of WiN MS. Didier Moinereau, head of the CPME in Essonne, for his part, believes that the academic world and that of small companies are still very far apart. “The universe of Paris-Saclay remains complex for SMEs. I dream of a world where researchers are required to carry out mandatory internships in SMEs”, he smiles.

Christophe Pinon, Paris-Saclay project manager at the Essonne Chamber of Commerce and Industry, acknowledges this: “The cluster is still under construction. In France, we are used to operating a lot in silos. But “more and more ties are being forged, especially between innovative SMEs and start-ups”, he adds. The latter play an intermediary role. They allow the integration of new technologies by SMEs that did not have access to research laboratories”.

The construction of the Playground should contribute to bring the universes closer together. The initiative is not isolated. “Our latest real estate programmes, in particular the development of ‘technical’ facilities [mixant bureaux et laboratoires techniques ou salles blanches, NDLR]they are normally part of the process of supporting innovative start-ups and SMEs,” argues Jérémy Hervé, director of innovation and economic development at the public development establishment Paris-Saclay.

At the end of the year, another building should open its doors, Next, designed according to a model very similar to the Children’s Park but specifically geared towards SMEs. And in 2025, the Central, a 3,000 m buildingtwo, will emerge from the ground within the Polytechnique district. It will offer a number of technical facilities accessible to SMEs.

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