The French start-up ecosystem at a glance

Becoming a start-up hub

In 2013, the French government launched “French Tech”, an initiative promoting the development of the French start-up ecosystem and aiming to contribute to the creation of innovative companies with strong growth potential. The initiative is part of France’s economic strategy as outlined by President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 and has the objective of establishing France as one of the world leaders in innovation. Today, France’s ecosystem is made up of more than 18,000 start-ups, over 370,000 employees, 240 incubators, and 50 accelerators. In addition to the establishment of French Tech, the country implemented a wide array of measures to boost the ecosystem such as a special French Tech Visa, a French Tech Seed Fund, a research tax credit, an annual start-up competition, and much more.

At the heart of France’s “start-up nation” goals is Paris’ booming tech scene. Super hub Station F was launched in 2017 and has become the world’s largest start-up incubator, providing office’s for up to 1,000 young innovative companies. Owing to Station F’s success, the French government has set forth the goal of having 20 unicorns throughout the country by 2025.

The French start-up ecosystem particularly focuses on cutting-edge topics such as AI or challenges like the global energy transition. The energy transition seems to be an attractive sector for start-ups as well as for investors. In 2017, for example, EUR 921 million were invested in cleantech. France will certainly strengthen its commitment to the energy transition and will further expect industry players to reinvent themselves and develop comprehensive solutions and innovations.

France’s strong and dedicated start-up ecosystem is reflected by the presence of French start-ups in the SET Database and SET100 Lists of the past years. In the last four years, 13 French start-ups qualified for the SET100, which is  an annual compilation of the top 100 start-ups of the Start Up Energy Transition Award. BeeBryte was awarded a SET Award in 2017 for its disruptive cloud-based SaaS that optimises energy consumption by leveraging AI.

This year’s SET20 finalists pool feature two inspiring French start-ups, Transition-One and Sterblue. Transition-converts thermal cars into modern cars: electric, connected and affordable. They supports clients in their transition to electric mobility for a cleaner planet. Sterblue builds a central platform for industrial asset inspections and management. This streamlined solution supports the most complex enterprise workflows. Powered by dedicated artificial intelligence, Sterblue’s platform processes multiple sources of imagery (drone, helicopter, smartphone, satellite) to give access to insightful information.

In addition to the consistent presence of French start-ups in the SET 100, France has close ties to Germany’s start-up ecosystem. One example is the cooperation of the German Energy Agency (dena) and its French counter-part ADEME as part of the Franco-German Energy Platform. The goal of the platform is to develop joint projects to promote a sustainable energy supply and to enhance the energy transition more generally. Germany and France both have much to gain from strengthened linkages and can not only create a nurturing exchange between the two start-up ecosystems but also help to realize the energy transition. Learn more about the Franco-German Energy Platform and sign up for SET Week, an online Tech Festival and Award Ceremony supporting innovation in the energy transition.

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