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The Internet of Things: France’s brightest technology star

The Internet of Things

What makes France the right place for the Internet of Things innovation to thrive?


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France is known for many things. Fine wine. Aged cheeses. Luxury goods. But France is building a strong reputation in a new, more unexpected quarter: the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a range of physical objects embedded with network-connected electronics that allow for the collection and exchange of data. IoT products range from internet-connected home appliances, like fridges and washing machines, to personal goods, vehicles and even homes and offices. There’s a lot excitement around the potential for IoT, with a range of connected devices set to transform the consumer market in years to come.

While a range of French technology startups have been gaining international acclaim, from ride-sharing firm BlaBlaCar to e-commerce firm Vente-Privée, it’s in IoT where we see the brightest of France’s rising tech stars. In 2015, Sigfox – a Toulouse-based firm that makes wireless networks to support IoT consumer products – made records by raising $115 million, the largest round of venture capital funding in French history. IoT company Actility wasn’t far behind, raising $25 million later in the year.

French companies were also making waves at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas, with a startling 190 French startups exhibiting. IoT firms were among those drawing attention, including audio technology firm Devialet, which creates high-end wireless speakers and health tech firm Withings, whose connected products let you digitally track your blood pressure, weight, temperature and more.

What makes France the right place for Internet of Things innovation to thrive?

  1. IoT industry center. 2015 saw the launch of Cité de l’Objet Connecté, a specialized Internet of Things design and manufacturing centre located in Angers. With funding from both public and private sources, this industry center is set to house up to 60 IoT firms and provide startups with a range of supporting structures surrounding skills development, business growth and manufacturing.
  2. Competitiveness clusters. Pôles de compétitivité, or competitiveness clusters, are publicly-supported groups designed to connect firms within a specific niche ecosystem. These clusters bring together startups and larger firms with research bodies and educational institutions to foster collaboration and encourage innovation. Startups within each cluster also have the unique advantage of easy access to SMEs, mentors and other entrepreneurs within the same industry and geographic space.
  3. Government investment. In 2015, the French government invested nearly €200 million in business accelerators and incubators under the “La French Tech” umbrella, an initiative specifically designed to support the growth of digital companies. This is only one of many recent initiatives to encourage tech startups across the country. Others include increased publicity to drive interest and investment in French tech companies, grant programs and public sector investment, as well as a range of tax incentives.
  4. Engineering competency. France is famous for the quality of its engineering schools. However, when the slowdown in 2008 made engineering jobs with big firms scarce, many engineers founded their own companies to design and manufacture innovative technology products. In addition, France has a long history of excellence in R&D, especially within fields such as health and biotech. With a skilled and highly educated workforce, and a mindset that promotes research and innovation, French companies are uniquely suited to driving innovation across the digital landscape.
  5. A connected nation. With France’s efficient high-speed rail system, nearly all of France’s major cities are within four hours of Paris. This gives tech entrepreneurs greater flexibility and lifestyle options, while allowing them to remain connected to other firms, investors, and relevant competitiveness clusters.

The trend for greater connectivity in all manner of products promises to change the way people live, work and have fun – and France is poised to become a leader in this growing space. Look for French IoT companies making international headlines in 2016 and beyond.


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About the author

As Head of Innovative Startups, François Bloch coordinates teams dedicated to supporting and financing innovative companies. François has assisted many innovative companies particularly in the areas of health, ICT and Green Tech, as well as many research institutes and foundations (transferring Projects licenses and creation of innovative startups). François was previously a member of the steering committee of the Chair EMLYON – Incubator – KPMG Start up & high growth, as well as the co-chairman of the life sciences jury of Tremplin in the Senate.

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