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Why France is betting on deep technology instead of Metaverse




Date of issue: June 18, 2022-13:14

Deep technology, or technology based on scientific research and discovery, occupies more space at major innovation conferences like VivaTech, which will be held in Paris until June 18. In France, this approach is considered to be particularly relevant to the problems of the 21st century, with the increasing epidemics and climate change, the country hopes to play a serious role in this fast-growing area. ..

It feels like the opposite of Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. Instead of cute avatars in a virtual world of fun and discovery, Deep Tech gives the average Facebook user a more serious, complex and elusive impression. At VivaTech, a conference for innovation and startups in Paris until June 18, Metaverse is something everyone talks about. But a walk through the aisle reveals startups with more ambiguous names from the world of deep tech, such as Genoskin, Natif, and Preligens.

“This year, we can also filter this type of startup on the VivaTech website, which was unthinkable just a few years ago!”, Strategic Director of Hello Tomorrow, a global network of deep-tech startups. One Alize Blancin said:

Indeed, the lack of visibility in this field is partly due to the ambiguity surrounding the term. Deep technology, or deep technology, refers to innovations born from scientific research that finds a way to commercialized products and services.

The impact of a pandemic on deep tech

However, the Covid-19 pandemic shows that this technology is neither abstract nor confusing. “Vaccines could hit the market in a year, which would have taken almost 10 years before, but that’s due to deep technology,” says Blanchin. Moderna and BioNTech have been able to utilize artificial intelligence research applied in medicine to speed up the development of the molecules needed to fight SARS-CoV-2.

In this context, it’s not surprising that many deep tech startups focus on the health sector. At VivaTech, major pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi participated and cooperated at the stands of the French Institute for Research in Computer Science (CNRS) and the National Institute for Digital Science and Technology (Inria).

France may have an advantage as there are no American deep tech giants

Even before the pandemic, France was already betting on deep technology. In 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced a major plan of 2.5 billion over five years to help launch 500 French deep tech startups each year since 2025.

The government believes that France has two advantages that could enable success in this area. It is a research and profound industrial network. “France has a state-of-the-art research and a strong industrial tradition, which means that despite outsourcing, there is a real sense of savoir-faire,” says Blanche. Unlike smartphone applications, deep technology innovations require products to be manufactured in factories. For example, building materials with high heat insulation.

Another advantage of France is that unlike the big tech giants that dominate the information technology industry around the world, the deep tech giants in the United States have not yet emerged, leaving room for French start-ups to move forward. It is to leave.

The ambitions of the country are beginning to pay off. In 2021, deep tech startups increased by 30% compared to 2020. In January 2022, warehouse robot maker Exotec became the first deep tech startup to join a Francis exclusive club of 25 unicorns. .. The government’s goal is to have 10 deep tech unicorns emerge by 2025.

Not only health, but also the agrifood industry is getting the attention of deep technology. “The move to alternative protein products has affected many scientific entrepreneurs,” explains Blanchin. They are working on meat substitutes for lean meat in our diet, including seaweed, insects, and lab-grown steaks. “

“The conflict in Ukraine also shows the geopolitical interest in innovating in the energy sector to put an end to our energy dependence,” adds startup experts.

Scientists can still use help in pitching

However, when compared to FinTech (financial innovation), Metaverse, and new smartphone applications, DeepTech is not attractive to investors. This sector accounts for only 10% of France’s technology investment, says Blanchin.

Why are you reluctant? For European investors, deep tech is often gambling. These innovations require a large investment from the beginning to achieve long-term results. Deep tech also often tries to cause real confusion. Experts explain that this can be more risky than, for example, an application that improves certain aspects of the online customer experience.

Also, many scientists have not yet mastered the skills to market their ideas to investors. It is difficult for them to integrate into the business culture, and more training is needed to provide this to researchers, says Blanchin. She has also developed a consultancy business to better connect researchers with the business world.

The enthusiasm for the Zuckerbergs Metaverse did not solve the problem, and Blanchin admits that it will definitely divide the available funds. But in contrast to many deep-tech start-ups, these hypothetical terms aren’t trying to solve the major problems that affect today’s society.

This article has been translated from the original French.




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