Paris opens its doors to contech start-ups
Paris Region has an action plan to become carbon neutral by 2050, and it is looking to construction technology (contech) as a key tool to achieve this.
“The renovation of existing buildings and the construction of new high-energy performance buildings are both priorities for France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Law,” says Sevinç Chimot, business development manager, Choose Paris Region, a non-profit government agency which helps international companies set up in the Paris Region.
The aim of Choose Paris Region is to act as a business catalyst. “We help international start-ups set up in France and to plan their expansion,” explains Chimot. As part of this, the agency helps start-ups discover opportunities through events, workshops, partnerships, business connections, access to financing, and much more.
“The Paris region is a vibrant, innovative ecosystem for start-ups, with new players opening every year, creating funding, learning and business opportunities” – Sevinç Chimot, Choose Paris Region
The Paris Region – the city of Paris and its suburbs – is currently home to over 8,000 start-ups. “The Paris Region is a vibrant, innovative ecosystem for start-ups, with new players opening every year, creating funding, learning and business opportunities,” explains Chimot.
Choose Paris Region now wants to open the door for more contech start-ups. This is not only to help Paris meet its environmental targets, but also to tap into the disruption opportunities offered by the construction sector and to feed the innovation appetite of the big, international construction companies based in Paris.
“Paris is in a unique position in terms of the number of contracts for big projects, the presence of large international players and the huge, diverse student talent pool” – Guillaume Bazouin, Leonard (VINCI Group)
One such player with a Paris head office is VINCI, the €48bn-revenue-a-year construction & infrastructure group which operates in over 100 markets around the world.
Guillaume Bazouin, head of open innovation & start-ups at Leonard, the VINCI Group’s foresight & innovation platform, says: “Paris is in a unique position in terms of the number of contracts for big projects, the presence of large international players and the huge, diverse student talent pool.”
Why Paris for a contech start-up?
STATION F is a business incubator for start-ups, located in the 13th neighbourhood, on the other side of the Seine from Parc de Bercy.
It is the biggest incubator campus in the world, home to over 1,000 start-ups, 30 start-up programmes, 35 public administrations and 40 venture capital funds – all in a space of 51,000m² (550,000 square feet).
“It’s a great example of a single place where you can meet investors, clients, and have all the support services you need, from hiring staff to applying for tax benefits,” says Thomas Le Diouron, founder & managing partner of Impulse Partner, a Paris-based incubator & consulting firm which connects start-ups at STATION F with its +100 corporate partners.
In all, the Paris Region is home to 350 incubators and accelerators. Other attractions of the City and its surrounding suburbs include:
- 1,200 research & development centres, including the likes of Google’s AI research centre, the Safran R&T Center, the CEA Paris-Sacly Center and the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre.
- A huge pool of skilled talent: Paris is home to many of the world’s top engineering and business schools, including INSEAD and HEC Paris.
- Access to €23bn of national and regional government support, in the form of tax credits, grants and loans.
- The Paris Region Starter Pack of up to €250,000 in grants for international ‘growth’ companies from outside Paris.
- Researcher costs that are twice as competitive as those in the US, and 21% lower than in Germany, calculates Choose Paris Region.
4 big urban projects with contech opportunities
This is an exciting time to locate in the Paris Region. Key urban projects taking place include:
- Grand Paris Express – the development of 200km of new suburb-to-suburb railway lines with 86 new stations and some 186 new urban projects.
- Re-inventing Paris Region – a series of urban design competitions to create the city of tomorrow, accounting for an area of nearly 2.5 million m² (27 million square feet).
- 100 eco-neighbourhoods – a further 33 eco-neighbourhoods are still to be developed. To date over €140mn has been invested.
- 2024 Summer Olympics – as host, Paris has pledged to halve carbon emissions compared with previous events.
Construction is ripe for disruption
The annual turnover of the construction industry in France is expected to reach €193bn by 2024, with the Paris Region accounting for around 30% of the national market.
The push to attract more contech start-ups to the Paris Region is also about helping the construction sector to plug the trillion-dollar productivity gap identified in the 2017 McKinsey report Reinventing Construction: A route to higher productivity.
As BIM (building information modelling) is refined and construction becomes more commoditised, the value add will shift to the design & preconstruction and operation phases, Bazouin points out.
“The construction industry is so fragmented … new start-ups can really make a difference and disrupt the industry” – Le Diouron, Impulse Partners
“There is a huge potential in the construction industry to do things differently and to do things better,” says Le Diouron. “The construction industry is so fragmented, with so many players and regulations, and so many typical ways of doing things, that new start-ups can really make a difference and disrupt the industry.”
“Productivity needs to be rethought. Cutting additional costs is no longer a question of improvement but of survival” – Chimot, Choose Paris Region
Areas where contech can add value include digital construction, robotics, productivity innovation, imagery, BIM, Internet of Things, low carbon construction, circular economy, energy efficiency and automated real estate valuation.
“Productivity needs to be rethought. Cutting additional costs is no longer a question of improvement but of survival,” said Chimot. With the climate change emergency accelerating, decarbonising the urban environment is also a matter of survival. And contech opens the door for both.
For more information, you may like to watch the webinar, ‘Construction Technology in the Paris Region’, hosted by Choose Paris Region and also featuring Impulse Partners and Leonard.
Top image: Getty Images – StevanZZ