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Paris, an experimental and innovative city

Summer. Wednesday 28 June. 100 Belgian entrepreneurs are boarding the Thalys train to Paris – with them, the BECI, Creative Brussels, BNP Paribas and Co.Station crews. We are going to discover the French innovation ecosystem: incubators, fablabs, startups, initiatives and organizations nurturing it. The group is divided into four themed tracks: Artificial Intelligence, Makers Tour, Scaling Up and Smart Cities.

At the first stop, the entire delegation is welcomed by Paris Region Entreprises, in the 19ème. Inside a glass building with exposed beams, we met the organization that works to boost Ile-de-France region’s economy and employment. Paris Region Entreprises is an agency whose objective is to show the attractiveness and promote the region: they help French companies going abroad and foreign companies settling in France. Paris&Co, 1st incubator in Europe, came next. They share the objective with Paris Region Entreprises but focusing on the city of Paris. Paris&Co is the agency for development and innovation in the French capital. Following, is Business France taking the stage. Their mission is to accompany both French and foreign companies in their investments in France.

Once breakfast is done, the group splits in 4 tracks. The Smart Cities track stayed in Paris Region Entreprises, while the other 3 spread to different locations across Paris. NUMA is now four years old, if you only start counting from the launch of their first open innovation program, but it exists nowadays in four different continents. Through the DataCity initiative, in partnership with the City of Paris, they want to make cities more collaborative, sustainable and efficient something urgently needed as they occupy only 2% of the world’s surface, yet 50% of the global population lives in them. The program lasts 9 months from “problem definition to viable solution” phase. The Rolling Lab from Paris&Co was then introduced – a program accompanying startups to face the challenges of the cities, by helping them to get their first customers.

The Smart Cities track eventually left Paris Region Entreprises premises to face the reality of transportation in Paris. Metro maps and tickets in hand, the group went to Capgemini (far east of Paris!) to visit their Applied Innovation Exchange. The group had the chance to see, hear, talk and play with some of the technological devices in Capgemini AIE. From changing the colours of an hologram car, asking the weather to what looked like a simple speaker and exchanging with a little chatty robot. The Smart Cities group used public transpotation back to Paris center using a different method because of RER problems. Resourceful in city planning, the group arrived safe and sound at Welcome City Lab.

The Welcome City Lab is a program boosting innovation in tourism, working with Paris&Co Urban Lab, which participates in the prototyping and experimentation of startups in this sector. The group saw examples of startups taking full advantage of the city – beehives and strawberries growing on Paris’s rooftops to name only a few. RATP Dev kindly joined us at Welcome City Lab, to avoid other transportation surprises! Who is RATP Dev? they are 14,500 strong, present in 15 countries around the world to provide urban/inter-urban mobility and transportation solutions to promote sustainability.

Final stop of the day: all the tracks met at the Residence of the Belgian Ambassador, M. Mertens de Wilmars. A chance to network, talk about the day and the discoveries of each track around a cocktail drink.

Co.Station is proud to have supported this initiative in collaboration with its partners BECI, Creative Brussels and BNP Paribas, who together made it possible. We hope to see you for the next Innovation Train!