Dinner-conference in Paris: A focus on innovation in Aix-Marseille-Provence

Dinner-conference in Paris: A focus on innovation in Aix-Marseille-Provence
The 2023 dinner-conference organized by Provence Promotion and the Marseillais de Paris association took place at the onepoint headquarters in Paris.
25 May 2023 / Grow your business

The 3rd edition of the dinner-conference series organized by Provence Promotion in collaboration with the Marseillais de Paris association

In order to showcase Aix-Marseille’s business successes in front of key economic decision-makers in the French capital, Provence Promotion has renewed its collaboration with the Marseillais de Paris association to continue the series of dinner-conference events. The series has already included events dedicated to issues such as digital technology in Provence, green space and green industries in Aix-Marseille, and innovation in the metro area after it was awarded the title of European Capital of Innovation 2023 by the European Commission. The latest dinner-conference was held at the Paris headquarters of the onepoint digital consultancy on May 22, and it welcomed more than 50 business leaders for a discussion about how Aix-Marseille facilitates research and development projects.

A group of prestigious guests was invited to speak about the R&D landscape in France and the specific projects that are propelling the economy in the Aix-Marseille territory. The featured speakers were David Layani (founder of onepoint, the digital consultancy that recently opened offices in Aix-en-Provence); Denis Ranque (Chairman of the Académie des Technologies and former Chairman of Airbus and CEO of Thalès); François Billard (Managing Director of Géosel, which is preparing a renewable hydrogen project in Fos-sur-Mer); and Michel Feraud (founder and CEO of Marseille-based pharmaceutical innovator Provepharm).

Organized as part of the influence program run by Provence Promotion along with the Port of Marseille Fos, the Marseille Provence Airport, and Euroméditerranée, this dinner-conference is designed to raise the Aix-Marseille-Provence among members of the Marseillais de Paris association in order to develop an active network of influencers.

The event was attended by representatives from Aix-Marseille University, Kedge Business School, and Airbus Helicopter.

The dinner-conference was opened by Bernard Deflesselles, the President of Provence Promotion, who emphasized that Aix-Marseille-Provence’s fertile research and development ecosystem is reflected in the agency’s 2022 results: Aix-Marseille is an extremely attractive destination for new R&D centers in France, with the proportion of projects attracted by Provence Promotion higher than the national average (14% versus 10%).

Aix-Marseille’s innovation drive is flourishing with promising projects for the future

Marseille-based innovation is spreading internationally thanks to entrepreneurs like Michel Feraud, a doctor of pharmacy trained at Aix-Marseille University’s Saint-Jérôme Faculty of Science. In 1998, he founded Provepharm, a pharmaceutical company that generates 90% of its international sales from active ingredients produced at the Château Gombert Technopôle in Marseille.

 “Managing the supply of primary materials is essential, especially in the field of public health. We want to control our production as closely as possible. Our innovations are based on harnessing the secondary properties of existing molecules, such as methylene blue or indigo carmine, originally used in the textile industry for dyeing, to create new pharmaceutical products.” Since obtaining the first marketing authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016, Michel Feraud has conquered the American market. Today, his company employs 100 people in Marseille and 40 in the United States.

In terms of energy, Aix-Marseille is also at the forefront of innovation to meet the energy challenges of the future. Multiple projects are underway in the territory to decarbonize transport, industry, and the digital sector. Long-standing companies such as Géosel, which since 1969 has specialized in the strategic storage of hydrocarbons in France using salt caverns in the Manosque area, are now developing clean technologies to support the energy transition. Géosel’s approach to the post-oil era focuses on green hydrogen produced by water electrolysis. Géosel plans to take advantage of the vast expanses offered by the Lavalduc and Engrenier saturated brine industrial basins to create a floating solar park and thus use renewable energies to produce green hydrogen. This solution is designed to decarbonize industry and promote environmentally friendly transportation options.

François Billard, the Managing Director of Géosel, explained: “The HyVence project is based on the principle of energy conservation and involves producing 15 000 tons of renewable, low-carbon hydrogen. It represents a new use for existing facilities. The power supply to the electrolyzers by the direct current produced by the solar park is particularly innovative. The project’s integration into the landscape is another important element of its design. Our ambition is to be in production by 2028 and to meet up to 10% of the green, low-carbon hydrogen needs of local industries.”

Innovating in Provence to serve humankind

Denis Ranque, the President of the Académie des Technologies, put energy consumption at the center of the debate at his think tank’s annual seminar in 2022. This Académie des Technologies, which was created in 2020, is tasked with advising public authorities on technological developments and making recommendations to socio-economic stakeholders. It promotes technological progress that is reasonable, carefully considered, and can be shared for the benefit of all people.

With this vision in mind, the Académie addresses a wide range of subjects related to innovation, including sustainable fuels, photovoltaics, artificial intelligence, quantum mechanics, and new genetic technologies. As an advisor to the national government’s multi-billion-euro Plan France 2030 investment strategy, it helps establish priorities for the future. For example, it is currently focusing on new nuclear power plant technology, with ITER, the international nuclear fusion project based in Provence, considered to be the highest priority in this area.

The Académie des Technologies bases its analysis and opinions on the work of scientists and the technologies developed by companies while always assessing their impact on society. “Technology and science work together, and our reports are based on the insights of the 360 members of our academy. They address these issues to inform public debate and provide a factual foundation for decisions,” explained Denis Ranque.

This approach is of particular interest to Provence Promotion, which already evaluates the social impact of business development opportunities and highlights sustainable innovations in the territory that will help serve the common good.

onepoint’s Paris headquarters provided the ideal setting for the dinner-conference. A pioneering consultancy, onepoint supports the digital transformation of businesses and public sector organizations. The company's new offices in Aix-en-Provence respond to the expectations and aspirations of modern, digital talent. “We’re setting up where our employees want to live,” emphasized David Layani, who was delighted to have welcomed the Marseillais de Paris association and to have his company’s investment serve as testimony to the appeal and advantages of Aix-Marseille-Provence.