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Special feature

Rich and diverse Alsatian creativity

With just a few weeks left before Alsace submits its application to French Tech, the region is showing that it has many arguments in favour of taking part in the great Economy 4.0 adventure.

It involves a collision of ideas or different cultures, unlikely meetings between artists, designers, teachers, students, companies to be set up or that are already well-established, cross-fertilisation, experiments, showcasing and emerging technologies, etc., and all these talented individuals and this exciting melting pot produce some amazing, innovative gems: the first connected swimsuit, the first 3D virtual tour of and complete immersion in a historic monument, a slalom skiing simulator, etc. The Alsatian creative economy is buzzing.

Did you say co-working?

In 2014 a group of Strasbourg entrepreneurs decided to set up Accro. The aim of this talent activator is to boost and support creative entrepreneurship by bringing together the arts, science, technology and business worlds. Its flagship initiatives include the Tango and Scan call for proposals which aims to promote cooperation between a player in the creative sector and a player from another sector of activity to carry out a joint project. Since 2012, 73 projects bringing together 150 players have been selected and carried out with financial help.

Alsace Digitale is even more innovative, a bit crazy and geeky. “We are a team of enthusiasts making a huge effort to be a driving force behind the local economic fabric“, say its organisers of themselves who are all volunteers. In particular, they run the Plage Digitale, a meeting and creative cross-fertilisation hub located in the two new co-working venues in the Rivetoile and brand new Shadok centres in Strasbourg. They organise some fantastic events: a Demo Night at which start-uppers have five minutes to present their projects in a show atmosphere; “BarCamps” which are a kind of unconference with a theme that is only revealed on the day where you can meet “pioneers of the inevitable and where there are no passive listeners but just active participants“, say the organisers.

Alsatian creativity

The ambition of French Tech Alsace

Mulhouse is also being creative. Firstly, it was here in the highly symbolic, oldest industrial city in Alsace that the first cluster of Alsatian digital companies was formed almost ten years ago: Rhénatic. Today these entrepreneurs are the business assets of the Alsatian application to French Tech. “The idea“, explains Jean-Christophe Uhl, who is monitoring the progress of the French Tech application at Rhénatic, “is to stand up to or to take part in the digital tsunami which, owing to digital technology, is enabling small firms to swallow up larger ones“. ”

Alsace’s digital ambition can be expressed in a few figures: over 10,000 jobs created by 2025, 5,000 “digitised” firms, 130 start-ups given support every year to help them to export, 10 pilot sites given a “factory of the future” label, 10 new leading international companies in the digital sector, etc.

Digital technology, a new lease of life for industry

This was achieved by developing a business plan for the period up to 2017 with a number of key ideas: setting up a European start-up school, launching two accelerators in the healthcare field, the creation of a serious game as part of the “territoire apprenant” (learning country) initiative, etc. Three differentiating areas should enable the Alsatian candidacy to stand out: medical technologies centred on IRCAD (Research Institute against Digestive Cancer) and the IHU (University Hospital Institute), the 4.0 factory or how to give the industrial region a new lease of life via digital technology and a cross-border dimension. The idea, for example, is to open up the co-working centres in Mulhouse (the KM0) and in Strasbourg (the Shadok) to start-ups from Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Everyone is rolling their sleeves up to try to win the jackpot: competitiveness clusters, Alsace Biovalley, Véhicule du Futur, Énergivie, the start-up incubator SEMIA, Alsatian higher education establishments and also neighbouring Baden-Württemberg and Basel, regional authorities, consular Chambers, etc.

The fact that Rhénatic, Alsace Digitale, Accro and the cities of Mulhouse and Strasbourg via the metropolitan cluster have already succeeded in working together on the French Tech application is very positive” says Jean-Christophe Uhl with delight. We have really pooled our ideas. The ecosystem has been revived. Making people work together when they are not necessarily used to doing so is the main challenge of tomorrow’s creative economy. ”