Co-finance innovation to bring out French SMEs capable of imposing themselves at the world level in their field. This is the vocation of the i-Nov competition, the 9th wave of which the State has just announced, broken down into 4 themes: digital technology, health, sustainable cities and energy, this last theme including natural resources and environments. Five ministries, Ecological Transition, Health, Research, Agriculture and Industry, are thus involved in this edition. The i-Nov competition is operated by Bpifrance and Ademe. Applications are accepted until March 22, 2022 at noon.

The project must be led by a single SME. Successful applications may be financed up to 45% of its cost in the case of small businesses and up to 35% for medium-sized businesses. This concerns projects between 1 and 5 M€, with a duration of 12 to 36 months. This co-financing takes the form of State aid, 75% of which is subsidies and 25% recoverable advances. It is based on the Future Investments Program (PIA).

Strong market prospects sought

On the Bpifrance website, the Wave 9 specifications detail the framework laid down for the different themes. For Digital, in particular, the projects must present a breakthrough innovation in terms of products or use and very strong market prospects. “The corresponding technological fields can be covered at all levels of the value chain, from the design of components to the processing of massive data”, specifies the sheet. Some examples of fields are cited: quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, big data processing, blockchain, augmented, virtual or mixed reality, 5G, reduction of the digital environmental footprint, cybersecurity, transformation of cultural and creative industries thanks to digital.

Among the technological subjects listed in the Health thematic sheet are surgical robotics, diagnostic or interventional imaging, connected medical devices, digital twins and even telehealth solutions. In the Transport, mobility, cities and sustainable buildings theme, the projects sought may in particular concern intelligent services or systems for logistics and mobility.

462 projects already selected

The i-Nov competition takes place in 2 annual waves. Since 2017, it has already selected 462 projects. Upstream, it includes 2 other components, i-PhD and i-Lab, to help create deep tech start-ups resulting from French research. The 24th edition of i-Lab, to detect and co-finance projects up to €1 million, is still open for a few days, until February 1, 2022.

For example, the 7th wave of the i-Nov competition selected 73 applications for a total amount of €45.8 million, including digital transformation projects in the cultural and creative industries. For the 8th wave, closed on October 5, the files are being studied and the winners will be announced during 2022.

Among the winners in 2021 is, for example, the Toulouse publisher Synapse Développement, a specialist in NLP, which has applied artificial intelligence to language for more than 25 years. The competition selected his conversational agent project Bot Cycle. The innovation lies in learning algorithms that approach the process of releasing and maintaining chatbots differently. The latter will use the data collected during interactions with users to learn throughout their life cycle.

The 9th wave of the i-Nov competition was launched last week in Croix (59), at the premises of the manufacturer of autonomous robots for logistics Exotec, by Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate for Industry, and Cédric O , Secretary of State for Digital Affairs. Exotec has just raised nearly €300 million.