The State launches the 9th wave of the i-Nov innovation competition

Looking for projects in the fields of digital, health, sustainable city, energy and resources in natural environments, the i-Nov innovation competition is in its 9th wave. Applications can be submitted until March 22, 2022.

Co-financing innovation to help French SMEs emerge that are capable of becoming world-class in their field. This is the purpose of the i-Nov competition, whose ninth wave has just been announced by the French government, focusing on four themes: digital technology, health, sustainable cities and energy, the latter including natural resources and environments. Five ministries – Ecological Transition, Health, Research, Agriculture and Industry – are 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 companies and up to 35% for medium-sized companies. The projects concerned are between 1 and 5 M€, with a duration of 12 to 36 months. This co-financing is in the form of state aid, of which 75% are subsidies and 25% are recoverable advances.

Strong market prospects sought

On the Bpifrance website, the specifications for Wave 9 detail the framework for the various themes. For the Digital sector in particular, projects must present a breakthrough innovation in terms of products or uses and very strong market prospects. “The corresponding technological fields may be covered at all levels of the value chain, from component design to massive data processing,” the document states. Some examples of areas are cited: quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, big data processing, blockchain, augmented, virtual or mixed reality, 5G, reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology, cybersecurity, transformation of cultural and creative industries through digital technology.

Among the technological topics listed in the Health theme sheet are surgical robotics, diagnostic or interventional imaging, connected medical devices, digital twins and telehealth solutions. In the Transport, Mobility, Cities and Sustainable Buildings theme, the projects sought may concern intelligent services or systems for logistics and mobility.

462 projects already selected

The i-Nov competition is deployed 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 from French research. The 24th edition of i-Lab, to detect and co-finance projects up to 1 M€, is still open for a few days, until February 1st, 2022.

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

Among the winners in 2021 is Synapse Développement, a Toulouse-based publisher specializing in NLP, which has been applying artificial intelligence to language for over 25 years. The competition selected its Bot Cycle conversational agent project. The innovation lies in the learning algorithms that approach the process of putting chatbots into production and maintenance differently. The chatbots 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), in the premises of the manufacturer of autonomous robots for logistics Exotec, by Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate in charge of Industry, and Cedric O, Secretary of State for Digital. Exotec has just raised nearly €300 million.

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