Tuesday, December 03, 2013

PSIM: France's Innovation 2030 Program

The French have decided to launch a worldwide competition with prize monies in the vicinity of 406,351,721 million dollars (300 M Euros). If you are interested, you may want to read more about it here:

I was initally curious about the program as it had been described in the press as a DARPA-like Grand Challenge. It's really nothing of the sort. From reading the various documents, here is what I understood. The program is open to any french company (including start-ups) or foreign companies willing to have some activity in France. In fact, unlike the website, everything is clearly spelled out here in this equivalent of the Federal Register:

The overall theme of the program is to

...faire émerger ou renforcer des leaders industriels français sur des marchés considérés comme stratégiques pour les dix prochaines années.

help any emerging or strengthen industrial french leaders in markets considered strategic for the next ten years

In short, this is a three phase program that is not unlike SBA's SBIR and STTR programs housed in every Departments such as DOE, DoD, NASA, etc...at least in the beginning. In the PSIM program, however, the themes are not derived from specific needs identified within the R&D organizations of each Department as one would expect. Rather the (seven) themes were identified by a commission of very important people much like what we would be expecting from a National Academy of Sciences panel. Those themes (also called 'Ambition') are:

  • Ambition n°1 : Innovation projects for intermittent or continuous energy storage / Projets d’innovation en matière de stockage d’énergie intermittente ou non 
  • Ambition n°2 : Projects to enable the viable and efficient recycling of rare metals / Projets permettant de rendre viable et efficace le recyclage des métaux rares
  • Ambition n°3 : Development projects promoting submarine metallic minerals and projects promoting cheaper and / or lower energy desalinsation of seawater / Projets de valorisation des minerais métalliques sous-marins et projets favorisant des solutions de dessalement moins onéreuses et/ou plus faiblement consommatrices d’énergie de l’eau de mer. 
  • Ambition n°4 : Development projects based food products of vegetable proteins and plant chemistry projects to develop new materials /  Projets de développement de produits alimentaires à base de protéines végétales et projets de chimie du végétal visant à développer de nouveaux matériaux. 
  • Ambition n°5 : Projects promoting individualized targeted therapeutic interventions through, for instance, the development of genomics tools, medical devices and / or high-resolution imaging / Projets favorisant le ciblage individualisé des interventions thérapeutiques s’appuyant par exemple sur la génomique, les dispositifs médicaux et/ou l’imagerie à haute résolution 
  • Ambition n°6 : Projects meeting the loss of autonomy by seniors related to robotics and domo-medicine. / Projets répondant à la perte d’autonomie des seniors, liés à la robotique et la domo-médecine. 
  • Ambition n°7 : Projects to better exploit Big Data and define new uses, analysis and valuation of these data. / Projets permettant de mieux exploiter les données et de définir de nouveaux usages, modèles d’analyse et de valorisation de celles-ci. 

The US SBIR program is generally structured in the following manner:

The SBIR program agencies award monetary grants in phases I and II of a three-phase program:[6]
  • Phase I, the startup phase, makes awards of "up to $150,000 for approximately 6 months support [for] exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology."
  • Phase II awards grants of "up to $1 million, for as many as 2 years," in order to facilitate expansion of Phase I results. Research and development work is performed and the developer evaluates the potential for commercialization. Phase II grants are awarded exclusively to Phase I award winners.
  • Phase III is intended to be the time when innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No additional SBIR funds are awarded for Phase III. "The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding."

In the French PSIM program, the names change but here is what we have:

  • Phase 1 called 'Amorçage' is also about 6 months long more or less (there are three inlet periods where the commission fills its portfolio with 100 projects. The commission stops taking on new projects after the 100th). Phase 1 projects cannot be above 200 K Euros. No co-sharing is required. 
  • Then in September 2014, there is a re-compete to get into phase 2 called 'Levée de risque' with companies that have been supported with funds from phase 1 or new entrants who did not need the monies to evaluate the technical feasibility of their products. From these 100 companies + newcomers; the commission downselects about 5 to 7 per 'Ambition' themes. Some co-sharing is required for that Phase 2 for selected companies. Maximum funding for this phase is 2M Euros and also seems to last about 2 years. 
  • Phase 3 called 'Développement' sees a downselect from the 40 or so companies that were in phase 2 down to 10 companies.  Again, co-sharing is required and the amount the State is willing to part with, can hover in the 40M Euros range for each of the Phase 3 projects.

If you want to apply, it's all here. The first uptake date for Phase 1 is January 31, 2014. If you want additional detail that you cannot get from the site, I am not sure there are additional ways to ask questions as is usually the case in the US. I can help in some translation if you are interested. Good luck.

Other references:

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