Thursday, June 13, 2013

Futur en Seine (Digital World Festival) - JuiceUP seminar

Created by Cap Digital in 2009, Futur en Seine is an annual festival that presents the latest French and international digital innovations to professionals and the greater public over the course of 10 days.

This year they debuted an "Innovation Village" at CENTQUATRE, a massive renovated former municipal funeral services building. [Designed in 1874 in the style of the time, this largely glass, brick and iron structure, consists of two large halls equipped with hangars, unloading docks, courts, stables and cellars and is nearly 40,000 square meters (430,556.40 square feet)! Reopened on October 11th 2008 as a public institution of cultural cooperation, it's heralded as one of Paris's new art centers for artistic residencies and exhibits.]

There are conferences, innovative projects, ateliers and more from June 13th to 16th and then throughout the whole Ile-de-France at various event partners until the 23rd of June.

The first day, June 13, I decided to start my journey into the futur at the JuiceUP program. This three-hour program was for International clusters in collaboration with the European Digital Think Tank (EUDTT) and EIT ICT labs (European Institute of Innovation and Technology). After a presentation of the EIT ICT Labs and its soft landing program (presented by Ms. Isabelle DE SUTTER from Systematic Paris Region), there was a Round Table on the Internationalization of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Then, Cap Digital CEO Patrick COCQUET gave a presentation on the EUDTT, followed by another Round Table of "Networks of clusters and cluster management." The round table discussions were enhanced by an online interactive workshop using technology.

Among the clusters present were Pole Media Grand Paris Project Manager Axel PATINET, Systematic's European Affairs Manager Isabelle DE SUTTER, CLand's General Director Marta IZQUIERDO, TSB Innovations (Berlin) EEN Project Manager Thomas VERMYNCK and University of Oulu Department of Information Processing Science (Finland) Assistant Professor Pasi KUVAJA, Pauli Kuosmanen from TIVIT in Finland, Benoit MICHEL & Pierre COLLIN from TWIST in Belgium, John McALEER from CIT Cork in Ireland and Santi FORT from Barcelona Media in Spain, although several arrived late due to the air strike. Cap Digital's European Projects Manager Nadia ECHCHIHAB led the morning's discussions.

COCQUET started off his presentation with "What is Cap Digital doing for the European Think Tank." Of course Futur en Seine is a significant effort as a space for mixing different publics (the corporate public and the greater larger public) for testing innovation. They felt it was important to have a relationship with other European clusters.  The activities they focus on are: exchanging market and strategy information; matchmaking between SME's and labs throughout Europe; and white papers with the goal to share global vision and work more efficiently. The common goal of these activities is to create a cluster of clusters with an European Union-wide ecosystem, with each cluster managing its ecosystem. Patrick went on to say the Creative and Cultural Industry (CCI) is a non-traditional sector. Companies (clusters) within it are creative, have the ability to innovate, are operating in a knowledge economy, have use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and a high impact on society.

ECHCHIHAB, lead the participants on a collaborative interaction via Stormz with "What tools/actions are you using to collaborate with other foreign clusters?" Answers centered around maintaining personal contacts (Linkedin) and other meetings/conferences--in particular the EC ICT event in Vilnius which is apparently the best event to hear about future projects. (Tip: book early because there are not a lot of hotels.) VERMYNCK also mentioned Republica's ICT Conference on e-governance. He went on to generate a discussion around the differences between the Enterprise European Network and the EU Think Tank. He finds he uses the EEN a lot for helping their companies grow internationally but the women in the room didn't like using it as much, bringing an understanding to the difficulties in collaborating because of problems using, and within, the different networks.

The conversation shifted to how it is difficult for startups and SMEs to travel on these trade missions abroad because they cannot afford to be away from their company for weeks, or even days, at a time. VERMYNCK offered his solution by always booking his missions for the SMEs with a day (or several afternoons) free. Then he arranges for his SMEs to work in a co-working space in Berlin so they can still work while benefiting from the advantages of going on these vital trips.

Time spent away from the office lead to a discussion around funding issues in general. VERMYNCK also mentioned Erasmus for Entrepreneurs, which highlighted the point that Erasmus for business clusters like Cap Digital and the other organizations at JuiceUP does not exist yet. This brand new idea was proposed during the session and it is hoped to push this new idea to the European Commission via Marta Izquierdo who is a member of the European Creative Industries Alliance. Many in the room commented there is too much paperwork for not enough money. The challenge of having to pay for a stress test (to test the strength of the cluster) was not well received either. The cost to receive a label (ex: Gold label, Bronze label) was thought to perhaps not be worth the thousands of euros spent on it. A final comment was that Clusters (not consultants) should train clusters. Clusters learn best from others who have walked the walk, not just someone who is talking the talk.

Of course, afterwards, there was much talk -- and networking. For this writer, this was a very insightful session where I learned a lot about a whole new environment and level of activity with the focus on development and innovation.