Which Cities do you associate with being Tech and Innovation Hubs?

key ingredients for tech and innovation hubs

When you think of a city that is a tech hub, which one do you think of? Silicon Valley in the USA by any chance? Or Tel Aviv, Israel? Maybe you have heard of Tech City or Silicon Roundabout in London, UK? Helsinki in Finland has been in the media lately where companies like Rovio and Supercell which started there, are on fire with cool products and awesome marketing .

What if I told you that Lille, in France is also an innovation hotbed in amongst all of the Tech and Innovation Hubs? Most likely, as I was, your first reaction will be really? Who knew? I was invited to visit Lille by NordFrance Invest to have a look at the startup and tech scene there and like me you’ll most likely be surprised about some of the key facts and figures about Lille. No doubt if you are looking to start business or expand business you will be intrigued by the opportunities Lille Region represents.

Whether you are in E-Commerce or a tech start-up, Lille is very strategically located. Its the centre of the London-Paris-Brussels triangle. Lille has direct access to Europe’s largest consumer market within a 300-km radius. Three areas from my visit to Lille really got my attention 1. the Picom competitiveness cluster with companies working on some super innovative digital retail solutions, 2. The tech start-up program and some of the mind-blowing companies being incubated and 3. Lille’s expertise in E-Commerce.

Lets have a  look at some stats for E-Commerce. Lille is the European capital of mail-order and E-Commerce. Its, the birthplace of leading retailers like:

  • Over 70 retailers are headquartered in Lille Métropole, including major names such as Auchan, Decathlon, Leroy Merlin and Castorama
  • totalling 44,000 jobs
  • and €65 billion in sales

Lille has,

  • 200 mail-order businesses:
  • Longstanding community of top mail-order companies, including La Redoute, 3 Suisses International, and Lyreco
  • 160 e-businesses:
  • Community of leading e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Egencia, Booking.com, Asos, and Compario

Some of the leading companies operating out of Lille are

  • ASOS: added a new European office in Lille Region to supplement offices in Sydney and New York
  • AMAZON: chose Lille Region as the location for its biggest distribution center in France
  • BOOKING.COM: chose Lille Region as the location for its multilingual customer relations platform

Lille is at the forefront of innovation. With key expertise in

  • New web-based applications and solutions, including augmented reality, 3D, and the Internet of Things
  • RFID technology and applications
  • Data acquisition, processing and security
  • Modeling and simulation
  • Human-machine interface
  • 3D Printing

Earlier in this post, I mentioned Picom. The Picom competitiveness cluster brings together top players in retail and customer relations.

  • Picom develops joint projects and innovative solutions for retail, mail-order sales, and other sectors
  • Have a look at the video below of one of Picom’s flagship projects: new shopping experience. Much of the video is in French, but put it in full screen and you don’t need to speak French to be completely impressed with some of innovative digital retail technologies on display
  • 60 major retailers plus SMEs in services and technology
  • 17 institutions of higher education and research
  • 12 economic partners and public authorities

The above video was created in 2010. Things have significantly moved on in the 3 years since, whilst I was in Lille recently, I went to the VAD Conext Connected Commerce conference. Below is some footage of the latest innovations. I am sure you will agree that it again looks like mind-blowing tech! Also have a look at Picom’s website.

Lille also has a very large labour pool that a business could draw upon were it to setup operation in Lille, again some key facts being

  •  2nd-largest education cluster in France
  • 160,000 students: 7% of the total for France
  • 10 business schools
  • Over 100 ICT-related training programs
  • Targeted master’s degree in direct marketing and e-commerce
  • Masters degree in direct marketing and mail-order sales

Overall, Lille has 4 million inhabitants and is the second most populated region in France. There are 324 inhabitants per sq km, vs 114 habitants per sq km nationwide. Its the youngest region in France where 34% of the population is under 25, vs 31% nationwide and salaries can be up to 20% lower than in Paris.

The tech startup community is a vibrant, dynamic and producing some cutting edge innovations especially in relation to Digital Marketing, E-Commerce and Digital Retail. The startup community is ably supported by an organisation called EuraTechnologies built on similar principles of London’s Tech City.

As an ICT center of excellence, EuraTechnologies provides a central location for businesses, start-ups, educational institutions and laboratories and offers them a range of innovative services.

Its missions are to:

  • Help ICT businesses grow—technologically, commercially and strategically
  • Foster the emergence of new ICT projects and new talent
  • Offer tools, equipment and services that meet the needs of ICT businesses

The EuraTechnologies business park has space thats right for every type of business including:

  • Incubator
  • Business accelerator
  • Business center
  • 10,500 sq m of modular office space
  • Office size can be adjusted in 24 sq m increments

Its a center of excellence for ubiquitous applications and practices with additional objectives of:

  • Help shape a shared ubiquity strategy
  • Act as creative mediator for shared design of services and open innovation
  • Lead industry-building projects in areas including smart cities, safety/security, robotics, and home automation
  • Promote regional initiatives at global level

And its goals are

  • Anticipate change through medium- and long-term strategic positioning
  • Create incentives for businesses in the information and communication science and technology sectors to innovate and adapt to the wave of emerging technologies that will shape the Internet of the future and the Internet of Things.
  • Support the growth of businesses with strong innovative potential
  • Showcase groundbreaking experimental practices

Whilst its priorities are:

  • Mobility infrastructure and applications
  • Worldwide deployment of cloud computing
  • Open data issues
  • New human-machine interfaces, including touch- and gesture-based systems
  • Security and new ICT practices

One of the startups at EuraTechnologies was a company called Improveeze, Architects of Phygital Commerce. One of there latest innovations and coolest products was an interactive display unit for physical products. See the video below to see exactly what it is but essentially you can display products in the unit in store and store visitors can interact with the screen to get more info on the product. Watch out for the Nokia Lumia segment in the video which is especially impressive!

There is so much more to be seen and learnt about Lille that I cannot summarise here. For more info please get in touch with NordFrance Invest to see how they can help you with your business.

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