Paris will be the center of innovation and technology this week.

The 2024 edition of VivaTech in Paris is set to be a great success with more than 150,000 in-person visitors. It has become the largest technology and innovation event in Europe with CEOs, C-leaders, VCs, and startups attending from all over the world. The lineup of speakers is quite impressive with Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, X), Robin Li (Baidu), Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google), John Kerry (68th US Secretary of State), Charles Michel (European Council President), Marc Pritchard (P&G chief brand officer), Yoshua Bengio (Université de Montreal professor), Dario Amodei (Anthropic CEO), Yann LeCun (Meta chief AI scientist), Dr. Werner Vogels (Amazon CTO), and many more!

There is no doubt that Paris will be the place to be to get a glimpse of the future and discover the latest deep tech, climate tech, and mobility innovations. VivaTech will be a unique opportunity to anticipate the profound and radical changes that both AI and the green market revolution will have on our economies and societies. Whether we want it or not, they are deeply intertwined and will inevitably and radically transform societies and economies, becoming invisibly embedded in everything we do in our daily lives.

To succeed in AI, you need: 1) data; 2) massive investment in infrastructure; and 3) cutting-edge algorithms. I am not sure France can really compete with the US or China on 1 and 2, but if it were to choose its AI battles, it should focus on algorithms and expertise at the crossroads of AI and environmental sustainability. Thanks to its AI expertise and advances in sustainability, I strongly believe France has a key role to play at the crossroads of AI and environmental issues, thanks to fact that:

  • French AI research is admired among AI leaders at global companies originating from France. Many global firms have opened their AI and R&D centers in France over the past few years. Some firms, like Ekimetrics, are well positioned at the intersection of AI and environmental issues. Mistral AI was recently listed by Forrester as one of the main AI foundation models for language.
  • Investment in AI training is accelerating. President Macron announced yesterday a €400M incremental budget for AI training and aims to have 100,000 AI experts by 2030.
  • Awareness of climate and sustainability issues is higher than in many countries. Initiatives like the Climate Fresk help to raise public awareness about climate change.
  • Electricity is more decarbonized in France. This is due to the importance of nuclear in the energy mix. An AI expert we interviewed said, “You have no idea how energy-hungry AI will become. Few states will be able to enable AI because you can’t make it work in the long run without massive investment in nuclear technology.”
  • Global energy, electricity, and environmental services firms are headquartered in France. Examples include EDF, Engie, Legrand, Rexel, Saur, Schneider Electric, Sonepar, Suez, Veolia, and Vinci.
  • The startup ecosystem is full of innovative green tech players. This is highlighted by the new French Tech Next40/120 released today.


The New French Tech Next40/120

The French government today released the 2024 version of the French Tech Next40/120 — an index based on startups’ ability to generate revenues (threshold is now at least €40M) and raise money.

A couple of facts on the French Tech Next40/120:

  • €8.3 billion raised in 2023 (-38.5% vs. 2022), still number one in the European Union according to EY
  • €10.4 billion cumulated revenues (+30%), among which 36% came from abroad
  • 40,000 direct jobs
  • Green tech/agritech now the number one category ahead of fintech/assurtech, retail, health tech, and HR tech, including well-known players such as Contentsquare, Exotec, Ledger, Mirakl, Qonto, Pigment, and Voodoo
  • Among the top 10 firms that have raised the most money since 2021, it is interesting to see four players with a sustainable play: Verkor (industrial green batteries; €1,200 million), Backmarket (circular economy; €820M), Electra (EV infrastructure; €480M), and Ecovadis (business sustainability ratings; €455M)
  • Other firms to watch in the green tech/agritech/deep tech space include: Blablacar, Flying Whales, NW, Waat, Zeplug, Certideal, Vestiaire Collective, Ekwateur, Ilek, Mylight150, Qair, Agriconomie, HappyVore, Innovafeed, La Fourche, Umiami, Ynsect, Deepki, Greenly, Sweep, and Umiami

Don’t get me wrong: Financing innovation matters, but it is not the panacea.

There is still too much hype and fascination for unicorns. And technology innovation alone will certainly not be enough to live within the nine planet boundaries. Low-tech solutions and frugal innovation, regulation and new business models, evolving consumer behaviors, and mindset change among C-leaders are even more critical; however, let’s not dismiss the fact that green tech can also help.

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