80 million euros for robotics in France: “these small French companies will soon become big” (Arnaud Montebourg)

by bold-lichterman

“There will be more start-ups in robotics in the next ten years than there have been in the Internet over the last ten” bets Bruno Bonnell, the founding partner of Robolution Capital (and former founder of the historical company Infogrames, specializing in video games, before the relaunch of the Atari brand range), came to present the first French fund entirely dedicated to service robotics, this morning at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance. With a first draft of 80 million euros collected, against an initial objective of 60 million, “we exceeded our expectations” enthusiastic Arnaud Montebourg, the Minister of Productive Recovery. The course is now to cross the 100 million euros.

It was in June 2012 that Mr. Bonnell met the Minister to point out to him the need for law enforcement in the launch of such a project. 18 months after starting the consultations, Bpi France (public investment bank, editor’s note) and the EIF (the European Investment Fund, editor’s note) responded, for the public part, alongside private actors such as AG2R La Mondiale, Orange, EDF or Thalès. Entrepreneurs like Marc Simoncini, the founder of Meetic, have also scratched themselves. “It works because we have entrusted private leaders with the conduct of our public policy,” explained Mr. Montebourg.

“In 1850 there was the industrial revolution. Today, we are almost unconsciously living a new revolution where intelligence is also moving towards machines and our relationship to them will change. We are changing, ”says Bonnell. Service robotics is expected to represent a market of $ 18 billion this year. A volume which should climb to 100 billion dollars in 2018, then 200 billion dollars in ten years, he recalled, based on figures from the International Federation of Robotics. ” Why ? Because all sectors will be affected by these forms of intelligence brought to machines: industry, transport, agriculture, defense etc. “. In this context, France must not waste time, insisted the participants. Moreover, “it is good to undertake in France”.

On a technical level, Robolution Capital takes the form of a FPCI (professional private equity fund, formerly FCPR, editor’s note) managed by Orkos Capital, for investments mainly made in the form of minority shareholdings. His mission over the next ten years will therefore be to take tickets between 300,000 euros and 5 million euros in French and European companies. It will be 50-50 in the wallet, it was explained.

But because money is not enough, this fund, which is part of the France Robot Initiative component of the 34 “New Industrial France” plans launched in September 2013, is also based on five pillars: raising public awareness. , training – school directors have already set up robotics technician diplomas like CPE Lyon or Insa Lyon – a dynamic (embodied by Robolution Capital), support for research by scientific challenges and the encouragement of partnerships between companies, and assistance for the robotization of French SMEs.

The stated objective is also that of job creation. These small French companies will become big, will be exported and will create jobs. We must help them with public procurement, ”said Arnaud Montebourg, who attended the demonstration of a drone from the Grenoble-based company Delta Drone in the courtyard of the ministry, which already has 70 employees. It has just forged a partnership with Airbus to provide solutions to the agricultural sector.

This is also the case with Awabot, who designed a robot worthy of science fiction films. Equipped with a screen at its head, it moves independently and allows, thanks to a camera, to facilitate telepresence. It is currently being tested in the Rhône Alpes region where pupils indisposed to travel can thus “get” to school by this means. But it also aims, for example, to help technical advisers to assist consumers in adjusting or repairing a product at home, says Jérémie Koessler, the director of the company.

“The robot is therefore not the enemy of employment, but a provider of jobs,” said Arnaud Montebourg. “We have fewer robots than the Germans, and it is we who have more unemployment,” he conceded. An assertion that goes in the direction of the comments made by Khalil Rouhana, head of the “components and systems” department at the European Commission, according to which France is already behind compared to the Germans and the Italians. The hexagon had, in the past, taken several steps ahead in the robotics sector. But for lack of serious funding for the sector, the delay is now being felt. It was high time to open your eyes. MM. Bonnell and Montebourg wanted to show this morning that it was now done.

FrenchWeb will receive Bruno Bonnell in “The Debrief of the week”, online this Friday.