Aix-Marseille University (AMU) and business incubators cohabit at the City of innovation and knowledge (CISAM) | CISAM
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-24750,single-format-standard,qode-social-login-1.0,qode-restaurant-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,select-theme-ver-4.5,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.5.2,vc_responsive

Aix-Marseille University (AMU) and business incubators cohabit at the City of innovation and knowledge (CISAM)

Aix-Marseille University (AMU) and business incubators cohabit at the City of innovation and knowledge (CISAM)

In the former headquarters of the SNCM, Aix-Marseille University is opening a vast space dedicated to the development of research and innovation. Report on the occasion of the O21 event organised by “Le Monde” in Marseille on 5 February.


©Julie Géret for Obratori

AMU has successfully gambled on the City of innovation and knowledge, which opened at the end of September 2018, to bring together in the same building the services of the Satt Sud-Est and the business accelerators of CMA CGM and L’Occitane en Provence. It is common for accelerators and incubators to be sponsored by companies within grandes écoles or universities. But it is much rarer for these companies to decide to join forces with a higher education establishment and move in the same building to set up their own structures.

For a few weeks now, CMA CGM, the world’s fourth largest shipping company, and the Swiss cosmetics group L’Occitane have been investing in a building located at the western entrance to Marseille, at the suggestion of AMU, in order to install their business incubators and accelerators.

“This City of innovation and knowledge, which we created with the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis, is intended to bring together all the players in innovation in Marseille,” explains Éric Berton, vice-president of innovation and development at Aix-Marseille University. Thus, in the heart of this Art Deco style building, the university presided over by Yvon Berland, who is reputed to be close to the business world, will set up the offices of the Satt Sud-Est, the technology acceleration and transfer company, which “develops the competitiveness of companies through innovation resulting from public research in the PACA and Corsica regions.”


The quality of academic research in Marseille: a criterion of choice for L’Occitane

It was the diversity and quality of the research produced in the area, particularly by the laboratories and UMRs (joint research units) in which AMU is involved, that convinced L’Occitane to set up its Obratori global innovation centre.

“We had the choice between several cities, particularly abroad. We finally opted for Marseille because many laboratories work there in the digital and cosmetic fields. When AMU told us about CISAM, we thought that we would find synergies there,” explains Amaury Godron, Obratori’s managing director.


The start-up studio thus occupies the 900 m2 of the second floor that the university sublets to it. Proof of this desire to work with discoveries from the academic world is the fact that the first company to be hosted by this accelerator is developing the application of a patent registered by an American university.


CMA CGM in search of promising start-ups

On the first floor, in a street-art setting that contrasts with the architectural solemnity of the premises, CMA CGM, whose headquarters are located a few hundred metres away, has also responded to the university’s call. Its objective is to support 12 to 16 companies selected from all over the world in incubation each year, and 8 start-ups in an eight-month acceleration cycle. Aix-Marseille is delighted to have such heavyweights in its immediate vicinity.

“We have to think in terms of formal and informal exchanges. In partnership with the Aix-Marseille Provence metropolis, we have applied for the PIA 3 (Investments for the Future programme), says Éric Berton.


This programme provides for the financing of an investment fund that could contribute to the emergence of promising start-ups. Through the City of innovation and knowledge, we are proving that we can attract world leaders. We hope that the people who will supervise the distribution of the 400 million euros linked to the PIA will keep that thought in mind. A word to the wise.


By Guillaume Mollaret – Published on 08 october 2018 at 16h00

Link to the full article (in french) : ÉducsPros by l’Étudiant