The City of Innovation and Knowledge (CISAM): a new landmark for start-ups in Marseille | CISAM
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The City of Innovation and Knowledge (CISAM): a new landmark for start-ups in Marseille

The City of Innovation and Knowledge (CISAM): a new landmark for start-ups in Marseille

The City of innovation and knowledge is officially inaugurated in La Joliette. It concentrates four structures for launching start-ups and intends to attract talent from all over the world in the heart of Marseille.

By Made in Marseille – Published on 13 March 2019

Obratori,  at the City of innovation and knowledge


The 1928 building opposite the J1, which was home to the SNCM until 2013, reads “La Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.” A minaret-like clock stands at one of its corners, and the “art deco” style is still evident in many of the ironworks preserved inside.

The 23,000 m2 building houses the new City of innovation and knowledge, which was officially inaugurated on Tuesday 13 March. This project concentrates a unique ecosystem in the fields of innovation, research and the economy. The aim of this space is to create bridges between public and private players in innovation and entrepreneurship. The City of innovation and knowledge is the result of collaboration between Aix-Marseille University, the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, and the two multinational corporations CMA CGM and L’Occitane. These four entities each have a space where scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship coexist.

For Martine Vassal, President of the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, the City of innovation and knowledge must attract and concentrate start-ups from all over the world: “It is essential for the attractiveness of large cities to create clusters of start-ups.” Indeed, this new space seems to appeal to the targeted start-ups community. Pascal Lorne, the serial entrepreneur of start-ups and the new president of Aix-Marseille French Tech, measures the progress made by the region in recent years. This is what he confided to us while visiting the structure in January: “Young people today have no idea that not so long ago, we were fighting to have ADSL. This building is the symbol that the elected representatives finally understand the new generation of start-ups and are attracting them here. With structures like this in the city centre, Parisians, Berliners and Londoners will say: “Wow! I want to come and work here!”


Zebox, Obratori and the M accelerator: three launch pads for start-ups

The City of innovation and knowledge is already running at full speed. Three structures for the development of innovative projects are located on three levels.

On the ground floor, the Metropolis has decided to launch the creation of start-ups with the M Accelerator. Although incubators, accelerators, business nursuries, and other seed accelerators have been flourishing in recent years to launch the companies of tomorrow, it is rarer for these structures to be supported by local authorities. “We don’t have an investment fund dedicated to start-ups in the Metropolis,” says Martine Vassal. The 150,000 euros in annual operating costs for the M Accelerator and the 80,000 euros for renting the space will therefore be taken from the local authority’s business project start-up scheme.

“The M Accelerator will be entirely free of charge,” explains director Franck Araujo, “there will be no capital investment in the projects we will be supporting. At least for the moment.” It will be dedicated to innovative entrepreneurship projects in three main areas: the sea and the blue economy, cultural and creative industries, and urban planning and quality of life. On the first floor, the Zebox incubator, launched by CMA CGM in September 2018, plans to carry around thirty innovative projects in 2019. In the fields of transport, logistics and mobility, the structure carries projects around technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and blockchain.

Zebox offices


On the second floor, the international cosmetics group L’Occitane has also chosen Marseille to launch its startup studio Obratori – a space of surprising design, dedicated to its promising start-ups in the field of cosmetics and digital. The structure is notably equipped with a real laboratory to conduct experiments

Obratori’s cosmetic laboratory


Link to the full article (in french) :