The M accelerator, a new start-up booster in the heart of Marseille | CISAM
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The M accelerator, a new start-up booster in the heart of Marseille

The M accelerator, a new start-up booster in the heart of Marseille

The City of innovation and knowledge (CISAM) will be officially inaugurated in La Joliette in March. It gathers four structures for the launching of start-ups and hopes to attract talent from all over the world.


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 the many ironworks preserved inside. The 23,000 m2 building houses the new City of innovation and knowledge (CISAM), which will be officially inaugurated in the spring. But it is already running at full speed, spurred by the CMA CGM Zebox incubator, the Obratori start-up studio dedicated to cosmetics, and a space where Aix-Marseille University (AMU) offers its innovative talents a bridge to the business world.

This City of innovation and knowledge is intended to bring together all the players in innovation in Marseille. It is supported by AMU and the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, whose president, Martine Vassal, inaugurated the latest structure supported by the local authority: the M Accelerator. For the elected representative, 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.”


Alongside Martine Vassal, many of the region’s economic players have come to visit the premises in an inaugural atmosphere. Pascal Lorne, the serial entrepreneur of start-ups and new president of Aix-Marseille French Tech, measures the progress made by the region in recent years to become attractive to the global ecosystem of innovation: “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 start 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!”


The M accelerator, the Metropolis also wants to launch start-ups

While incubators, accelerators, business nurseries and other start-up centres have been flourishing in recent years to launch the companies of tomorrow, it is rarer that these structures are 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 drawn from the local community’s business project start-up scheme.

“The M accelerator will be entirely free of charge,” explains its director Franck Araujo, “there will be no capital investment in the projects that we will support. 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. The first batch of 12 to 15 start-ups is currently being selected and will receive a four-month support starting next spring. Business development, access to financing, human resources advice, coaches, mentors and experts will help them to turn their already well-matured projects into reality. The Metropolis particularly intends to attract international talent by providing for a third of foreign projects, half of which will be African.



By Loïs Elziere – Published on 24 january 2019

Link to the full article (in french) : Made in Marseille