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Cyber Security, a source of innovation: Brittany’s original experimentation program [By Amélie Rives, CEIS]

2016/06/13

Inspired by a local and dynamic industrial ecosystem which is constantly developing, Brittany sent out in 2016 a call for projects of €800k for experimentation projects in cybersecurity. It is an unprecedented scheme with at its core the MEITO, a regional cluster of digital and electronics companies, which plays a key role in accompanying and providing support for project management. The objective is to create win-win partnerships which would allow experimenters to turn cybersecurity into a competitive advantage rather than a mere cost centre, as well as providing promising SMEs with the opportunity to propose innovative solutions.

The MEITO, an indispensable coordinating role.

The MEITO has 220 members including 60 companies specialized in cybersecurity and is one of the cornerstones of this scheme.  The organization, which is very well informed about the local industrial fabric and cybersecurity activities and has an in-depth understanding of the stakeholders in this sector, is an indispensable intermediary between project leaders and the Region. On the one hand, the organization helps experimenters identify their needs and identifies the local SMEs which could help meet these needs; on the other hand, the organization supports the Region in developing project management.

The MEITO’s approach is primarily proactive and is based on its acute awareness of local supply and demand and on close relationships with industrialists from Brittany. Thus the organization actively looks for potential experimenters in businesses in all sectors of activity and tries to identify those who lack internal competencies in cybersecurity or whose solution lacks a cybersecurity module. The organization acts as an intermediary or an agent by putting these businesses in touch with project leaders. These businesses are selected from the local SMEs and start-ups that can provide cybersecurity or innovative solutions to enhance an incomplete offer.

The MEITO guides the project leaders through the different stages of the scheme and assists them in presenting their case with the Experts Committee and its own jury consisting of the ANSSI, the DGA-MI, the I&R Cluster, the dedicated Technopole and the Brittany Region. In addition to this, the MEITO also decides on the financing of the laureates. The MEITO thus plays an essential role acting as an intermediary between project leaders, experimenters and the Region, ensuring that the APP scheme benefits all parties.

 

The regional APP, a business accelerator at the service of local economy.

This scheme is not considered part of R&D support but rather as a way of boosting business by allowing SMEs or start-ups who have mature solutions to access the market and to sell their solutions to reliable companies. For the former, the experimenters, it entails fulfilling an unmet need in cybersecurity, which sometimes also requires heavy investment, or else completing an offer by providing an innovative solution that will allow them to stand out and gain an attractive and competitive edge. The targeted technologies are those that contribute to enhancing availability, confidentiality and integrity of data in storage, processing or transmission.

The APP is therefore aimed at companies who have or are finalizing solutions and should be part of a development strategy predefined by the company leader. It is this criterion, more than the size or age of the company in question, which determines funding. The company Energiency[1], for example, had only been founded 3 weeks prior to benefiting from the APP in 2013. CalLabs[2], a start-up founded in 2013, applied for the APP in 2016 and will test experimentation as an essential step in its development. Its project highlights the mutual benefits of such a partnership: CalLabs can have a field validation of its solutions, and experimenters have the possibility of strengthening existing infrastructure and certifying their solution.

Funding and the amount awarded must therefore be able to adapt to the company’s stage of development, the solution and possible adjustments to specific technical needs. There are two schemes: one for risky projects less than €200k, a capped subsidy of €50k that covers up to 35% of eligible expenditure; for bigger projects, a repayable advance covering up to 50% of the amount of the project. Selected solutions must demonstrate their innovative nature, viability, and added value for the local economy.

The economic impact and the effect on the local industrial fabric are obvious. This experimentation scheme not only attracts investors and integrators to Brittany but also consolidates and enriches the Breton industrial ecosystem. And even more so if it is for local start-ups, although it is also accessible to all experimenters, thus opening up development prospects in the rest of France and internationally for these funded projects.

The regional APP scheme thus benefits all parties: experimenters have the opportunity to strengthen their position and stand out at little cost; local innovative SMEs and start-ups are supported in their fast growth; and the region develops its industrial fabric with more reliable and competitive enterprises.

 

This article was written after the breakfast held at the FIC Observatory on 24 May 2016. More information on the “Regional Call for Projects” scheme is available on the website of the MEITO: http://www.meito.com/accueil/nos_services/financer_l_experimentation

 

[1] http://www.energiency.com/

[2] http://www.cailabs.com/