Resilience and European Digital Sovereignty - German-French Exchange at the International Roadshow of the Forum Digital Technologies 2023

The international roadshow of the Forum Digital Technologies brought together funding projects and startups for an exchange with France's innovation landscape, focusing on resilience and digital sovereignty.

The delegation of the FDT Roadshow 2023 in front of the Jean Zay Supercomputer.
The delegation of the FDT Roadshow 2023 in front of the Jean Zay Supercomputer.
The delegation of the FDT Roadshow 2023 in front of the Jean Zay Supercomputer.

From September 11th to September 14th, 2023, a delegation from six selected BMWK-funded projects and a startup awarded in the BMWK start-up competition visited France to foster German-French collaboration in the field of digital technologies.

Future Technology 'Made in Germany' on the Move

The central themes of these intensive exchange days revolved around applications to strengthen resilience and digital sovereignty. Organized by the Forum Digital Technologies and accompanied by representatives from the BMWK and the DLR-Projektträger, the roadshow aimed to increase the international visibility of projects from the BMWK's funding programs, stimulate active exchange between German and French network partners, and initiate transfer of results from the projects.

Visit to the Heart of Innovation in Paris

The delegation's journey began in the vibrant capital of France, Paris, where the group visited the unique Station F and received an exclusive tour of the inspiring facilities at the leading French innovation hub for startups. This campus, located in a former train station building, is the largest of its kind in Europe, providing a modular infrastructure with offices, workspaces, and event spaces designed for rotation, accommodating over a thousand startups and companies from various industries.

This location provided an inspiring environment for the subsequent first networking meeting with French partners. The Forum welcomed key players from the digital units of French ministries as well as from research and business. The common goal of the partners was a commitment to promoting digital innovation in the European area.

“We wanted to thank you very much for organizing the FDT France Roadshow in the way you did. It was highly efficient and effective coupled also with inspiration and very nice moments." (Bernt Andrassy, DRIMCo)

The second day took the group to Paris-Saclay, a place of outstanding importance for the technology scene in Paris and beyond. Here, what had already become clear the day before at Station F was confirmed: joining an established and growing ecosystem and state-supported innovation playground can prove to be beneficial and help to create a gravitational effect and pull factor for startups and companies alike. When adding elements of mentorship, opportunities for co-creative on-site exchange, and a healthy dose of competition, promising results can be achieved, benefiting all network partners mutually.

The Delegation in Exchange

Paris-Saclay serves as a strong cluster with a focus on direct exchange between the research landscape and technology companies, offering many exciting intersections and points of connection for the German projects. The group was able to receive direct feedback on their product promises and solution approaches through short presentations. In an intensive exchange, the delegation met representatives from three major French energy companies at the SINCLAIR site who, as competitors, are collaborating on AI solutions for overarching challenges at this location. Following that, the delegation visited the Paris-Saclay Innovation Playground and networked with other assembled players from the Paris ecosystem.

A special highlight concluded the day with a visit to the Jean Zay Supercomputer at the IDRIS research center. During an exclusive tour, the delegation learned not only about the immense computing power of this system but also the stringent security measures required to adequately protect such high-performance technological infrastructure. Additionally, the group witnessed the impressive noise generated by the supercomputer during its operation, which, due to its powerful cooling system, resembled the sound level of a Berlin nightclub.

The Future of the Blue Economy in Marseille

In Marseille, the second stop of the roadshow, everything revolves around water. As a major port city and a logistical (data) hub, addressing the challenges associated with global climate change becomes tangible within the ecosystem of applied research and business partners.

It was interesting to see how the immediate natural environment influences startup and business development on-site. During a visit to the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, participants learned firsthand how the "Smart Port Challenge" innovation competition can promote sustainable solutions to make the port future-proof, always with the premise of increasing economic and logistical potential while reducing environmental impact.

“I never before experienced such a well-organized and thought-out roadshow with just the right mix of partners – every bit of networking was extremely productive! If I had the chance, I would definitely join again without a second thought.” (Eric Veith, OFFIS)

The last day of the roadshow took the delegation to CISAM to engage in exchanges with local startup and research clusters connected through chambers of commerce. In mutual pitches, the French side clearly focused on the development prospects of the socio-ecological transformation, which was evident in solution proposals and product promises regarding desalination, waste management, smart energy usage, and other cleantech solutions. 

For Marseille's innovation landscape, protecting the resources associated with the port is crucial to support and enrich the local economic system in the long term. Many points of contact were also found here in the delegation's contact with the participating R&D projects.

“Without getting too far ahead of myself, the links of reciprocity and complementarity are already obvious to the host team. [..] Your roadshow is exemplary... and one might be tempted to say German-style.” (Vincent Gay, Synchronicity)

After four days, the delegation left France with new impressions, inspiring food for thought, and initial ideas for sustaining the established networks. The Forum Digital Technologies hopes that the exchange has laid a solid foundation for future German-French collaborations in their respective thematic and application areas.

  • The delegation at Station F, Paris.The delegation at Station F, Paris.
  • Networking session at Station F, Paris.Networking session at Station F, Paris.
  • Networking in SINCLAIR, Paris-Saclay.Networking in SINCLAIR, Paris-Saclay.
  • Networking meeting at the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille.Networking meeting at the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille.
  • The delegation at the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille.The delegation at the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille.
  • Networking session at the Cité de l’innovation et des savoirs Aix-Marseille.Networking session at the Cité de l’innovation et des savoirs Aix-Marseille.