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laboratories between our organization and public or industrial partners.” Over the 1999-2009 period, these start-ups have had a survival rate of 90% after five years, compared to a national average of 52.6% for businesses created in 2000, all sectors combined.7 In fact, 80% of all CNRS-associated start-ups are still active today, and operate in a variety of industries (see diagram for full breakdown). And success stories abound. To date, four of these companies have been acquired,8 generating a return on investment (ROI) of 535% for the CNRS. Seven are now publicly-traded,9 including three—Supersonic Imagine, Innoveox, and Integragen—in which the CNRS has a stake through its subsidiary FIST SA. But there is room for improvement. “Many companies still find it difficult to grow,” warns Marie-Pierre Comets, director of the CNRS Innovation and Business Relations Department. Today, the majority are microenterprises: 75% employ fewer than 10 people, and 46% earn under €100,000 a year. This is due to a variety of factors. Some CEOs may find that they are more researchers than entrepreneurs, less focused on business development. Others may be operating in niche markets—or in a crowded space. Hence the need to identify industrial potential at a very early stage. “Last year, we tested a ‘pre-development system’ in the laboratories to detect, nurture, and push to market basic research showing promise,” says Comets. With a €2M budget already earmarked for this project in 2015, the CNRS increases its capacity for launching innovative start-ups. ii INNOVATION Innoveox This Bordeaux-based company, launched in 2008, specializes in the treatment of all forms of organic waste, including hazardous industrial waste such as oils, solvents, and pesticides, as well as complex, corrosive, and resistant waste. Its unique technology, Supercritical Water Oxidation, is the result of more than 20 years of research at the ICMCB.10 In 2014, the two patent families that protect this technology were fully transferred to the company, in which the CNRS became an active shareholder. Innoveox has just raised €15M, and is now publicly traded with a valuation exceeding €40M. Supersonic Imagine Founded in 2005 in Aix-en-Provence, SuperSonic Imagine markets the Aixplorer, an extremely fast and accurate medical imaging system able to detect and characterize palpable and non-palpable masses. To develop this technology, the company first licensed and then acquired several CNRS patents resulting from the research conducted by Mathias Fink and Mickaël Tanter at the LOA.11 The CNRS became a stakeholder in the firm five years ago via its subsidiary FIST SA. Today, SuperSonic Imagine exploits and develops 14 CNRS patents in total, employs 130 staff, is listed on the stock exchange, and valued at more than €140M. Watchfrog This innovative start-up was founded in 2005 by two CNRS researchers and a marketing strategy expert. Based on research carried out at the CNRS on endocrine disruptors, the company uses amphibian larvae to detect in vivo pollutants or toxic molecules in the environment. With clients like Veolia or Sanofi already on board, Watchfrog is set to raise €2M in capital and launch a new product: the Frogbox. On May 7, 2015, Innoveox became a listed company on the Paris Alternext index. 17 WINTER 2015 N° 36 © M. CARTIER-AYACH © F. DUNOUAU www.innoveox.com www.supersonicimagine.com www.watchfrog.com


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