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3 BIC graduate entrepreneurs, winners of the i-Lab 2020 competition, with 2 national prizes out of 10!

Information updated on 09/02/23

The 22nd edition of the highly selective i-Lab innovation competition recently distinguished three entrepreneurs who graduated from Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole BIC, awarding them two national grand prizes from a total of ten.

Concours Ilab 2020
This year’s 22nd edition of the highly selective i-Lab innovation competition, organized by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation in partnership with Bpifrance, had a particularly significant outcome for the greater Montpellier area. The competition distinguished three entrepreneurs who graduated from Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole BIC, awarding them two national grand prizes from a total of ten.

Despite the COVID-19 health crisis, Montpellier BIC assistance for these companies continued and was even reinforced. Their effort was acknowledged. This year, the complementarity of assistance shared by Montpellier BIC and SATT AxLR, supported by synergy in the Montpellier ecosystem, was particularly noticeable, with the national jury awarding two of the ten Grand Prizes to particularly remarkable projects focusing on one of today’s major societal challenges.

The three winners:

  • GRAND PRIZE * Be-SAFE (Biocontrol and Environmental Solutions for Agriculture based on Fungal Extracts), presented by Dominique Barry-Etienne from Mycea, a Montpellier based startup specialized in fungi: natural solutions based on fungal extracts to fight against crop diseases.  Mycea offers new solutions for bio-industries to help promote agro-ecological transition. The company creates solutions that offer an alternative to conventional pesticides by leveraging the biochemical properties of fungi and their under-explored bioactivity potential.
  • GRAND PRIZE * ACuSurgical, presented by Christoph Spuhler: advanced robotics for tomorrow’s vitreo retinal surgery. Founded in 2020, ACuSurgical is a startup whose goal is to revolutionize vitreo retinal surgery. Launched thanks to seed funding by SATT AxLR, ACuSurgical designs and manufactures an innovative robotic device that improves safety and accuracy for this very delicate type of surgery, enabling doctors to operate on patients earlier and more safely. The company’s robot also paves the way for future surgery that is impossible to perform by human hand.
  • GLAM (GLAucoma Medication ), presented by Siem Van Der Laan for Mt-act: neuroprotective drug for treating glaucoma. Glaucoma is one of the main causes of irreversible blindness, affecting 164 million people globally. Treatments to avoid losing vision cannot be used on patients with high tension glaucoma (HTG). For the 49 million patients affected by normal tension glaucoma (NTG), there is no fully curative treatment and eyesight loss is inevitable. Leveraging a major discovery in the field, Mt-act is developing a new drug candidate, which they intend to bring all the way to Phase 1 clinical trials and subsequently be able to provide the world’s first effective NTG treatment.
The i-Lab competition’s mission is to detect company creation projects involving innovative technologies and provide support for the most promising ones, offering both financial aid and adapted assistance.

With a majority of its focus this year in the fields of health and digital technologies (80%), i-Lab has over the years established its determining role in helping DeepTech startups get off the ground, while more broadly confirming its major contribution to the French innovation system.

4,324 candidacy applications were submitted for this 22nd edition of the competition. 238 were selected, notably based on HR expertise and remote interviews of project leaders. The 130 top candidates were then sent to the national i-Lab jury. Their files were evaluated based on the innovative nature and development and commercialization potential of the presented innovations. i-Lab is committed to promoting projects that are ecologically responsible and contribute to the well-being of a sustainable society.
Of the 424 projects selected nationwide (in France), only 73 ended up being chosen by the Ministry, including 4 from the Occitanie region and 3 that had been assisted by Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole BIC.

i-Lab funding and assistance

Funding tends to be the Achilles heel for DeepTech companies, which – by definition – require high levels of investment in research and development during their first years of activity.
Montpellier BIC mobilized its efforts starting from the very first edition of France’s National Competition for the Creation of Innovative Technology Companies, and continues to help startup leaders present their projects for the i-Lab competition under the best possible conditions, thus contributing to their chances for success. The only innovative startup creation competition in France that provides a subsidy without any prior equity conditions, i-Lab is highly selective.

Over the past 22 years, Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole BIC has assisted 83 winning companies. Awarded as subsidy endowments, complemented by assistance from Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole BIC and other ecosystem stakeholders, the prizes have helped over 63% of the winning companies remain in activity or be acquired by other industry players.
i-Lab competition winners have founded successful companies that create jobs with high added value within the region. Young university graduates are lucky to have these opportunities.
The excellent local results are notably the fruit of complementary actions carried out by Montpellier BIC and other organizations – including SATT AxLR – that support innovation around the greater Montpellier area.