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Montpellier and Heidelberg strengthen their business ties

Information updated on 30/05/23

The business exchange program was originally set up by the two cities’ economic development departments for local businesses, but has now been expanded with customizable export programs.

Gregoire Mercier ©A.Viste

A new chapter in the economic cooperation between Montpellier and its sister city Heidelberg: the business exchange program introduced in 2022 by the economic development departments of their respective local authorities has now been boosted with a customized export support program.
The companies selected in each city to participate in the mission organized by the sister city will benefit from personalized preparation to maximize their chances of achieving the objectives they set for themselves during their stay abroad, regardless of their level of international development.
The goal on Montpellier’s side is to prepare companies for the specifics of the German market, helping entrepreneurs develop business relationships and even forge partnerships. The entire ecosystem was mobilized around a clearly expressed political intention. A partnership was formed between RAFAL, the Franco-German Business Network in the Languedoc Roussillon area, as the leader, and the Hérault Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), CCI France International (Chamber of Commerce and Industry), AD’OCC, the economic development agency for the Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée region, and Business France.

“The German market has its own rules. By definition, it is THE money-making market that the entire world wants to capture. We are lucky to share a common border. The key factors for success include time, perseverance, organization, responsiveness, and the quality of the products and services being offered. This preparation is designed to provide the necessary keys for understanding the German market, together with highly operational advice to help participating companies develop their business there,” explains Richard Jarry, President of RAFAL.

Richard Jarry is also head of the association Germany Occitanie – The Heart of Europe, founded in 2017 and organizer of the Franco-German Weeks event, alongside the Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the French Embassy in Berlin, and the Dépêche Group Foundation.

“Germany is a strategic country for the Occitanie region. In Montpellier, we are fortunate to be able to rely on a very solid and well-structured Franco-German ecosystem,” he adds. And for good reason! As well as being the biggest investor in the region, Germany is also the leading foreign employer in Occitanie. The 102 wholly German-owned companies in the region together employ no less than 20,000 people. Lastly, it is estimated that almost 100,000 employees in Occitanie work in a context involving business exchanges with Germany, because “the aeronautics industry is not the only one working like this, far from it,” says Richard Jarry.

The French-German Weeks event further reinforces these ties. The only example in Europe of decentralized cooperation between a region and a State, this event fosters the development of business relations, promotes European integration, and brings the Franco-German friendship closer to citizens in both countries. The latest edition of the event – its fifth – was held from April 3 to 21.
To mark the occasion, Montpellier Métropole, a major partner of the French-German Weeks since 2021, announced a call for candidates for its business-to-business exchange program “Destination Germany”, which it is funding in a 50/50 partnership with RAFAL.
Selected companies will benefit from three one-to-one coaching sessions with a consultant specializing in Franco-German business relations, provided by RAFAL. Before, during, and after the mission, the companies will be put in contact with RAFAL members. The network has over 3,000 members on both sides of the Rhine, making the Franco-German Business Club the largest bi-national business network.
This comprehensive exchange program symbolizes the cooperation that Montpellier and Heidelberg agreed to strengthen in 2021 as part of the 60th anniversary of their sister city relationship. As early as 2022, a first group of four companies from Montpellier and four from Heidelberg participated in exchanges
The companies took turns visiting their sister city.

These exchanges represent the first phase of an innovative program (...) that will continue over the next several years to give companies in both regions access to a strong and dynamic economic, international, institutional, and private network,” highlighted Michaël Delafosse, Mayor of Montpellier and President of Montpellier Métropole, at the end of the event.

The first edition was a big success.

“During this mission, we learned about the German market and its innovation ecosystem, and met potential industry partners and customers. We had an opportunity to plant the first seeds of our export strategy in this country,” explains Grégoire Mercier, co-founder of KanopyMed.

Assisted by the Montpellier BIC incubator, his company is a spin-off of the Montpellier CHU University Hospital, a graduate of its Innovation Extractor program. KanopyMed designs AI-assisted decision-making tools for healthcare. The first two solutions developed by the company are Air-map and Pred’IC. Air-map is a tool that enables local decision-makers to quantify, analyze, and visualize the impact of air pollution on the health of local residents. Pred’IC helps detect early warning signs of worsening chronic illnesses, such as heart failure.

“Our company has always had European goals, so it was essential for us to gain access to the German market. We know that is not the easiest thing to do. The business exchange mission helped make  access easier for us,” adds Grégoire Mercier, whose company – also incubated by ESA BIC – decided to apply to join the mission’s second round. Business cooperation keeps the flame of Franco-German friendship alive between Montpellier and Heidelberg.

Webinar on May 25

The City of Heidelberg and Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole are pleased to invite you to the webinar How to do business in France and Germany, on Thursday, May 25, starting at 6:00 pm.

Roland Ickowicz (law firm BIA Avocats and Honorary Consul of Germany) and Anna Lepilova (Mazars), both members of the Languedoc-Roussillon Franco-German Business Network (RAFAL), will discuss effective gateways to successful development across the Rhine.

The webinar is part of the “Destination Germany” program between Heidelberg and Montpellier, organized in cooperation with RAFAL. Click here to participate.