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A “Stars of Europe” 2021 trophy for Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation

Information updated on 05/08/22

Frédérique Vidal, the French Minister of Higher Education and Research, awarded the Stars of Europe (“Les Étoiles de l’Europe”) trophy to teams from the Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation competitiveness cluster for its European program DIVA.

Remise du Trophée « Les Étoiles de l’Europe 2021 » pour le programme DIVA

Awarding the “Stars of Europe 2021” trophy for the DIVA program

“Startups and SMEs in the Montpellier Métropole area played the game, resulting in DIVA and 9 others being selected as winners! We are extremely proud to earn this award, which demonstrates our driving role and the relevance of competitiveness clusters such as Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation for managing financial aid via these innovation checks, an agile funding mechanism,” explains Laurent Augier, Managing Director of Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation. “While also looking at other funding sources, we turn towards the French government, regions, and private players to continue this type of program.”

Created and coordinated by Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation, the DIVA program – Boosting innovative DIgitech Value chains for Agrofood, forestry, and environment – sought to fund and assist digital innovation deployment in agriculture, agri-food, environmental, and forestry sectors. The program was rolled out between April 2018 and March 2021.
This award by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation recognizes the Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation competitiveness cluster’s performance for supporting the emergence and implementation of value-creating innovation projects in the agriculture and agri-food sectors.
The award thus highlights the cluster’s expertise in design, management, and operational deployment of public and private funding mechanisms. This includes startups and SMEs that are mobilized to leverage innovations to meet the challenges faced by players in the agribusiness sector: adapting to climate change, accelerating the implementation of sustainable and agro-ecological practices, supporting the economic life of farms, and encouraging the operational performance of agri-food companies.

Whereas the government will soon publish a report on the means to boost French AgriTech, this award reinforces the interest of leveraging competitiveness clusters to implement sector-oriented innovation policy, as they are firmly rooted in their regions while also being present at national and European levels.

How the DIVA program works

Leveraging a cascading funding mechanism implemented by the European Commission, the consortium led by Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation received a budget envelope of 3.5 million euros, which was used to provide financial assistance and support services for innovation covering a wide range of projects. The DIVA program helped bring European tools and funding to SMEs and startups seeking to innovate in agriculture and agri-food fields, as well as those involved with the environment and forestry.
Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation was able to guide its European partners – of which one of the leaders is Digital 113, the Occitanie regional cluster of digital companies – to build real momentum on a national and European scale and thus generate strong interest in the DIVA program.
  • One of the project’s first phases involved defining a framework for innovation with future candidates to detail the stakes for those sectors, along with people’s needs, and the functionality they hope to obtain with new digital tools.
  • After that phase, two calls-for-projects were launched successively by the consortium to support maturation for proofs-of-concept, innovative digital service demonstrations, and internationalization.

Of the 400 applications received by the consortium, 134 projects involving 180 SMEs and startups in 9 European countries ended up being selected. Each selected project was awarded funding ranging from 10,000 euros to 60,000 euros, for a total of 2.7 million euros. The program led to the creation of 124 new products and services; 59 recipients generated intellectual property, including 10 patent filings.

Over half the supported initiatives were evaluated after one year by consortium members as showing particularly strong promise, with 20% considered as having high innovation potential. It is estimated that for every euro granted in subsidies, over 3 euros were invested subsequently.
The projects supported by the DIVA program notably include digital solutions that seek to reduce the use of pesticides and optimize the use of fertilizer. Some initiatives also focus on improving logistics in local supply chains in order to reduce food waste. Other projects focused on fostering sharing information and experience among farmers and stakeholders in the agri-food sector through dedicated social networks.
Yet another asset for Med Vallée dynamics!