Last month, Bercy (France) welcomed some of the members of its Blockchain Task Force for a presentation of the very first report of this working group created in April 2019 by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire. Alarmist as to the urgency of taking into consideration the economic issues linked to technology, the seven researchers from the Institut Mines-Télécom (IMT), CEA-List and Inria have drawn up 14 recommendations, one of which, the last, strongly encourages authorities to create links between the world of academic research and that of start-ups. “ In France, research is doing well ,” said Georges Gonthier, senior researcher at Inria, in Bercy on February 10.Alongside startups, the academic world embodies the liveliness of the sector in France. There is clearly real cutting-edge research and a head start in particular on the smart contract brick. Added to this is a good positioning in consensus algorithms and crypto currencies as well as real achievements in decentralized finance. ” Enough to recognize here a real potential.

Establish communication between researchers and startupers 

Because, in the end, what is blockchain if not mathematics, cryptography and software engineering? Disciplines all largely mastered on French soil. Today, there are many projects led by researchers with great ideas but without a real business strategy, while crypto entrepreneurs are faced with technological pitfalls. However, it would suffice to put the two side by side for everything to work out. So why can’t we combine them? Because they don’t talk to each other. Simply. They live next to each other without ever knowing what they are doing. It should also be noted that there is no one to represent startups in the crypto ecosystem: despite some trials (AFGC, Chaintech, ADAN, etc.). Unlike other sectors such as Artificial Intelligence, with the France IA hub in particular, they are not federated. Result, on the market, “many projects have remained blocked by large groups at the Proof of concept (POC) stage, ” confirms Sara Tucci-Piergiovanni, Head of Laboratory at CEA-LIST. However, there is a great effort to be made to adapt this technology to everyday life. And it is the laboratories that today make it possible to find a solution to all these brakes.

Startup + Laboratories + Venture Capital = Trifecta

First of all, remember that the deeptech adventure is a long journey. This represents a substantial batch of hours of research, implementation and development, each requiring a large number of test phases.

You then have to design the product and its functionalities, define a relevant economic model, write hundreds of lines of code, launch a “Proof of Value” experiment, fix bugs, improve the UX, and finally deploy it to customers after a long integration process. Clearly, without funding, this is impossible.

And it is precisely the role of VCs, to come and support the initial investment, support the project over time to help it lead, ultimately, to a capacity for self-financing. In fact, it is desirable that this be done as soon as possible in order to secure the start of the activity and to spread the financing according to the progress. Finally, as far as possible, involving academic research from the start is strongly recommended.

In summary, an academic project for an innovative offer financed by a deeptech fund in which a startup brings business knowledge and the implementation of products to the market: this is the winning combination! The startup is developing an offer based on a technology resulting from academic research to market it.

A proven trio

As far as blockchain technology is concerned, access to the market and applications is thus done through startups that make research applicable and not just applied.

The example of MoneyTrack, which developed a payment platform in consortium with INRIA and the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci, is the perfect illustration of this. Academic research solidifies R&D work.

MoneyTrack has recently developed a third-party payment application to pay for “outside nomenclature” consultations (ie: not reimbursed by Social Security). The application uses blockchain technology to pay for consultations without upfront costs for the insured, while simplifying and speeding up processing for the insurer and the practitioner.
It all started with research to find out if it was feasible to embed and secure insurance guarantees in a smartphone, and use the power of the blockchain to record payments and healthcare reimbursements. Once the technical solution was found, MoneyTrack developed simple user interfaces adapted to the different parties (insurer, insured, practitioner).

If the solution is very interesting, it nevertheless requires a heavy integration process to be linked to the Insurer’s information system – not to mention a “real” test period before any official launch. Basically, with an insurer, it takes 12 to 18 months in total before starting. All this time devoted to this project would not have been possible without solid financing provided by the investment fund that accompanies the company.

This was also the case with a joint research initiative “BART” (Blockchain Advanced Research & Technology) born of this desire to bring together some thirty researchers around a common roadmap, aimed at removing the scientific obstacles to the Blockchain in line with societal and industrial needs.

The BART project has collaborated, as part of its program, with the startup Évolution Énergie, which has launched a suite of software solutions to help manufacturers manage their energy supply (invoicing, trading, balancing), but also a “blockchain green” to trace the origin of electricity.

Adopting this tripartite mechanism will strengthen the hexagonal economic scheme and will make it possible to be more competitive internationally, and above all more quickly, especially in the face of the United States, often envied for their lead and their strong investment capacity. The start-up/research association allows the industry to save precious time with the key to a substantial budget saving.

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