Twelve top Parisian universities, grandes ecoles and engineering schools have banded together to create an incubator that will help students and researchers start high-tech companies.
Founding partners in Agoranov are the universities Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6) and Dauphine (Paris 9), the Ecole Normale Superieure and Paris Tech - the Paris Institute of Technology, an association representing nine elite engineering schools including Ponts et Chaussees, Arts et Metiers, Mines and Chimie. About 1,500 PhDs, 2,000 engineers and 6,700 researchers graduate from the 12 establishments each year.
Jean Lemerle, president of Pierre and Marie Curie University, said the idea of setting up Agoranov came about "because students were having to join existing firms when they really wanted to start their own businesses". It is important that the companies they create do not fail, he said.
Through Agoranov, researchers, students or graduates who have a project they want to develop and market can draw on the partners' resources such as laboratory facilities, networks of internationally recognised research teams, engineering expertise and experience of starting businesses.
In the past two years, the nine schools associated with Paris Tech have participated in setting up about 100 companies resulting from technologies developed in their laboratories or by former students or employees.
Agoranov will also offer accommodation and logistical support and supervise the entrepreneurs in the organisational, legal, industrial and commercial fields. It will also advise them in hiring a management team. It will put them in touch with industrialists, managers and financiers, and with foreign contacts for development of markets abroad.
The incubator was launched in response to an appeal last year from the ministry of education, linked to the government's innovation law.
The new legislation removed restrictions on public-sector research workers setting up or working in private companies and encouraged the establishment of incubator sites in public education and research institutions.
The ministry has contributed E1.8 million (Pounds 1.13 million) over three years, and Agoranov is seeking more funds from the Ile-de-France region and from Paris City Hall.