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Nantes : "Innovation by all and for all" The European Commission awarded Nantes the title of European Capital of Innovation 2019 for its ability to "use democratic participation to meet such challenges as energy efficiency, population ageing, digital transformation and social inclusion". We take a closer look at seven initiatives that capture the city's spirit.

1 / Nantes : French tech Capital

In late 2014, Nantes was one of the first major cities to earn the French Tech label, before going on to become French Tech Capital in March 2019. The "City of the Dukes" is one of the 13 ecosystems chosen by the French government to be digital strongholds. Nantes' roadmap is built around five main principles: foster hypergrowth start-ups (iAdvize, Gens deconfiance, Akénéo), expand onto the international scene, encourage the Deep Tech (disruptive technologies) and Tech for Good (projects that have a positive impact on the environment, people and society) movements, boost the attractiveness of talents and diversity in the digital and high-tech professions. Nantes' French Tech also acts as a coordinator and driver for the region as a whole.

Dans les bureaux d'iAdvize

2 / The Great Debates

In 2014, 2016 and 2019, the Nantes metropolitan area organised three major community debates of the topics of the Loire River, the energy transition and ageing and longevity. The people of Nantes went online or gathered in groups to discuss the topics, suggest initiatives and take part in workshops to construct a far-reaching analysis and consideration of these issues with the wider community. At the end of the debates, the city councillors were tasked with drawing together and summing up the citizens' input and responding with concrete solutions.

Three major community debates were held in Nantes in 2014, 2016 and 2019.

3 / The 15 places to reinvent

When the City of Nantes decided to redevelop various disused and brownfield sites and public buildings, it invited input from the city's residents in an operation named "15 sites to reinvent" launched in 2018! Of the 81 projects initially put forward, 14 were finally chosen by a community vote. After some refurbishment work, the sites are now enjoying a fresh lease of life throughout the city. Associations, community groups and professionals are carrying out projects with a focus on ecology, community solidarity or culture. Come and see what's happening at the Cocotte Solidaire, Fresch’heure or the Galerie du Zéro Déchet !

4 / Nantes City Lab

In spring 2017, Nantes Métropole launched Nantes City Lab, a life-size experimental laboratory and "innovation catalyst" for the city and its users. To earn the Nantes City Lab label, the projects must be collaborative – the stakeholders can operate in the public or private sector – and have some bearing on the Nantes Metropolitan Area. Several of the projects have already made news headlines, including the 3D-printed house (Yhnova), the self-driving shuttle and the Nuage connected street furniture.

The Navway self-driving shuttle, the Yhnova system for 3D-printing houses and the Nuage connected street furniture

5 / MySMARTLife

MySMARTLife is a European project led by Nantes Métropole, the Finnish capital, Helsinki, and Hamburg in Germany. It was launched in 2016 and is expected to last five years. The idea is to work on smart solutions for the urban transition. In the Nantes metropolitan area, the projects are more specifically focused on the energy transition. They include the monprojetrenov project, a digital boiler, smart electric vehicle charging stations, energy-efficient building renovations, photovoltaic power plants, optimisation of the district heating network and smart street lighting.

6 / The Ecossolies and the social innovation award

The social and solidarity economy currently accounts for 16% of private employment in the metropolitan area. This sector is financed by the Ecossolies, a group of 300 stakeholders from the social economy, set up in 2002 and working in synergy to support between 10 and 15 projects per year. ESS Nantes Factory is an initiative launched in 2017 to support and finance projects in the social and solidarity economy. There is also an annual social innovation award to recognise a company that is innovating in the social and solidarity economy. The first two recipients are Bout'à bout', which is working on setting up a deposit-return system for glass containers, and the Hacoopa project for inclusive housing for the elderly.

The Ecossolies jumble sale has become a very popular event with the people of Nantes.

7/ Nantes Creative Factory

The Creative Factory was set up in 2011 to offer comprehensive guidance and support to businesses and prospective start-ups in the cultural industries (architecture, design, visual arts, crafts, fashion and accessories, live entertainment, radio and television, digital industry, communication, publishing, media and heritage). In 2018, the SAMOA economic development agency supported 75 projects. They included Orthopus (open source hand prostheses), Atmotrack (real-time air quality measurements) and Studio Sherlock (heritage promotion).

The Creative Factory's future premises in the former Alstom industrial workshops on the Île de Nantes (credit: Gardera/Samoa)