Swiss startup GTherapeutics, wins the Hello Tomorrow Challenge

Driven by a new generation of innovators and European entrepreneurs, the Grand Finale of the Hello Tomorrow Challenge took place last Friday (418) at la Cit des Sciences et de l’Industrie.!

The Hello Tomorrow Challenge (HTC) hosted its grand finale last Friday (4/18) with the 100,000 grand prize going to Swiss startup G-Therapeutics which is developing a technology that enables individuals with permanent spinal injuries to walk again!!

Launched in December 2013, this non-profit competition promotes breakthrough innovation in Europe by highlighting young – under 35 years old – scientists; entrepreneurs who are taking on the most important challenges in the world today. In two months time, the competition garnered over 1,200 applications from more than sixty countries.

The twenty-five semi-finalists (5 per category; biotech, robotics, energy, telecommunications, big data) came from 13 different countries, and as a sign of its strong startup ecosystem, 9 of these semi-finalist teams were from France! Besides the grand winner, four other 15,000 prizes were given to the Swiss startup Gimball (robotics), which has developed a flying drone, that, inspired by insects, can bump into obstacles and continue to fly safely; the French startup Watch Live Electrochemistry (energy), which has designed a microscope dedicated to the study of electrochemical reactions, a sphere of interactions which are still poorly understood by scientists; British startup Carbon analytics (big data), proposes a tool for estimating and monitoring CO2 emissions from companies and their suppliers; another French startup, StreamRoot (telecommunications), has a solution that drastically reduces the time and bandwidth dedicated to online video consumption and distribution.!

Called the “First Day of Tomorrow”, the grand finale of HTC was held Friday, April 18th at the Cit des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Paris). This event brought together 1,400 participants from an amazing range of disciplines, among half of whom were visitors from abroad. With 52 international speakers, 15 keynotes, 25 startup pitches and numerous round tables, the public discovered the technologies shaping the world of tomorrow and the issues they raise. On the menu: 3D printing, personalized medicine, nanotechnology, big data, robotics, hardware, connected objects, smart cities, drones, and more!

Among the speakers were Massimo Banzi (Arduino), Demis Hassabis, the “genius” of artificial intelligence (Deepmind), Bill Liao (CoderDojo, SOS Ventures), Professor Mark Post, inventor of artificial meat (University of Maastricht) and many French personalities such as Gilles Babinet (European Commission), Romain Lavault (Partech Ventures), Claudie Haigner and Jo de Rosnay (Universcience).

With Europe “supposedly” facing bleak economic prospects, breakthrough innovations are highly sustainable growth drivers, and the HTC seeks to consolidate these efforts. In this sense, Axelle Lemaire, Secretary of Digital Innovation in France, said “Hello Tomorrow was a great moment of shared energy and discovery. At a time when some doubt the ability of Europe to reinvent itself, the talents gathered at HTC have demonstrated their desire and willingness to make Europe a major hub of innovation and creativity in the world. Bravo!!!” While “French bashing” has become commonplace in the international press, HTC’s objective was to demonstrate the ability of France to be placed at the heart of international innovation ecosystem and become a land “of hope, dreams and energy,” according to the testimonies of its attendees. Professor Courtine – who played a key role in the found of HTC Grand winner, G- Therapeutics- welcomed the initiative, saying he “didn’t think such an event could exist in France.”

For Gildas Sorin – French expat in Germany and Novaled CEO, acquired by Samsung for several hundred million euros in 2013- “The Hello Tomorrow Challenge helps to give a much better picture of France when viewed from the perspective of an expat, as it’s often seen too much pessimism, low morale, and withdrawal.”

The highlight of the day was a rare public appearance, and closing speech from Demis Hassabis, founder of Deepmind, a startup acquired by Google in January 2014 for an undisclosed sum. After presenting Deepmind, Demis shared his vision of entrepreneurship and gave a series of tips for the younger attendees so that they could in turn “change the world”.!

According Xavier Duportet, founder and president of the Hello Tomorrow Challenge, this initiative seeks to “create a multidisciplinary dynamic of innovation, with an ecosystem where international scientists, engineers, makers, entrepreneurs, “marketers”, and investors can meet, interact and put their skills together to develop breakthrough technologies created at the cutting edge of science.!

To carry out this project, Xavier Duportet was supported by a team of fifteen volunteers under 30 years old, each of whom embodied a part of the richness of the Parisian ecosystem: engineers (AgroParisTech, CNAM , MIT, Stanford), researchers (Institut Pasteur, Curie Institute, INRIA), business profiles (HEC, EM Lyon, Sciences Po) and journalists/bloggers.

The HTC team was supported by amazing partners who provided financial backing and also helped them access an international ecosystem of startups; large corporations such as Orange (global partner), Total, Axa, and Airbus, Michelin, GRTgaz, Saint Gobain and BETC were vital to the event, just as were the public institutions INRIA, CEA , INSERM Transfert, Bpifrance the FrenchTech and Universcience.!

Following the success of this first edition, the Hello Tomorrow Challenge wishes to continue to grow with a second edition, more global in its reach, is under consideration for next year.!