The Drahi-X Novation Center, located on the Ecole Polytechnique campus, is where expertise and projects for innovation and entrepreneurship meet. This 5,000 m2 facility supports business creation by project leaders, entrepreneurs, partners, as well as students from l’X and elsewhere.
In 1992, the X-Tech Booster was set up on Ecole Polytechnique’s campus, to host its labs’ spin-offs, such as Let It Wave, Phasics and Imacs. In 2013, under Jacques Biot, then President of the Ecole Polytechnique Board of Directors, entrepreneurship activities were reinforced with a two-fold strategy: first, the commercialization of research output to companies via startups; second, the development of an entrepreneurial mindset among students.
The high ambitions expressed by l’X as regards Entrepreneurship and Innovation required a new, flagship facility, entirely dedicated to the development and support of Deep Tech entrepreneurship. It would become a place in which to work and interact with researchers, students, established companies and startups. The Fibre Entrepreneur Drahi X-Novation Center was set up in 2014, thanks to the patronage of Patrick Drahi (X83), President of Altice Europe.
The Center comprises the X-Up incubator, for early stage technology startups, X-Tech Booster, for more mature companies, the FabLab, a 10,000 m2 facility with 50 machines, and acceleration services for the R&D teams of major companies to encourage open innovation. Since then, 82 projects have been incubated, around 20 companies are currently following the X-Tech program, or have already graduated from it. More than 2,000 students have also been trained to use the equipment in the prototyping facility and also supported in their various technology and entrepreneurship projects.
The X-Up incubator is for early stage projects led by Ecole Polytechnique alumni and other entrepreneursProjects are characterized by a high technology content and leaders who have demonstration their ability to develop their business. This intensive support program has been designed as a succession of six “sprint runs”. For each each startup, a coach trains and challenges entrepreneurs on key issues, such as the market, their business model, their product, prototypes, marketing, etc. At the start of the incubation period, a program manager and the entrepreneurs together set out a six-month road map. The program manager then assists them and ensures that they stick to the road map so that they can structure their project and accelerate its launch. About a hundred applications are reviewed for each cohort, with only six to eight startups selected by an external panel of professionals.
Each entrepreneur also has a mentor, a former Ecole Polytechnique student who has relevant experience and challenges the founders. Four research engineers from the campus labs, as well as one designer, provide assistance on design issues. X-Fab, with its 1,000 m2 prototyping facility enables entrepreneurs to quickly embark on a first functional version. Various prototypes can be developed: electronic, robotic, augmented reality, mechanical and optical. Two engineers provide help with the equipment and advise on good practices. At the end of the six-month period, the team is organized, markets have been identified, a first functional product can be shown and feedback has been received from expert users. On Demo Day, startup founders present their company to business angels, investment funds and partners. Some of them then join X-Tech Booster, the program for more mature companies, which hosts around 20 startups. The idea is for their company to become embedded in an influential technology ecosystem for a maximum period of four years. During that time, they will work further on key issues that include fundraising and building up their team, their technology and their international reach.
The Center is not just a home for specialist support from the X-Up and X-Tech programs, its central role is to support the entire Ecole Polytechnique community - students, researchers and graduates of all ages - by developing technology startups. Just over 600 startups are led by Ecole Polytechnique alumni.
The team at the Center is more than happy to talk to leaders of projects at the idea or structuring stage and to give them some initial advice. Workshops and conferences on entrepreneurship-related themes are held regularly and open to everyone.
Every six months, for those projects that are more advanced, the X-Up incubator offers a small number of startups who are raising funds the chance to pitch their company to more than fifty investors. Support for budding projects led by students and alumni also comes from competitions: X-Grant Silicon Valley, Jean-Louis Gerondeau Safran Prize, X-Impact Tech Prize, organized in partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique Foundation.
A jobboard has been created to advertise all the employment opportunities offered by the startups in the community. The Perks platform provides a one-stop-shop for all the special offers the Center has negotiated with various partners (Front, AWS, GGCloud, Stripe, Quonto, HubSpot, etc) to ensure that all startups can benefit from them.
The Fibre Entrepreneur Center is also a connection facilitator: face-to-face meetings between startups, with experts or relating to corporate partners can be held to encourage collaboration and the development of proof of concept (PoC).
The Center is for Ecole Polytechnique students too, with hackathons, the startup week-end, as well as some design lectures and meet-ups between students and entrepreneurs. Students can organize their events on topics that relate to entrepreneurship and innovation in the Center. The Drahi Center contains work stations, a lecture hall and meeting rooms which they may use.
With each new X-Up cohort, a lunchtime speed dating session is organized between entrepreneurs and targeted student associations. Each year, those startups in the community who wish to offer students a Collective Scientific Project can do so. Year 2 students then work on this project as part of their course work. The robotics student association and the Student Space Center have dedicated areas in which they can carry out their activities. Cabinet Startup also organizes events in its office or on the campus, together with the Center’s team: intern recruitment forum, hackathon and themed conferences.
The team is receptive to students who would like to develop a project outside the scope of their course and/or to develop prototypes. Students from the Institut Polytechnique de Paris and other students with an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation are also welcome at the Center.