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Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Ecole Polytechnique

The Drahi-X Novation Centre based on the X campus whose extension was inaugurated last September by Patrick Drahi is a point of contact between experts and projects for innovation and entrepreneurship, 5000 m² for supporting project initiators, entrepreneurs, partners and of course students in their creation.

In 1992, the X-Technologies incubator was created to host spin-offs created in the laboratories of the X such as Let It Wave by Stéphane Mallat, Phasics and even Imacs. In 2013, under the leadership of Jacques Biot, President of Board of Directors, the entrepreneurial pillar is established with two aims: promotion of research results through start-ups to the industries and development of the spirit of entrepreneurship among students.

The strong ambition of the X for entrepreneurship and innovation required the creation of a new emblematic space, a crossroads for researchers, students, corporates, and start-ups dedicated entirely to the development and support of DeepTech entrepreneurship. La Fibre Entrepreneur Drahi X-Novation Center started in 2014 with the sponsorship from Patrick Drahi (X83), president of Groupe Altice.

The centre consists of the X-Up incubator, an incubator for mature technological start-ups called the X-Tech Booster, a 1000m² FabLab with 50 machines and space for acceleration of the R&D teams of corporates for facilitating open innovation. Within four years, 82 projects were incubated, around 30 start-ups have passed or are currently developing themselves in the X-Tech Booster and more than 2000 students have been able to benefit from the training with equipment in the prototyping space and from the guidance on their different technical projects and entrepreneurship.


X-Up incubator: engine for technological innovation at the center

The X-Up incubator aims at “early stage” projects that may or may not be by the X alumni. These projects have a strong focus on technology and their initiators demonstrate the capacity to develop them. This intensive six-months long incubation programme has six “sprints” during which a coach per start-up provides guidance on key subjects such as market, business model, product, prototyping, marketing etc. A “program manager” determines the roadmap with the entrepreneur before the commencement of the incubation. The project manager also assists and examines the roadmap to structure the project and accelerate its launch.  For each promotion, hundreds of applications are reviewed and about six to eight start-ups are finally selected by an external committee of professionals.

Each entrepreneur benefits from a mentor, namely an experienced alumnus of the Ecole Polytechnique who challenges the creator. For the conception, four research engineers from the X laboratories and a designer provide support. The X-Fab prototyping space of 1000 m² helps the entrepreneurs to rapidly launch an initial version of their product in electronics, robotics, augmented reality, mechanical realisation and with best practice.

After six-months, with a structured team, identified markets, an initial functional product and feedback from qualified first users, the start-ups present their enterprise to business angels, investment funds and partners during a Demo Day. Some continue their association with X-Tech Booster as mature start-ups. The idea is to anchor the enterprise towards a strong technological ecosystem for a period upto four years during which they develop themselves on issues such as fundraising, team building, technology, and internationalisation.


Wider reach for all start-ups of the X community

Apart from the X-Up and X-Tech incubation programs, the Center plays a huge role in supporting the Ecole Polytechnique community that includes students, researchers, youngsters, and elders in the development of technological start-ups. About 600 start-ups by the Ecole Polytechnique alumni have been supported.

For projects that are on initial stages of development, the team at the centre is readily available to provide guidance. Various open-for-all workshops and conferences on different topics related to entrepreneurship are regularly organised.

For more advanced projects, the X-Up incubator proposes the start-ups of the community that are seeking investments to pitch in front of around fifty investors every six months. In partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique Foundation, competitions such as X-Grant Silicon Valley, Prix Jean-Louis Gerondeau Safran and Prix X-Impact Tech are organised with the objective of supporting emerging projects by the students and alumni.

A Jobboard has also been set-up to centralise all the job opportunities in the start-ups of the community with more than 250 positions offered at present. A platform for Perks is also available to start-ups with different partners such as Front, AWS, GGCloud, Stripe, Quonto, HubSpot etc.

La Fibre Entrepreneur is also a place to facilitate one-to-one meetings between start-ups, experts and partner corporates to promote collaboration and development of proof of concept.


A place for supporting innovative projects by students

From hackathons to start-ups weekend, design courses and student-entrepreneur meetups, this place is also that of the students of Ecole Polytechnique. Indeed, they have the possibility to organise their events on topics related to entrepreneurship and innovation in the centre. The Drahi centre is full of spaces, an amphitheatre and meeting rooms that they can use.

With the arrival of each X-Up promotion, lunch speed dating is organised for entrepreneurs and targeted student associations. Every year, the start-ups of the network have the possibility to propose Collective Scientific Projects on which the second-year students can work. The Robotics student association and the Student Space Center can access spaces dedicated for developing their projects. The start-up Cabinet has office space and it also organises events such as intern recruitment forums, hackathons, conferences etc with the team at the center.

The team is at the service of the students who wish to develop a project besides their course and/or prototype. The center is also accessible to students of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris and others on the plateau who may be interested by the question of entrepreneurship and innovation.

In the year 2020-21, the center shall strengthen its ties with the student association Start-in-Saclay that organises events in the place. Finally, the X-Impact Tech prize created in 2019 that rewards technological projects with positive impact created by students and young graduates across the country will be amplified.