Events - EIC Corporate Day with Thales & Thales Alenia Space: Innovations out of this world
On 24 November 2020 the European Innovation Council (EIC) and Thales & Thales Alenia Space hosted their first online EIC Corporate Day, bringing together 13 of the most innovative start-ups in Europe. The start-ups, hailing from 9 different countries, namely Italy, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria, Ireland and Switzerland, had the opportunity to pitch their innovations to representatives from Thales and Thales Alenia Space and engage in one-to-one’s in the hopes of forging new business relations.
Thales is a European multinational that’s providing services for (aero)space, defence and security, digital identity & security and ground transportation. Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), which delivers solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures.
Finding that golden nugget
Thales & Thales Alenia Space are on the constant lookout for new start-ups and forging bright, new partnerships. Frédéric Montagard Director, Technology Intelligence, Assessment & Insertion at Thales and Vincent Clot, Open and Business Innovation at Thales Alenia Space, are responsible for identifying these new partnerships. Frédéric: "The EIC Corporate Day proved to be a great opportunity to access start-ups, and was very complimentary to the scouting channels we currently use. Many of the attending SMEs were completely new to us". As to what areas Thales Alenia Space was specifically interested in, Vincent commented: "We were looking for new, innovative technologies such as quantum, machine learning, materials and AI. The SMEs that were invited combined this with an excellent vision for the future". Besides relevant sectors, Vincent and Frédéric also paid close attention to the SMEs’ willingness to partner up: "Have they thought about what kind of partnership they want with us? How do you foresee that? That’s what matters to us", Frédéric noted. Vincent explained that there were now three different avenues to take: "We are either looking for partnerships in terms of R&D, supply chain or perhaps even strategic investment. We’ve identified opportunities in all these categories. All in all, a very relevant event for Thales & Thales Alenia Space." As to the question what will happen next, Frédéric said: "It’s now up to us and our colleagues to further dig these gold mines, find potential golden nuggets and deepen our relationship with them."
The perfect match between aerospace and AI
Stelios Bollanos, Co-founder and Director of Planetek Hellas, and Isabell Kunst, CEO of Xephor Solutions were two of the selected EIC-beneficiaries. Planetek Hellas, a Greek company, develops earth observation value added applications, software and systems as well as Software for On-Board and On-Ground Satellite Data Processing. Xephor Solutions, based in Austria, on the other hand developed the first working Artificial General Intelligence worldwide. With this system not only machine learning, but also machine thinking is possible - the system can provide new ideas and react to not trained and unforeseen situations.
For Isabell and Xephor it was a first encounter with Thales and Thales Alenia Space: "Normally it’s hard to connect with large companies because you don’t know who is who. The Corporate Days are a great opportunity for us." With their Artificial General Intelligence, they saw a good match with the corporate: "There are many AI technologies out there, most of them non-European. We have a technology, which is fully developed and made in Europe, which I believe it’s important to Thales and Thales Alenia Space. In aerospace many data comes together, and they have to be combined and analysed. For this, you need AI, that’s why we thought it could be a perfect match."
For Stelios and Planetek it was a different situation, seeing as they already had an established relation with Thales: "We already knew Thales and we had dealings with them before. This was a good opportunity to show what we’ve been doing during the last years, also to reinforce the vision Thales has of us: that Planetek is still innovative at heart." Having first received EIC-support back in 2015, Stelios is well aware of the EIC and the network it brings: "I follow the activities of the EIC with great interest, so when I see an interesting Corporate Day, like Thales, we apply. Stelios concluded by saying that “to me the EIC support is mostly about being part of this community and network. The funding is important for our innovation actions, but the community and network are at least equally important. All in all, a real added value."
Want to learn even more about the EIC Corporate Days? Check out our Corporate Day Highlight report and video for more impressions. Do you want to pitch to corporates and meet with high-level corporate representatives yourself? The EIC regularly hosts Corporate Days, for the moment fully online, with applications running through the EIC Community. Those wishing to meet with Europe’s largest corporates and fellow EIC-beneficiaries, please keep an eye on our calendar.