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Study visits for the partners of the “Gazelle project”

The BalkanMed “GAZELLE project” organized the project’s study visits on 27th-29th October, to Marseille and Sophia Antipolis in France. In particular, taking into account the results of the Study on Business Angels/Technology Transfer Best Practices, the partners selected among organizations that conduct best practices and organized study visits related to Technology Transfer and to Angel investing.  The study visit’s schedule included

–              CISAM (Cité de l’innovation et des savoirs Aix-Marseille)

–              SATT South-East (Societe d’Acceleration du Transfer de Technologie)

–              ANIMA Investment Network

–              Sophia Business Angels, Espaces Antipolis


The purpose of the study visits was to acquire knowledge and best practices in respect to business angels and business angels’ networks. Since the experience of the selected organizations is great, its transmission will be valuable for the GAZELLE partners. The participants were provided the opportunity to exchange expertise and experience on issues like

–      The selection process of Business Angles

–       The selection process of companies

–       The difficulties of setting up this business angels network

–       The role of partnership in building and sustaining a business angels network

–       Case studies of companies that raised capital through the organizations

–       Internal processes of the organizations

–       The different formats used to bring together business angels and companies

–       The way to attract business angels and companies to the network

–    The role of the universities of the region in setting up and operation of the   organizations


Study visit 1.

The Cite de l’ innovation et Des Savoirs Aix-Marseille (CISAM) is a public-private sector partnership gathering local actors of the innovation ecosystem in Aix-Marseille area. The “founders” behind this initiative are the largest French-speaking university, Aux Marseille Universite, the largest metropolis in France, the Aux-Marseille-Provence Metropolis and two multinationals, CMA CGM Group and L OCCITANE Group, who have come together around a new concept: bringing together all the resources needed to stimulate innovative approaches and streamline the process in a single location. CISAM is a place for meetings, creation, project incubation and acceleration.

CISAM – La Cité de l’Innovation et des Savoirs Aix-Marseille is developing a range of service offers:

  • Innovation training program for students and academics  (hybrid awareness-raising training, work/study specialization, academic entrepreneurship)
  • Innovation support program (Product design prototyping with Human and Social Sciences & Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics platforms)
  • Open innovation program in 7 new Innovation Hubs
  • Funding search assistance: Assistance in identifying sources of funding depending on the project.
  • Co-Innovation: Connecting with the various players in the ecosystem to promote co-innovation.

Within this ecosystem, the following places of innovation for sharing and meeting are integrated: the Accelerator M; ZEBOX; and OBRATORI.

Accelerator M: Metropole Aix-Marseille-Provence has created M accelerator, a structure that aims to accelerate the development process of innovative start-ups in the region and attract foreign start-ups to the region. The M Accelerator is an association set up to support start-ups and innovative companies, drawing on key players, talent and resources from across the ecosystem of the metropolitan area. The M Accelerator provides start-ups with a support plan tailored to their needs, combining expertise, coaching, mentoring, experimenting and networking, thereby empowering them to speed up their development to conquer new markets, finance growth or recruit talented staff.

This public offer for accelerating startups is combined with services dedicated to Open Innovation in collaboration with major groups. M Accelerator is also intended to become a unique place for exchanges and partnerships with African and Mediterranean accelerators.

ZE BOX is a human-sized incubator / accelerator, offering personalized support and an exciting and innovative experience for entrepreneurship. Founded by Rodolphe Saadé, President and CEO of CMA CGM, ZE BOX is supported by master partners in their fields such as Accenture, BNP, EY, Centrimex. Four sectors are privileged: transport, mobility, logistics and X.0 industries with advanced technologies at the heart of each project.

ZEBOX offers startups with technological innovation in the sectors of transport, logistics and mobility two support programs: an incubation program and an acceleration program.

The 3 main selection criteria to join ZEBOX are the sector of activity, the technology and the stage of maturity of the startup. The founding team which play a leading role in the success of a startup is added to this. The support is tailor-made and each startup has the opportunity to meet large groups that allow them to gain credibility, to network and to make themselves known.

OBRATORI, is a “startup studio” that reveals ideas and turns discoveries into success. OBRATORI is the incubator and accelerator of projects oriented towards innovation in the fields of cosmetics, well-being and digital solutions for distribution. Created in 2018 by the L’OCCITANE Group and supported by numerous private and public partners, OBRATORI aims to promote job creation in the South region, through business creation. It offers to entrepreneurs a tailored support program, combining financial support, expertise, coaching, mentoring, networking, a cosmetic research laboratory for L2 cell culture, a fablab dedicated to the digital world.

Study visit 2. The GAZELLE partners found out how SATT Sud-Est -“The technology transfer accelerator” accelerates technology transfer by bringing together research and business players and by transforming an invention into an innovation. It aims to be a key player in economic development through innovation. Thus, it operates as a one-stop shop for the transfer and commercialization of innovative technologies.

SATT Sud-Est promotes public sector research and technology transfer to industry. A researcher and his/her team make an extraordinary discovery. But how can an idea be transformed into a solution, and how can an invention be turned into an innovation? This is the start of a race against time to find the partner company capable of upholding that ambition. SATT Sud-Est is there to help in this undertaking, from the patent to the operating license agreement. Its objective is to transfer innovative technologies from its shareholders to the industrial world by licensing them to companies, operating as an interface between businesses and public research in the PACA and Corsica regions.

Its core business is the maturation of inventions from the regional research laboratories on the legal (intellectual property), economic (market) and technological (technological maturation) levels. In partnership with business incubators, they support in the creation of innovative companies, start-ups or spin-offs.

SATT Sud-Est -“The technology transfer accelerator” offers to researchers and inventors:

  • Promotion and development of research results:
  • identification of innovative projects with high market potential,
  • disclosure of inventions,
  • assessment of patentability of technologies,
  • assessment of market potential of your technologies,
  • filing of patents and their international extensions,
  • Management of intellectual property portfolios of umbrella organisations,
  • Financial support for the development of technologies up to the proof of concept via the elaboration of prototypes and preproduction units etc.
  • Marketing and licensing of the technology offer
  • In partnership with business incubators we support the creation of innovative businesses, startups or spin-offs.

SATT Sud-Est -“The technology transfer accelerator” offers to entrepreneurs seeking new technologies to win market share:

  • Access to innovative technology portfolios from academic research
  • In partnership with Competitiveness Clusters, we identify technological requirements
  • Reduction of the industrial risk on technologies.

The SATT Sud-Est focuses its investment strategy on innovative projects in line with the scientific skills of its shareholders around 5 priority areas of interest:

  • Connected information society;
  • Environment, energies & territories;
  • Health & life technologies;
  • Industrial processes;
  • Digital Culture, Heritage & Humanities

SATT Sud-Est has a share capital of 1 M€. Its shareholders are the Universities of Aix-Marseille, Nice Sophia Antipolis, Toulon, Avignon and Pays de Vaucluse, Corsica, Ecole Centrale Marseille, CNRS, Inserm and Caisse des Dépôts.

Study visit 3. The meeting at ANIMA’s facilities provided the GAZELLE partners useful information on their work regarding the MED region. ANIMA Investment Network is a multi-country platform for economic cooperation between Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Organized as a network, ANIMA brings together 70 member organizations in 20 countries and more than 400 experts and partners who can be mobilized, coordinated by a team of 15 people based in Marseille. It brings together government and regional investment promotion and economic development agencies, entrepreneurial associations, innovation clusters, international investors and research institutes. The ANIMA community connects growth companies with high local and sustainable impacts, investors and industrial groups seeking to develop innovative solutions to the economic, social and environmental challenges in the Europe – Middle East – Africa region.

The ANIMA Investment Network community brings together the following actors:

 Growth companies with strong local impact established in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Senegal and Tunisia. Each one has demonstrated its potential for development and internationalisation with the best experts and mentors mobilised by ANIMA and its partners through national and international acceleration programmes.

– Companies seeking to innovate through industrial, technological or commercial partnerships, to develop new services and products or to enter new markets.

– Investors and business angels looking for cross-border co-investments.

– Companies and investors from the diaspora, who contribute to the creation of economic bridges between Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

– Reference institutions in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, convinced of the region’s potential for innovation and involved in value creation programs in their countries and abroad.

Support services

Beyond the connections offered by the community, ANIMA and its partners provide a number of services to facilitate collaboration between the different actors:

  • For growth companies: Connecting with a community of investors, experts and industrialists to gain visibility, access to diversified resources and expert profiles, establish industrial, technological or commercial partnerships and raise funds.
  • For companies, industrialists and ecosystem players: Access to innovative high-impact startups and an address book of trusted partners to generate new business and collaboration opportunities, through tailor-made events combining collaborative workshops and BtoB meetings.
  • For investors: Access to a portfolio of high impact local growth companies and networking with partners and co-investors through pitching sessions (power meetings) and mentoring programmes (Ask An Angel).

So, the partners were informed in detail how ANIMA’s initiative in collaboration with Business Angels Networks in EU, has provided the startup ecosystem with groundbreaking tools for monitoring innovation in the region.


Study visit 4. Final study visit was conducted in the Sophia Business Angels (SBA). Founded in 2002, the Sophia Business Angels (SBA) is an international group of members, based in Sophia Antipolis – one of the leading technology parks in France and Europe. SBA is dedicated to fostering and investing in innovative startups on the French Riviera.

Candace Johnson, President of the SBA and Eric Cokini, Secretary General of the SBA, presented to the GAZELLE participants how the SBA members are expertise in mentoring, developing, and investing in promising startups that will deliver significant financial returns for the group and entire innovation ecosystem. However, the contribution of Business Angels goes far beyond their financial support. They use their skills and experience to coach and mentor the entrepreneur and their team and, crucially, connect them into their professional network.

30 members from 10 countries and diverse backgrounds all work collaboratively to target innovative startups from various sectors. FinTech, ICT, Energy, IoT and Lifestyle are among those represented. The potential to disrupt a sector is a key consideration during the selection process.

Sophia Business Angels (SBA) are helping startups thrive in building their business plans, pitches and fund-raising through coaching and mentorship. The process, outlined below, ensures careful consideration of all qualified applicants by the member screening committee. For those companies that pass the initial screening, they are offered the opportunity to pitch to the SBA members. Additional due diligence is performed for potential investment from SBA or from other business angel groups, banking institutions and private equity funds.

In particular, the process consists of the following stages

  • the Screening stage
  • The startup files it’s application
  • SBA committees review and select promising projects
  • the Pitch Session stage
  • A lead BA invest time and expertise with the start up prepare their pitch
  • Pitch to SBA members and confirmation of interest and term sheet discussion
  • Due Diligence & Closing stage
  • Fiscal, legal and technical due diligence
  • Shareholder agreements negotiation that eventually leads to an investment.


SBA’s personalized support contains:

  • A capital contribution ranging from €50,000 to €500,000
  • The possibility of complementary fundraising in co-investment with other Business Angel Groups
  • Strong support allowing you to obtain additional financing from banking institutions and private equity funds
  • Start Up Factory and the Venture Academy. Regular events to improve your project, your approach to investors and to make you “investment ready”
  • An extensive and multidisciplinary network of professionals
  • 3 EBAN awards as Best Business Angels Network, Best Seed Fund and Best Individual Business Angel

Start Up Factory and the Venture Academy are also some of the SBA’s regular events, helping startups to improve their project, their approach to investors and to make the “investment ready”.


“Start Up Factory” provides new entrepreneurs and students, with either an active project or simply an idea, the opportunity to network with private investors, bank executives and other experts in the Startup Ecosystem. Some startups pitch to the audience of around 150 people. These evening events take place each quarter in Sophia Antipolis, the entrepreneurial hub of the Côte d’Azur, and are conducted in French.


The world-famous SBA International Venture Academy is a Pitching & Coaching Event jointly organised by The SBA and the SKEMA International Business School. It runs twice a year in April and October. It starts with Thursday afternoon coaching, Friday morning pitching, more coaching and then a final pitching session. Prizes are awarded on the Friday to the three most investible startups. Ten selected companies have the opportunity to benefit from personalized coaching by Business Angels and industry experts. In addition there are three networking opportunities; cocktails on Thursday and Friday plus lunch on Saturday. This event is in English.


The investor dinners organized by SBA are opportunities for the region’s key players (investors, institutions, partners and corporations) to federate the ecosystems that foster and accelerate the development of innovative companies. These dinners allow them to exchange and share their vision and ambition for the economic development of sectors such as Artificial Intelligence, nautical/maritime, fragrances/cosmetics and new uses.


From social constraints in 2020 came opportunity. SBA created the Pitch & Coach (P&C) session featuring a new format that is more suitable for online engagement. The Zoom-based interactive event features a select number of early stage startups. They each pitch for 7 minutes and coaches will provide feedback on the strengths and areas for improvement for investment readiness. The benefit to the startups is they receive targeted feedback on their pitch content and form. Promising companies will be invited to attend a more detailed investment pitch session that will be scheduled a couple of weeks later.

SBA, in close collaboration with EBAN, Europe’s largest and multivariant BA network, has been assisting  the development of startups for two decades up to date, along with providing consultancy for other BA networks Europe-wide.


Overall, the aim of the study visits was Gazelle partners to get to know the French innovation ecosystem and exchange experience in order to help Balkan Gazelles “run faster and further”.

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