Packed with discussions and ideas, this event showcased examples of successful collaborations between a large group like Safran and startups in its ecosystem, while reflecting on the best ways of developing this type of initiative.
“Building bridges between large groups and startups”
The session was introduced by Gonzague de Blignières, from the Raise Investment fund, which connects large French companies and SMEs in which the former invest to help them grow. It starts with simple things: “Startups need to adapt how they present themselves to large groups”, i.e. they have to learn how to define their offering in a clear and attractive way, but also know how to find and contact the right person within a large organization. Conversely, large companies must be more flexible in terms of processes and create “free zones” to facilitate work with small structures.
Next, two-person teams formed of a startup CEO and his or her Safran counterpart presented their collaboration and joint projects (Spring/Safran, Safety Line/Safran Aircraft Engines, Kalray/Safran Electronics Defense, Turbotech/Safran Tech, Prodways/Safran Corporate Ventures, Diota/Safran Nacelles, BeAM/Safran Additive Manufacturing, Krono-Safe/Safran Electronics Defense, CAIlabs/Safran Electrical Power*). This was an opportunity for the teams to talk about the strong points and advantages of their associations, the difficulties they ran into, and the best practices implemented to overcome them.
Raphaël Gorgé, CEO and Chairman of Prodways**, spoke alongside Hélène de Cointet, co-head of Safran Corporate Ventures. This startup is working with Safran on industrial 3D printing – also known as “additive manufacturing” – with the aim of producing significant weight gains or improving the speed of production cycles.
“A shift towards startup agility at Safran”
According to the Prodways CEO and Chairman, Safran, through its subsidiary Safran Corporate Ventures, has “made a shift towards startup agility“. As additive manufacturing is a major issue for the aerospace market, the two companies didn’t waste any time in getting down to work together. A task force of Safran engineers was set up for this purpose. It was a winning acceleration strategy, since “the Safran teams were operational in record time, worthy of a startup!“, adds Raphaël Gorgé.
“Partnerships start from a meeting”
Eric Baissus, CEO of Kalray – Safran has just announced it has taken an equity interest in the company through Safran Corporate Ventures – insisted on the importance of relationships and on his counterpart’s ability to mobilize support within the Group. In his case, François Neumann, head of RT at Safran Electronics Defense, played a decisive role. “Partnerships start from a good meeting, with someone from a large group who believes in a disruptive technology being developed by a startup, and demonstrates the necessary conviction within a large structure to bring the project to fruition. This is what happened with François Neumann“, recounts Eric Baissus.
Philipe Petitcolin, CEO of Safran, also gave a speech to emphasize the importance of these partnerships with startups. “Safran is a company where people are happy to work, many people spend their entire career within the Group. This low turnover of staff is a very positive thing and enables us to be excellent in terms of continuous improvement. But sometimes it makes it more difficult to question certain well-established processes, and for our engineers to think disruptively. That’s why we need ideas from the outside and why the startup world is so important to Safran.“
The event concluded with a speech by Jeff Holden, Product Manager at Uber, who presented the company’s new project, “Uber Elevate”. To explain the project, he went back to the creation of this startup, which today is valued at tens of billions of dollars. At the start of the adventure, one of the company’s goals was to convince motorists to give up their own car in favor of taking an Uber. Today, they have the same goal, but are transposing it to the helicopter market! To do this, Jeff Holden is “counting on major equipment manufacturers and innovation drivers like Safran“.
For the final part of this interactive event, the floor opened up to discussion. Questions were asked via a mobile application and displayed live on screen. At the end of the presentations, the audience also voted for the most convincing team. In the end, the winner was the team formed by Lionnel Joussement, CEO of Diota***, and Nicolas Lepape, RT project manager at Safran Nacelles.
*Gilles Battier and Frédéric Bochu, Pierre Journiaux and Max Moutoussamy, Eric Baissus and François Neumann, Damien Fauvet and Alain Lambert, Raphaël Gorgé and Hélène de Cointet, Lionnel Joussement and Nicolas Lepape, Emeric d’Arcimoles and Thierry Thomas, Didier Roux and Jean-Christophe Jammes, Jean-François Morizur and David Hania.
**Prodways Group is a company specialized in industrial 3D printing. In April 2017, Safran Corporate Ventures took a stake in the company.
***Diota is the leading French publisher of augmented reality software solutions for industry. In 2016, Safran Corporate Ventures took a stake in the startup.