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La défense nourrit les ambitions créatrices

Source: Ministère de la défense

There is one discrete area where innovation is key, and that is in the field of defense. A number of SME/Start-ups have emerged in this somewhat unique environment, but in their own way they are contributing to our digital sovereignty and to the excellence of our defense industry.  We are going to take a particular interest in a few of them, such as Earthcube, UnseenlabsAleph, Cerbair Diodon, Internest, which have emerged from this environment, even if their activities are not exclusively aimed at the military.

 

Earthcube

 

It is the meeting of two entrepreneurs at heart interested in the implementation of strategic monitoring. Indeed, the last few years have seen the multiplication of surveillance systems, especially satellite systems with increased capacities. The volume of data sent to the intelligence or strategic intelligence services has made it necessary for these entities to equip themselves with analysis tools (Big Data).

They have succeeded in developing a platform for analyzing satellite images using Artificial Intelligence. Their algorithms make it easy to identify pick-ups in the desert, or troop movements in sensitive geographical areas such as ports or airfields (Les Echos).

In two years, this company has become the service provider for four different organizations within the French Ministry of Defense, but also for a British pharmacy. This French start-up has strong ambitions, but I find the vision of one of its co-founders on how to succeed in its growth quite different from many start-ups that are mainly fundraising oriented. He reminds us of this essential point: a company must grow first and foremost through the growth of its customer portfolio (Interview of Arnaud Guerin).

 

Unseenlabs

 

It is a Breton start-up, specialized in the realization of microsatellites for maritime surveillance with an innovative technology that allows it to locate with only 1 satellite, unlike its competitor (Challenges).

Its technology enables the geolocation of ships by measuring their radio frequency radiation. This is particularly useful for detecting vessels engaged in illegal fishing (disconnecting their beacon). But there are also safer uses, such as the detection of drug traffickers…

While the focus is on the civilian maritime surveillance aspects, it is however clear that there is a military interest, and it is probably for this reason that leaders remain evasive on the technology used.

 

Aleph

 

We have here a start-up specialized in cybersecurity and strategic intelligence which, according to the GICAT (Groupement des Industries Françaises de Défense et de Sécurité Terrestres et Aéroterrestres), has gone beyond the start-up stage to enter the world of SMEs. Aleph, is therefore a French company based in Villefranche-sur-Saône that addresses cybersecurity issues, particularly in monitoring the different layers of the Internet to analyze threats. It offers its solutions to government services, particularly intelligence services, but also addresses the civil market (companies, NGOs, etc…)

It is in a growth phase, with the need to obtain new sources of financing to support and accelerate this phase. But it wishes to remain French, which makes the operation more complex given the ecosystem of French investors(Les Echos).

 

Cerbair

 

Here, we are dealing with a company that offers UAV control solutions. This start-up was naturally incubated by the systems put in place by the Ministry of Defense to encourage innovation. So it specializes in protecting sensitive sites or events (such as a GY)… It offers systems to detect and neutralize threats linked to the explosion of UAV use, which is a highly regulated market in France.

It has also signed an important partnership with Drone Volt, another French start-up, as part of its growth policy. Their partnership enables the synergy of their skills between Volt’s ability to produce surveillance UAVs and Cerbair’s threat neutralization solutions (article).

 

Diodon

 

Here we have a Toulouse-based start-up, which offers waterproof and inflatable drones, in other words, “all-terrain” drone solutions.  The target markets are defense, security, off-shore and rescue. It has forged strong partnerships with industry and defense.

Here again we have an interesting example of innovations and proposals for robust solutions adapted to the markets they target. The two UAVs on offer have all-terrain capabilities, as well as customization options, especially for one of the models with a modular design.

 

Internest

 

This Paris-based start-up has developed a state-of-the-art embedded technological solution (hardware/firmware) that provides a system that facilitates landing operations whatever the weather and environmental conditions. This technology is designed for both helicopters and UAVs. It has developed a precise localization system to facilitate and secure landing operations in difficult conditions. It is designed for military and civil markets.

 

Linkurious

 

We are dealing here with a Parisian start-up born in 2013, which has developed a software platform that allows massive data analysis and visualization in graphical form to detect links. The first customers were NASA and an insurance company.

This platform allows the detection of threats, or criminal or fraudulent behavior. The solutions proposed by Linkurious were used by journalists in the “Panama Papers” case. We can thus see all the possible fields of use, particularly in the fight against fraud, whether at the level of administrations, banks or insurance companies. Of course, military (intelligence) and/or security applications should not be neglected.

 

Conclusion

 

It is interesting to note that in sensitive areas we have very successful start-ups, which have nothing to envy from their American competitors. We are seeing the emergence of a number of fine start-ups / SMEs, supported in their early phase by incentive schemes and funding from the Ministry of Defense.

However, their future growth, especially when they have a very defense-oriented activity, may be jeopardized by the irresponsible behavior of our banks. They have indeed become cautious in general, but more particularly on the financing of sensitive activities that can make them the target of the actions of certain activist groups and militants.

Faced with the risk that this represents for our sovereignty and not only digital, we may wonder about the need to create a specialized investment institution, which would not have a private client base and would therefore not be at risk from certain lobbies (notably ethical lobbies that discourage banks from investing in areas deemed unethical (environmental or not) by communication campaigns aimed at the clients of these financial institutions). The way to finance it would be a mandatory annual fee for any physical or online banking institution operating in France. I don’t know what you think about it, but maybe it could be part of the solutions that would avoid situations like the Photonis case.

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