Innovation

Without it, you’re dead.

Innovation affects every sector of business – from tourism and transport to IT and banking – and the quality and success of such innovation is determined by the sheer vision of its creators and its swift and timely implementation.

Here are just a few leaders in the field of innovation that have strong French and Irish links.

Iarnród Éirean (Irish Rail) 

In its Strategy 2027 document, primarily prepared during 2019 in a world before COVID-19, the Irish national transport company set out how its services would respond to changing customer needs, including, as its CEO, Jim Meade, points out “the key role Ireland’s railway will play in helping to power the nation’s economic and social development towards a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future.”

Its ‘Innovation & Technology’ Section states –  ‘It is likely that some people, especially those travelling shorter distances, will migrate to active transport modes, namely cycling, walking and e-scooters in particular. 

We will support our customers in such choices, in particular by enhancing interchange facilities at city stations to facilitate ease of transfer. Where feasible, additional provision will be made for shared bicycle options and facilities for safe bicycle storage for those wishing to combine rail with the use of such modes over a complete journey. 

The company is also considering innovative digital solutions such as: 

Mobile phone apps to inform customers of train occupancy levels pre-boarding; 

Smart CCTV and public information systems to support crowd management; 

Big Data and/or Artificial Intelligence usage in support of managing station/train occupancy and to enhance the feeling of security and safety;

Temperature screening at points of entry (while managing associated privacy concerns);

Use of visual graphics (infographics, videos and pictograms) for ease of communication and avoidance of language barriers.

Technicolor

Reacting to rapid changes in the film-production landscape, this Paris-company with over 13,000 employees, says in its mission statement, ‘From the beginning, our focus on constantly improving the tools and technologies of our industry, and the experiences we create, has redefined what’s possible for storytellers and audiences across the globe.

Through perpetual innovation, we create the tools and technologies that enable our clients to achieve their creative visions in ever more efficient and effective ways.

By uniting the latest technologies with our industry-leading creativity, we deliver innovative experiences that connect with audiences on an emotional level – whether delivered at home, in theaters or out in the world.’

CEO Richard Moat, who has a home in Dubin, helped cement Technicolor’s relationship with Ireland when he led his company to eight Emmy nominations last year for new and long-running series, including one set mainly in the Emerald Isle.

Of the three Emmy Awards won by Technicolor, across both VFX and Sound categories, its MR. X won for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for its work on Vikings – a series his team has worked on for all six seasons.

The highly-successful 24-episode series was filmed primarily in some of Ireland’s most beautiful landscapes in the counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kerry, in co-operation with Ashford Studios, the show’s base. Its popularity worldwide boosted revenues for Ireland by millions of euro annually from both domestic and foreign tourism markets, with senior officials at Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, the national tourism authorities, welcoming it as an innovative addition to the overall tourism offer.  

https://www.technicolor.com/news/technicolor-teams-win-3-emmys-outstanding-sound-mixingediting-and-vfx

These are just a few of the company’s exciting innovative techniques.

Alstom

One of the leading multi-national companies in France today, Alstom shouts its message simply and categorically, ‘Innovation drives our growth,’

With an underlying belief that, ‘Value creation through innovation is both the key to technological differentiation and a means of creating added value and gaining a competitive edge,’ Alstom has significantly reinforced its research and development (R&D) resources.
Due to ongoing investment and partnerships, it has launched ground-breaking innovations such as the zero-emission Coradia iLint regional train, and the multimodal management system for urban transport Mastria or StationOne, the first online marketplace for the mobility sector.

It has also partnered with universities, research centres and start-ups and fostered public/private research initiatives such as SystemX (digital solutions for future transport services), SuperGrid (new power conversion technologies) and Railenium (railway system technologies). We are also involved in competitiveness clusters specialising in embedded systems and transport solutions for the future. Since 2010, Alstom has also sponsored Aster Capital, a venture capital fund in innovative technologies. Alstom officials say, “smart innovation is a way to create a smarter mobility with added-value for rail transport passengers and operators. It is also a way to increase its assets, through a proper management of intellectual property and to enhance its efficiency and ways of working.” 

BNP Paribas

Leading banks with French-Irish connections have also invested heavily in innovation. 

With offices in Ireland, BNP Paribas is among those recognising this key challenge. 

‘Being the bank for a changing world means putting innovation at the heart of our strategic challenges in order to understand our customers’ expectations as clearly as possible and to offer them the best of both the physical and the digital worlds,’ said Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, the bank’s CEO. “Innovation is ultimately about being attentive to changes in society, adapting, transforming, and offering new experiences and useful solutions to our customers; it is technological, experiential, adapted to the daily lives and aspirations of our customers.’

As an integral part of its strategy, BNP Paribas has brought together companies, institutions, start-ups, entrepreneurs, networks and associations. Its 5 start-up houses in Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Luxembourg and France, teams co-create every day new solutions, with FinTech developers and digital operators.

“Among our strategic priorities for 2022-2025 is our determination to maximise synergies between all our business lines, to accelerate the roll-out of our digital offerings,” said  Bonnafé, “The effectiveness of our digital transformation is a significant asset in the highly competitive environment in which we operate.”

BNP Paribas was also a partner in the 7th edition of the ‘Hello Tomorrow Global Summit, in December in Paris. Industrial leaders, 800 start-ups, incubators and accelerators, investors, media, researchers and academics discussed different themes including food, energy transition, regenerative industries and materials, smart mobility and even space exploration.

In 2020, deep tech represented around $60 billion in investments worldwide, up from $15 billion five years earlier. According to a recent report by Hello Tomorrow and the Boston Consulting Group, that amount could exceed $ 140 billion by 2025.. 

Bank of Ireland

With offices in France, Dublin-based Bank of Ireland led by Group Chief Executive, Francesca McDonagh, proudly launched its ‘Innovation Lab,’ an incubator programme ‘built from the ground up to educate, connect and scale technology startups.’ 

Each programme runs for a six-month period where startups meet with key mentors from within the bank and the wider startup ecosystem. Bank of Ireland Innovation Lab operates in Dublin and New York and it is hoped this will be expanded in due course.

The bank announced recently that Tandem HR Solutions, Surf Accounts, CitySwifter, Aylien, Fund Recs, LoyLap and mADme joined the bank’s Innovation Lab New York programme, a move that will see them gain access to free incubation space in the city. Such support helps the bank’s startup customers as they seek to grow their business and is the first offering of its kind from an Irish bank outside Ireland. Could France be next? 

Carolyn Quinlan, the bank’s Innovation Lab Manager, said , “We are focused on fostering entrepreneurship and helping our customers to grow their businesses. The companies joining us are fantastic, we have some really interesting and exciting businesses in the mix that we think will excel.” 

Is your company or bank French or Irish linked and deeply involved in innovation? If so, email us (see below) the information.

If you are interested to be a partner in the French-Irish Business Forum, contact Ingrid Vaileanu Paun (France) Email or Sean Hillen (Ireland) Email