‘Thecamp is a base camp for exploring the future’. This is how Antoine Meunier, Head of Communications, presented the new innovation campus, inaugurated this past Thursday evening in Aix-en-Provence.
The camp came out of an ambitious idea of Fréderic Chevalier, founder of HighCo and recognized entrepreneur of the region. He said it would be a transdisciplinary, transcultural and transgenerational place in which we learn, we reflect and we experiment together’. When he initiated this project in 2013, he was repeatedly told he was crazy. He kept hearing ‘It will never work’. Sadly he didn’t see the opening of thecamp after tragically passing away in a motorbike accident in July.
4 years later, this dream became a reality. With a total cost of € 80 million, the campus includes a fab lab, an amphitheater, a startup incubator, residences for young creative talents and thinkers, workspaces as well as 250 rooms and two restaurants. ‘All this with the aim of experimenting with products, services and users of the future,’ sais Antoine Meunier. The fab lab will be able to develop prototypes, while the demonstration area will present these experiments to local communities, businesses and individuals, with the hope of nurturing new solutions for a more sustainable future.
Training to finance projects
‘We have been testing mobility to find cleaner and more sustainable modes of transport. With La Poste (France’s public postal service) we are experiencing the delivery of packages by drone. These projects are full of learnings’ Antoine Meunier commented. To understand the stakes of tomorrow, a startup incubator sponsored by Crédit Agricole was also set up.
The business model is mainly based on private partnerships with companies like Sodexo, La Poste, Vinci or Cisco, among others. ‘The training programme provided are used to finance the projects,’ sayid Meunier. Thecamp has also benefited from public funding, which will be repaid. ‘We do not want subsidies to ensure that this project is sustainable’ he added. The Social Innovation Exchange is amongst this impressive roster of partners and will start delivering a social innovation learning experience beginning of November as part of The Essentials programme (see below for details on how to participate).
Local authorities such as the Paca region, the Bouches-du-Rhône department and Aix Marseille metropolis are also partners. ‘It is absolutely necessary that the private and the public get closer or else the general interest is lost. We need emulation and exchanges’ concluded Meunier.
An "organic" incubator
To promote these exchanges, Thecamp was designed by the architect Corinne Vezzoni. ‘I had no specifications, no specific requirements. This was done fully through discussions. But we were all on the same wavelength’, recontextualized the architect.
Nestled at the extreme limit between the city and nature, Corinne Vezzoni chose to surround the space by places of life, trees and bushes that hide at the heart of the project formed by large concrete cylinders. ‘I chose this form in reference to incubators in biology. Like cells under bells that would be proliferated,’ Vezzoni added. The ecological aspect was also thought: "There is no slab, no corridor, it is as much space in less to illuminate and to heat”. The Camp already seems to be working in the future.
You can find out more about the programmes here and feel free to get in touch should you what to be introduced.
The learning experiences at thecamp start with workshops, which we call “The Essentials”
“The Essentials" workshops cover key subjects allowing you to explore issues shaping today’s world and make strategic decisions with confidence.
You can design your own learning path with full schedule flexibility. “The Essentials” can be subscribed to as an individual workshop, or as a path of three or six workshops.
If you are part of an organization or project team, you can embark on “The Essentials” learning experience as a team.
The unique value of thecamp is its broad ecosystem of private and public organisations, technology entrepreneurs, academics and artists - all working together on innovation projects under topics like urban innovation, education and health, ocean, alternative business models, etc. Each participant of thecamp’s learning experiences can tap into the ecosystem for support and collaboration.
Contact Géraldine Ricour to sign up for your “Essentials” path. Should you be in doubt which “Essentials” are right for you, Geraldine can also help you make your choice.