An ‘Innovation Concept Store’ has been set up in the city of Laval, capital of the Mayenne administrative area south-east of Paris and host to the ‘Laval Virtual’ series of conferences. The aim is to help startup companies to market-test, refine and sell their products.
The Innovation Concept Store is a space dedicated to marketing products from innovative startups. The project receives regional development funding via the European Open Innovation programme, which co-finances a number of projects in various EU countries with the aim of fostering innovation, plus backing from local sources. “We felt there was something missing from the startup incubation process,” Idir Aït Arkoub, President of Laval Mayenne Technopole, the organisation which runs the Laval Virtual conference and exhibition and the Idénergie startup incubator, told L’Atelier, explaining: “We thought we ought have a dedicated space to showcase innovative products.” However, as well as providing a shop window for small companies, the Concept Store has also got involved in the production process, providing space for co-working and product trialling with potential consumers.
A springboard for innovation
The sales space is therefore just one of the creative spaces at the Store. In addition there’s a LivingLab, where potential customers are asked to test out products and give feedback, plus a digital café – a co-working space very much in line with the office-sharing trend on which L’Atelier reported in a recent article. In fact there are twin objectives for startups selling their products through the Concept Store: “This shop window gives them the opportunity to seek out partnerships and to talk to customers, individual consumers or companies,” continuedAït Arkoub. “While the incubation process enables them to go through the preparation stages much more efficiently, here at the Store they can then draw their customers’ attention to the product and test alpha and beta versions with them.”
“We believe that this innovation development space provides a model for the twenty-first century city,” stresses Aït Arkoub.“Here we see it, for example, in the way the Store has been integrated into the heart of Laval’s city centre.” Further down the line, there are plans to incorporate the Concept Store into the Laval ‘Virtual Reality City’, a second project which will see the establishment of a ‘technopolis’ focussing on virtual reality and 3D technologies. The EU Open Innovation programme supports projects in several western European countries, and there are now plans to open a number of other Concept Stores, with inter alia two venues in the UK – London and the science park/incubators linked to Plymouth University – on the list.