Toulon and Mannheim – a strong startup ecosystem partnership

Last year in September, TVT Innovation and NEXT MANNHEIM signed a Partnership Agreement that facilitates international promotion and business landing via a vice versa “Onboarding Program“ . That was quite a step towards connecting the Toulon and Mannheim startup ecosystems.

Let’s have a closer look at Toulon as the „Mediterranean Tech-Hot-Spot“!

Laetitia Amiot, head of the TVT international project and Dr. Claudia Rabe from NEXT MANNHEIM talking about and a very special partnership agreement. 

Laetitia, you are working at TVT Innovation, Stéphane is responsible for System Factory. What is behind all that? 

Laetitia: "First of all I wanted to thank you for inviting me for this interview! It’s always a pleasure for TVTs team to connect with NEXT MANNHEIM to enhance its knowledge of the ecosystem and foster more interactions. To answer your question about our Tech Hot-Spot, we are indeed lucky to be working within one of the top French metropolitan area : Toulon Provence Méditerranée in the city of Toulon surrounded by beautiful highlands and right next to the Mediterranean Sea.

With the involvement of its key public & private stakeholders, TVT Innovation, the Metropolitan Economic Development Agency of Toulon Provence Méditerranée and Business Innovation Center, we build a quite active innovation ecosystem. Through the engagement of our entrepreneurs bidding major industrial compagnies like NAVAL Group, THALES and startups, the economy has grown and is now structured around key clusters like the digital entrepreneur’s 43.117 Network helped by the French Tech Toulon Label, the Sea Business Cluster Pôle Mer Méditerranée and the high-tech solutions System Factory platform managed by Stéphane Claisse.

We manage business support services for local and international SMEs within our business incubators and 2 coworking spaces, the brand new one is located in Chalucet the Creative District of Toulon and is a member of the European Creative Hub Network.

We are delighted to have connected with Mannheim’s ecosystem and to have this very strong partnership with NEXT MANNHEIM, to help SMEs from both side in their international development." 

Laetitia Amiot is the TVT European and International project manager helping support innovation within Europe and fostering international opportunities.
Laetitia Amiot is the TVT European and International project manager helping support innovation within Europe and fostering international opportunities.
Our goal is to boost innovative & creative ideas, to foster a more sustainable growth and to promote our ecosystem both at a national and international level!
Laetitia Amiot (TVT Innovation)

What exactly is the field you are working for? What motivates you doing your job?

Laetitia: "I am an European and International project manager helping support innovation within Europe and fostering international opportunities. I really enjoy the international cultural exchange linked to my job and the co-creation of solutions for the future.  I think it contributes to our ecosystem by providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and practices with international organisations and helps SMEs through exposure to new audiences and access to international marketplaces.

Mannheim with its strong engagement combining innovation, creativity and sustainability is quite inspiring for us and I am glad to be working on several project with NEXT MANNHEIM’s team: international development, softlanding for startups, European projects, creative & cultural events, Covid resilience schemes…."

Dr. Claudia Rabe (Head of Tech and International) is the person who signed the partnership agreement from the side of NEXT MANNHEIM.
Dr. Claudia Rabe (Head of Tech and International) is the person who signed the partnership agreement from the side of NEXT MANNHEIM.

Claudia, who initiated the collaboration and how did your work together with Toulon, especially with the team around Laetitia, grow over the last years?

Claudia: "Toulon and Mannheim have been twin cities for many years now with exchanges already taking place on several levels. 

About 3 years ago, a visit of a delegation from Mannheim took place under the leadership of our First Mayor. For us from NEXT MANNHEIM, this was the initial spark, so to speak, because during these days we had the opportunity to get to know the excellent structures of Toulon, which Laetitia has just described. Already a few months later we organized the return visit to Mannheim - and it was quickly clear to both sides: That fits! 

Toulon and Mannheim have similar structures as far as the startup ecosystem is concerned - partly with a different focus within the technology sector, but the way promotion is understood and lived are very similar. In addition to supporting startups and SMEs, the linking of urban cultural issues and creative industries also plays a crucial role in Toulon. As you can see, there are many points of contact."

So what exactly is the partnership agreement all about? What are the services offered ?

Laetitia: "TVT Innovation as the Economic Development Agency aims to support innovative SMEs and build strategic partnerships in Europe and internationally. Mannheim is now considered for us as a priority destination in which we want to continue to invest.

The agreement we signed underlines the exchange program between both ecosystem and the international support measures dedicated to the start-ups.

It will help promote the engagement - with the aim of supporting the internationalization of the institutions and companies that it covers, to achieve the following goals:

  • Facilitating access to new markets in other countries.
  • Establishing new contacts, collaborations and identifying synergies at an international level.
  • Detecting commercial opportunities and discovering new businesses or investments
  • Identifying and promoting the participation to events with an international dimension

From Germany to France, if you are looking to take your start-up or SME global, we will support you in developing an effective international B2B Go to market strategy. We will help you gain knowledge on our destination, get you to “softland“ in Toulon by welcoming you inside our coworking spaces and put you in touch with the right people.

We are glad to be partners in the upcoming international incubation programs with NEXT MANNHEIM & TVT Innovation and we invite also would like to invite German Start-ups to the upcoming Digital and Creative Festival MUREX!

Are the both Startup Ecosystems comparable? And what has happend so far?

Claudia: "From a structural point of view, both ecosystems are very similar. We both have infrastructurally very well-equipped startup centers with a very large attractive portfolio of services for startups. Both locations have a strong segment of technologically oriented startups. Here, the focal points now differ somewhat. Our partners are very strongly positioned in the areas of marine (which is obvious), energy, environment, health and defense, but clearly, cybersecurity, IoT and Big Data also play a major role here, for example. In Mannheim, there is the medical technology cluster around the fast-growing Mannheim Medical Technology Campus - among other things, we operate two large startup centers in this segment alone. At the MAFINEX technology center, the industry focus is on B2B industrial technology. In this respect, there are a  lot of overlaps, but the synergy effects lie precisely in the complementary sectors.

Since our onboarding program activities, which Laetitia has already explained, were supposed to start pretty much at the beginning of the Corona pandemic, we are currently standing in the starting blocks, admittedly a bit impatiently. The startups want to seize the opportunities of the program - but are now unfortunately blocked, which is a great pity. But we're staying on the ball, exchanging information digitally, our startups are participating digitally in trade fairs and events, we're presenting ourselves, and we're expanding our networks. The current situation also opens up new opportunities. But of course, we are very much looking forward to developing further concepts on site with our partners in each case and bringing the startups closer to the market opportunities of the respective region in a physical way."

Toulon has also a very vibrant cultural scene, for example the MUREX. Tell a little more about it!

Laetitia: "Yes we also have a promising cultural and creative sector in Toulon! TVT Innovation with the help of its entrepreneurs and the cultural incubator Le Port des Créateurs decided to create the Digital and Creative Murex Festival in 2019 with inspiring conferences, professional workshops and a dedicated market place. After a successful first edition, the team decided to expand the scope of the Murex with a specific online platform called the Murex+ and a new business event that will be integrated into the upcoming festival. We are particularly pleased to welcome for this #2021 edition our friends from Mannheim, the German city twinned with Toulon - key cooperation partners to promote exchanges around innovation and creativity. Their expected participation in the Festival will allow us to get to know each other better and strengthen our intercultural connections !
We strongly invite you to participate in the next Murex Festival and to get to know better Toulon and to enrich your international relations!"

A strong partnership in a good mood and atmosphere: The team from Toulon visiting NEXT MANNHEIM in November 2019.
A strong partnership in a good mood and atmosphere: The team from Toulon visiting NEXT MANNHEIM in November 2019.

There is a lot on the road so far – what’s next? What are the plans for 2021 and further?

Claudia: "Currently, we have created the concept of a so-called Digital Incubator, which will be launched in these days. We do not want to leave the time currently unused. Within the framework of a four-week program, the startups will have the opportunity to prepare for market entry. This way, they will be well informed when the actual stay in the partner city takes place. We are really looking forward to that, if it can happen hopefully in 2021. Otherwise, we are thinking about the joint application to European funding programs, which will make it possible to implement our many ideas that we already have in the drawer!"

We are more than ready to go further!
Dr. Claudia Rabe


Dr. Claudia Rabe

Deputy Managing Director / Head of Tech, Startup-Support, International
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