Interview with Christophe Fantino, Coordinator for the Sophia Antipolis Agglomeration Initiative platform.
Can you explain how the Sophia Antipolis Agglomeration Initiative (IASA) came about?
Our organisation was created in mid-2008, at the instigation of the Sophia Antipolis Agglomeration Community (CASA) and in partnership with local, public (Alpes-Maritimes Departmental Council, the PACA Region and the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (French Consignments and Loans Fund)) and private economic bodies.
Our role is to support the creation and purchase of companies with the aim of developing businesses and jobs across the 24 towns of the CASA1.
On a daily basis, we work on putting together business creation/purchase bids in partnership with organisations involved in the creation (Nice Côte d’Azur CCI, CMA 06, ACEC, etc.), granting and management of loans in order to provide better access to credit and post-creation monitoring of the cases we support.
The association has 40 voluntary members that are organisations from the local economic fabric. Its President is Pascal LENCHANT, CEO of the company Néoditel.
Our full-time team is comprised of three people with one part-time person provided by the CASA.
What is your assessment in terms of the last 3 years?
Since 2009, we have supported 117 companies whose projects have been validated by our commission, with a total of €875K granted in interest-free loans.
These loans have a significant lever effect, on average for every €1 granted in interest free loans, project sponsors are given €7 in associated bank loans, which totals over €6M spent on economic development in our region, with 213 jobs created or maintained as a result.
Another element of which we are particularly proud is the qualitative assessment of projects supported to the end of 2011, 83 % of companies that we supported were still in business after 3 years, compared with a national average of 50 %. We also received the QUALITY award from the France Initiative network in 2011.
Who are the services of the Sophia Antipolis Agglomeration Initiative aimed at?
We welcome anyone with a project to create or buy a business in the CASA region regardless of the business sector*. We have recently supported project sponsors in the following areas:
- the development of application software for digital television (i Deeple)
- the development of business management software for VSE/SMEs (Cloud Corpus)
Our association considers all projects, especially those in the field of trade and services, which still account for the majority of projects supported.
What must a project sponsor do if he wants to be part of your process?
Firstly, we consider the maturity of the projects that are presented to us in order to verify their eligibility for our system.
If the project is successful, we meet with the entrepreneur to check the economic consistency of the project and its preparation through the elements that he or she will have completed: market research, choice of legal form and writing of a business plan.
In the case of the first positive opinion, the project sponsor is helped to establish his application for the interest-free loan right up to the presentation of his project in front of the approval committee, made up of volunteer experts who are members of our association (business directors, auditors, lawyers, insurers, bankers, representatives from consular chambers).
The candidate himself answers questions from members of the association who will have previously reviewed the loan application.
The approval committee decides, by majority, whether or not to grant the interest-free loan, the average amount of which is €7,000 and which is repayable over 36 months.
Your involvement doesn’t stop at granting the interest-free loan?
Indeed, for the selected projects, we provide individual monitoring over three years. If the entrepreneurs encounter difficulties, we put them in contact with association members and partners able to help them. We also offer training workshops and group meetings once a month on specific subjects; this enables us to create forums for sharing experiences between the various beneficiaries.
All of our post-loan support and monitoring services are free of charge.
At the end of the three years of support, we offer the companies the chance to join the association and allow new project sponsors to benefit from their experiences.
Contact the Sophia Antipolis Agglomeration Initiative (IASA)
1 CASA towns: Antibes-Juans les Pins, Vallauris-Golfe Juan, Villeneuve-Loubet, Biot, Valbonne, Châteauneuf, Opio, Le Rouret, Roquefort-les-Pins, La Colle-sur-Loup, Saint Paul, Tourrettes sur Loup, Bar sur Loup, Gourdon, Courmes, Caussols, Gréolières, Cipières, Conségudes, Les Ferres, Bouyon, Coursegoules, Bezaudun les Alpes, Roquesteron- Grasse
*Excludes: property businesses, itinerant businesses, …