At the beginning of October, Greater Lyon and Mass Challenge signed a letter of intent for the creation of the Lyon branch of the largest startup accelerator in the world, the “Mass Challenge International Bridge Program”. Karine Dognin-Sauze, vice-president of Greater Lyon in charge of innovation and new technologies, recently confirmed that this venture should materialize in 2016 or 2017. The purpose of this agreement is to give an impetus to exchanges and investments between the business ecosystems of Lyon and Boston, by offering startups facilitated access to North American markets.

After 6 months of negotiations between the 2 partners, it was after the visit in Lyon this September by the governor of Massachusetts Deval L. Patrick and a large delegation that the decision-making process sped up. It should be noted that the first contacts had been initiated by companies such as Sanofi and Genzyme, key players in the Lyon area.

Lyon is the only city in France being considered for such a project, and should even be the only one for Southern Europe, so that the metropolis will not only attract new startups, but also open up more to the emerging markets in the south.

Next step: a taskforce will be set up in 2015 to establish the project’s foundations, set the scope of the Mass Challenge in terms of the other tools and accelerators already operating in the local area, but also to determine how the structure will be financed.

The Mass Challenge: started in 2010 in Boston by John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam, two former entrepreneurship consultants. 80% of its funding comes from sponsor companies, with the remainder from public bodies. Every year, hundreds of startups apply to join this non-profit organization. In 2013, 128 companies were selected. Since it was created, nearly 489 startups have participated in this structure.