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Viva Tech in Paris Pushes Ambitious Agenda on Future Innovations

Following their successful sophomore edition last year, organizers of the Viva Technology expo focused on developing the show along a few key fronts in order to help its upcoming third edition — being held from May 24-26 at Paris’ Porte de Versailles convention center — stand out from the pack.

“We feel that there’s a major gap between the first two editions in three main subjects,” says Julie Ranty Déchelette, VivaTech’s co-managing director. “The first one is on the international reach. The second aspect we wanted to build was on content and innovation and third was visitors’ experience.”

On the international front, the conference will host 1,000 start-ups from across the world as well 20 national pavilions showcasing the promising new tech ventures from Japan, Israel, Singapore, Germany and the U.K. The organizers have also sought to diversify their corporate sponsors, introducing partnerships with corporations including HPE and SAP.

Though French head-of-state Emmanuel Macron spoke at both previous editions, once as a candidate and once as a newly inaugurated leader, this year marks the first one wholly developed under his industry-friendly presidency, and the results show. Viva Tech was lent the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its introductory press conference in February, and will team with the president for the Paris Tech for Good summit on May 23, uniting 40 industry leaders at the Élysée Palace to discuss tech’s potential for positive impact and education.

In terms of content, the conference will once again play host to more than 300 guest speakers, including CEOs Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber), Ginni Rometty (IBM) and Satya Nadella (Microsoft), with diversity being a major point of focus.

“In France, women lead only 10% of start-ups, and only make up 25% of the engineering and digital workforce, so one of our main targets is to promote [greater gender diversity] in technology and to create ambition and interest,” says Ranty Déchelette.

On top of guaranteeing at least 40% of all speaking spots to women, Viva Tech will also introduce Equality Lounge, a forum dedicated to discussing gender, racial and social diversity, as well as offering networking and training exercises.

Setting the idea of innovation as its lodestar, Viva Tech has also teamed up with trade publisher TechCrunch to upgrade the popular hackathon event introduced last year. Once again, hackers and developers will team up for the 25 hours of tasks and competitive challenges sponsored by likes of Microsoft, Renault and Leboncoin.

The Paris event will also host the local leg of the TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield tournament, where local entrepreneurs and innovators will go head-to-head for the chance to compete at the worldwide Startup Battlefield finals, held in San Francisco next September.

On top of a VR Park showcasing recent innovations in experiential media and a Tech Park showcasing recent innovations in industrial, commercial and medical robotics, the conference organizers are most excited about the not one, but two flying car prototypes displayed in their Mobility Park. With one coming from little-known Toulouse based start-up EVA and the other from Toulouse-based multinational Airbus, the prototypes succinctly encapsulate Viva Tech’s range and intent.

“When we say that we showcase the future I think with that kind of example, we’re right on target,” Ranty Déchelette says.

The organizers have been equally methodical when considering conference visitors’ experience. The first two days are industry-oriented, and all events will be held in English as a way of emphasizing Viva Tech’s standing as an international meeting point. However, things change to French on day three, when the doors open to the wider world.

“We need to open the event to the public in order to give people the possibility to discover the innovations going on, to understand the current trends and to touch, feel and experience the new products,” says co-managing director Maxime Baffert. “As part of our mission to celebrate innovation, we believe that we must incorporate a wider audience, so that we’re not just a conference between professionals.

“You have the same ingredients, highlighting start-ups, corporations and innovations, but with a dedicated program aimed at young professionals, geeks, and students. It will be more entertaining than the first two days. We will have coding lessons for kids and teens, an eSports tournament, general subject conferences and a concert from [French rocker] ALB … I had never heard of them before, but the millennials in our team were really enthusiastic!”

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