The Digital Challenge

The Digital Challenge

The Digital Challenge Reference Center will be developed on the SophiaTech campus, which is also the emblematic venue of French Tech. It will host research and training actions intended to accompany the new development of the Techno Center, especially in the biotechnology and digital domains, with the cross-fertilization of academic and industrial research laboratories.
The Digital Challenge



In a context of accelerated development of the digital economy and of globalized competition, this sector is undergoing increasingly rapid change in response to the following ambitions:

  • An acceleration of research on the themes of modeling and of the simulation of complex systems (alternately in connection to «big data»)
  • A rapid growth in the developments and players involved in software related to tourism, mobility, e-education,...
  • Onboard software and developments relative to processor cores, which in the area of microelectronics are gradually replacing the fields of silicon circuit design.
  • The development of numerous applications related to the themes of networks, data management, connectivity, the internet of things, notably with respect to questions of security
  • A constant evolution in research in the field of biotechnology, on the basis of more powerful digital tools for simulation and modeling.

We also note the emergence of forums for reflection regarding the societal transformations associated with the increasing digitization of society.


Societal challenges

Successive crises and rapid technological evolution have required us to rethink our models. In a world in which mobility is now imposed as a fact, in a world in which all information is available everywhere, permanently, in a growing number of formats, our ways of life and our societal codes are undergoing modification. The societal expectations in the digital realm relate to:

  • Social models: communication, teaching, learning,...
  • Models for creating value: industrial and economic transformations,...
  • Civic models: access to administration, to public services, citizenship,...

Tomorrow, digital technologies will impact our bodies in a routine manner (production and replacement of organs), our senses (implantation of sensors) and will undoubtedly be capable of modifying our way of thinking, our reflexes and our choices. In addition, the possible shifting towards a society of total surveillance must be anticipated, reflected upon, and controlled. The issues of data access, of safety and of security are therefore becoming crucial. The societal challenges linked to digitization can thus be articulated in the following way:

  • Access to the digital world (networks, services, cost), which could become a generator of social inequalities; technology should allow this obstacle to be overcome
  • Appropriation; digital resources must be used to improve the efficiency of social and economic services, to create new products and services at currently nonexistent quality-price ratios, and to reduce inequality

Local ecosystem

The territory, historically anchored in research and development in the fields of microelectronics, telecommunications, software and biotechnology, has shown continuous growth and benefits from an exceptional concentration of high level jobs, and is continuing to develop despite recent crises. Today, there are more than 1300 companies, representing a total of 33,000 jobs, to which can be added around 5000 students. Sophia Antipolis represents the second highest concentration of R&D centers dedicated to ITC in France. International investment is very significant, as illustrated by the fact that there are 105 foreign-owned companies, representing close to 7500 employees, or a quarter of all employees in the technopark.

The collection of companies and laboratories is dense in the fields of ITCs and biotechnology and the competitiveness clusters (SCS, Pole Mer, Pégase, Eurobiomed....) have boosted innovation programs for close to 10 years. In addition, the presence of players such as the incubators (PACA-Est, etc.) and several funding agencies (SBA, BA06) have stimulated the creation of startups and the cohabitation of public laboratories, industrial R&D centers, the university and partner schools and is an essential driver of technological innovation. Several hundred projects have been accompanied by the Sophia Antipolis incubators since their creation, corresponding to an investment upwards of 150M€ (data from 2010-2013).

Following 40 years of essentially exogenous development, it is the only French region, and one of the rare regions in Europe, that has a critical mass of international-level technological companies in the three major areas of ITC, namely microelectronics
(including onboard software), telecommunications, and software applications.

The presence of major national research entities (INRIA, CNRS, numerous laboratories), of international standardization organisations (ETSI, W3C), of competitiveness clusters (the SCS cluster for information and communication technologies), of industrial leaders (Intel, Cisco, Amadeus, Huawei, ST, Orange, Thalès, etc.), of several prestigious institutions of higher education, of the INPI, and of the continuous activity provided by various professional associations, make for a privileged environment for the blossoming of digital innovators and start-ups in search of cooperation, a reactive ecosystem, and visibility.