Francophonie - A Call to Gather: Café des Sciences Special Edition

By Yao Lan, Junior Project Manager Interdisciplinary & Special Projects & Luca Mondada, Junior Project Manager Innovation & Entrepreneurship

To celebrate the Francophonie month of March, Café des Sciences Lecture series presented a special edition co-organized with other French speaking countries and regions on Thursday, 21st of March. 5 Scientists and startups from Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland were invited to present their research and pitch their projects. Creative design, sustainable energy, botanical science and various other topics are discovered and explored through the lecture. An audience of more than 70 French speakers in Shanghai gathered together in the swissnex China conference room to exchange with the speakers and enjoy the social networking Apéro.

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The first speaker — Arthur Limpens from Belgium - introduced the development and keys to success of the startup DesignNest, a consumer product design platform. He started DesignNest during his studies and the company is today present across the globe, with a valuation around USD 30M and 120 employees across 5 locations as well as its own factory. He focused on widely used products, but proposed innovative designs focused on what purpose the product really serves. A good example is a multi-plug that looks unexciting at first; but its thought-through functional design made it an extremely popular product. The startup now launched a platform where designers from around the world can collaborate with the company to realize their products using their expertise and experience.

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The second speaker is Prof. Gilles Vincent. He is a Canadian scientist now based at the Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, where he can grow plants in a controlled environment on a real-life scale. This setup is unique in the world, as most botanic experiments are either on a very small scale or have external factors that cannot be controlled. His research focuses on two questions very relevant for urban Shanghai: waste water treatment and “phytoremediation”: the use of plants to clean polluted soil. His team has successfully recognized plants suited for both tasks and the results of his research is already being applied by the municipality of Shanghai.

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Our third speaker is Pierre Angot from France. He is Co-Founder of ProtectorChain, a startup that helps companies improve the security of their supply chains using blockchain. He shared the blockchain technology with the audience. The blockchain allows every actor in a supply chain to record and store information that will be accessible to everyone. What makes this special and particularly useful is the fact that no actor can modify the data once it is stored. It thus acts as a proof of everything that has happened.

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After developing a prototype for robot vision during his PhD at ETH, the fourth speaker — Prof. Laurent Kneip from Luxembourg worked on extending his research to self-driving cars. He is now Assistant Professor at Shanghai Tech university, where he is developing a tool to drive cars autonomously based on the sensors that are already present today in cars on the market. His team is hoping to achieve that by limiting autonomous driving to a controlled environment; in particular, they hope to enable cars to park autonomously in certain parking lots. This technology allows to track movement using only a limited number of sensors, which can have many attractive real-world applications.

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The last speaker Laurent Coulot is from Switzerland. He graduated from EPFL, where he started working on solar panels with the goal of increasing their efficiency. Using technology usually reserved for space equipment and smartly focusing the light to reduce the costs, Laurent and his growing team came up with a design of solar panel that is viable for large scale production and commercialization. They are therefore moving to the next step, where China will play a decisive role for them: finding partners for the production of their solar panels.

From Left to Right:  Arthur Limpens  (Speaker), Co-Founder of DesignNest;  Marie-Adélaïde Matheï , Consul for economic affairs, Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium / Wallonie-Bruxelles International;  Gaétan Messin , Science & Technology Attaché, Consulate General of France;  Pierre Angot  (Speaker), Co-Founder of ProtectorChain;  Anneleen Van Landeghem , Consulate General in Shanghai, The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg;  Prof. Laurent Kneip , Tenure-Track Assistant Professor at Shanghai Tech university, Shanghai Tech University;  François Dansereau , Head of Political and Public Affairs, Vice-Consul, Consulate General of Canada / Québec Government Office in Shanghai;  Prof. Gilles Vincent  (Speaker), Special advisor to the Executive President, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden;  Laurent Coulot  (Speaker), Co-Founder and CEO, Insolight;  Dr. Felix Moesner , CEO & Science Consul, swissnex China;  Rahel Gruber , Operations Manager & Co-Deputy CEO, swissnex China.

From Left to Right: Arthur Limpens (Speaker), Co-Founder of DesignNest; Marie-Adélaïde Matheï, Consul for economic affairs, Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium / Wallonie-Bruxelles International; Gaétan Messin, Science & Technology Attaché, Consulate General of France; Pierre Angot (Speaker), Co-Founder of ProtectorChain; Anneleen Van Landeghem, Consulate General in Shanghai, The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg; Prof. Laurent Kneip, Tenure-Track Assistant Professor at Shanghai Tech university, Shanghai Tech University; François Dansereau, Head of Political and Public Affairs, Vice-Consul, Consulate General of Canada / Québec Government Office in Shanghai; Prof. Gilles Vincent (Speaker), Special advisor to the Executive President, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden; Laurent Coulot (Speaker), Co-Founder and CEO, Insolight; Dr. Felix Moesner, CEO & Science Consul, swissnex China; Rahel Gruber, Operations Manager & Co-Deputy CEO, swissnex China.

Café des Sciences - Francophonie special edition, was co-organized with the Consulate General of Belgium / Wallonie-Bruxelles International, the Consulate General of Canada / Québec Government Office in Shanghai, the Consulate General of France / French Tech Shanghai and the Consulate General of Luxembourg. We'd like to appreciate our thanks and appreciation to their great support in co-organizing this event!

Café des Sciences is a new format at swissnex China offering a monthly platform for Swiss Spotlight Scientists and Start-ups to present their projects and connect with the local community. The lectures will offer a casual setting in which speakers can present their work and engage with the attendees during a Q&A period. Audience are welcome to enjoy the networking reception with Swiss flavour after the talk. The lecture is scheduled to take place every third Thursday each month at swissnex China or our partner spaces.