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Seed Scout #13: Can France Win The Sustainable Aviation Future?

In this special edition, we take an in-depth look at France's emerging Sustainable Aviation ecosystem. ✈️ 💚 We also zoom in on Elixir Aircraft and Starburst Aerospace.


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In this special edition, we take an in-depth look at France's emerging Sustainable Aviation ecosystem. ✈️ 💚

  • Sector Deep Dive: Given the historical and economic importance of aerospace to France, the government is putting big resources behind the effort to create cleaner forms of aviation technology in the hopes of remaining a leader in this critical market. This report tells what you need to know about this expanding ecosystem in France.
  • Seed Of The Week: Elixir Aircraft raised €40m in financing to scale production of its lightweight two-seater plane that cuts carbon emissions by 70%. CEO Arthur Léopold-Léger explains how design and materials by boats influenced this innovative aerospace startup.
  • Investor Spotlight: Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard has built a global network of accelerators and investment funds that have worked with more than 120 startups in aerospace and defense.
  • Hot Seed Deals: Diamfab, Firecell, Airthium, Self & Innov and more!

Chris O'Brien & Helen O'Reilly-Durand

The French Tech Journal

Sector Deep Dive:
Sustainable Aviation

Sustainable aviation technology spans a diverse range of disciplines aimed at mitigating the environmental and societal impacts of air travel and transportation. It includes the development of innovative materials, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), new aircraft and engine technology, and advanced air traffic management tools, all crucial components in working towards achieving net-zero or carbon-neutral aviation by 2050.

As the world hurtles toward the 2050 Net Zero emissions deadline, the call for urgency, once a distant hum, now rings loud and clear. Given France’s historic roots as an aviation pioneer and the current impact of the industry on the nation’s economy, France is hoping to play a leadership role in this transition. 

The government’s plan to boost the emerging sustainable aviation sector is part of its €54 bn France 2030 plan, a massive innovation program that French President Emmanuel Macron describes as “the answer to the big challenges of our time, in particular ecological transformation.” The plan focuses on encouraging and aiding environmental transitions through encouraging and investing in innovation within pivotal sectors like energy, industry, transport, and aerospace. In response, the aerospace industry is embracing sustainable aviation as its beacon of change – and a potentially huge financial opportunity. 

This Sector Deep Dive will explore how close France’s sustainable aviation ecosystem is to reforming the aerospace sector and achieving cleaner skies and the key actors to know.

Seed Of The Week:
Elixir Aircraft

Elixir Aircraft stands on the cusp of scaling its manufacturing thanks to a recent round of funding that includes money from France's new Industrialization Seed Fund managed by Bpifrance. Thanks to incumbents like Airbus, France still is a world leader in commercial aircraft and business jets. But CEO Arthur Léopold-Léger said that the nation is lagging when it comes to new forms of sustainable aviation and Elixir Aircraft is pushing hard to change that.

"We are far behind when it comes to light aviation," he said. "The French government's strategy is to make sure that we keep the lead wherever we have the lead, and we work to gain a lead on the markets where we don't have yet innovation."

Investor Spotlight:
Starburst Aerospace
CEO François Chopard

Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard
Starburst Aerospace CEO François Chopard

More than a decade ago, former Airbus engineer François Chopard founded Starburst Aerospace, a global firm that operates a network of 20 aerospace or defense accelerators that have boosted more than 120 startups, invests in some of those startups, and offers innovation consulting services to large corporate partners. He started Starburst Ventures to expand that investment strategy, which now includes a second fund targeting Pre-Seed and Seed-Stage aerospace and defense startups. In 2022, Starburst also partnered with investment fund Audacia to create Expansion Ventures to begin raising a €300 million fund to back French and European aerospace and defense startups.

Chopard's work in the U.S. gave him an early view into startups like SpaceX and the potential innovation that would be coming to sectors like aviation, space, and the military. The bulk of Starburst's work has been in the U.S., which Chopard believes had a significant headstart. But Starburst also has a substantial presence in France and Europe.

"With the cost reduction of launch, I could see that new types of satellite constellations could be available in space, which would enable new types of services," Chopard said.

Hot Seed Deals 🔥

Diamfab management team (left to right): Gauthier Chicot, Ivan Llaurado, and Khaled Driche
DIAMFAB | LinkedIn

What: Diamfab, a deeptech company using synthetic diamonds to make semiconductors.

Why: To produce lighter, more temperature-resistant and energy-efficient semiconductors to fuel the next generation of power electronics in electric vehicles, industry, or electricity distribution networks.

Funding: €8.7 million
Who: Co-Founders Gauthier Chicot & Khaled Driche

Investors: Asterion Ventures, Bpifrance, Kreaxl, Better Angle, Hello Tomorrow, Grenoble Alpes Métropole

What's next: This initial fundraising will allow Diamfab to create a pilot line to pre-industrialize its technology, accelerate its development, and meet the growing demand for diamond semiconductors.

What: Firecell, a developer of 5G connectivity hard and software solutions for enterprises.

Why: To democratize 5G private networks by providing affordable open-source solutions tailored to the needs of businesses.

Funding: €6.6 million
Who: Co-Founders Claude Seyrat & Olivier Dhotel

Investors: Ventech, Matterwave Ventures, Bpifrance, Bouygues Telecom Initiative

What's next: Develop a new range of products with features such as geolocation and protection against cyber-attacks. Deploy Firecell's offering in Europe, notably in Germany, the leading European industrial market, where the startup is establishing a subsidiary. Recruit around fifteen people (sales, R&D, etc.).

What: Airthium, a Deeptech developer of innovative high-temperature heat pumps (up to 550°C) for industrial heating.

Why: To reduce global CO2 emissions by replacing gas heating in the industrial space with a solution that is highly energy efficient, low carbon, and cost-effective.

Funding: €3 million
Who: Co-Founders Andreï Klochko & Franck Lahaye

Investors: Daphni, Eren Groupe, and Polytechnique Ventures.

What's next: The company has plans to start developing heat pumps of different sizes to reach 20 MW by 2030.

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