“Entrepreneurship, the new holy grail for young people?  »

“Entrepreneurship, the new holy grail for young people? »

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Change the world

According to Bpifrance1the number of businesses created in France by people under 30 doubled between 2009 and 2020. Today, more than one in two young people plan to start a business according to a survey conducted by OpinionWay2 for FranceActive. Also according to this survey, 65% of young people want to create a business to change the world. Entrepreneurship has therefore become a real trend among young people. “It’s a whole generation that wants to get involved,” says Alain Asquin, national coordinator for student entrepreneurship, who remarks that societal commitment is now the starting point for creating a business. “Fifteen years ago, we thought about an offer and then we made sure that it was suitable in the sense of the environment or in the sense of society. Today, it is because we want to defend values ​​that we create an offer,” he explains. Driven by the desire to have a positive impact on society and therefore faced with complex challenges, these young people need to be trained, but also supported in the creation of their business.

Train to meet the challenge

“You really have to realize the immense challenge faced by these young people. We find their projects friendly, super interesting, but their challenges are particularly complex to meet. This means that the ecosystem that surrounds them must be extremely benevolent and must facilitate the start of their activity,” says Alain Asquin. Thus the Pépite France network helps students to build and develop their entrepreneurial project as part of their course, while allowing them to develop their skills. But other structures exist. “We must encourage people to survey organizations like Les Déterminés which give young people all the keys to creating a business, and for it to be sustainable,” continues Perle Perriet, founder of She Can Code, a start-up that organizes computer code learning workshops for teenage girls aged 13 to 18. Aware of the need for training, the Grandes Ecoles have also adapted their teaching programs. Thus at the Ecole des Mines Paris, “entrepreneurship is no longer an option for a few dozen students, it is now part of the curriculum,” says Valérie Archambault, deputy director of research in charge of industrial partnerships. “This development responds to an expectation of students but also of companies who ask us to train entrepreneurial engineers,” she explains.

More men than women

Despite the training and measures put in place to help young people create their own business, “there are still too few women in entrepreneurship,” remarks Valérie Archambault. More numerous among young graduates, women are a minority among young entrepreneurs (60% men and 40% women). Even if this gap tends to be reduced and more and more women are creating their own business, certain obstacles remain, remarks Alain Asquin. “As long as their idea isn’t structured, they don’t get started, while the boys say to themselves, we’ll move on and we’ll see. We must therefore work on this relationship to risk and remove this pressure of success,” he recommends.

To recruit these young talents, companies must adapt

Today, students from the Grandes Ecoles no longer dream of becoming a big boss of the CAC 40. In search of meaning, they no longer want to sacrifice their personal and professional lives to a profession without positive impact. They are thirsty for commitment and unlike previous generations, they have no qualms about leaving a job that does not satisfy them. “Their attachment to the company is sometimes less strong than their attachment to a project,” remarks Alain Asquin. The challenge is therefore significant for companies that want to attract – but also keep – these young talents in search of meaning. “Sense is essential if we want to recruit talent. When you are a large group, you have to work on your raison d’être, on a common objective that benefits everyone. It is by being committed to low carbon, to energy transition, and by being a supplier of sustainable development solutions for industrialists, local authorities and individuals that a company like ENGIE can recruit talent,” explains Stéphane Quéré, Director ecosystems within ENGIE Research & Innovation.

Start-ups and companies, two not so compartmentalized worlds

With the wave of start-ups, the company has been transformed. “Borders have become much more permeable. When you are in a big company, now you work with start-ups,” says Valérie Archambault. “We are indeed working more and more in an ecosystem, in partnership,” confirms Stéphane Quéré. “I can’t tell you how many start-ups we work with at ENGIE because there are so many and it has become a reflex,” he continues. This proximity has changed the working methods of companies. Thus, at ENGIE, “there are intrapreneurship programs that allow employees to develop projects like start-ups,” says Stéphane Quéré. “So you can be an entrepreneur in a company,” he concludes.

So… is entrepreneurship the new holy grail for young people?

For Alain Asquin, the wave of entrepreneurship among young people is not fleeting. “It’s quite structural, quite deep so it’s not a new Holy Grail but it’s a quest for younger generations,” he says. Perle Perriet agrees: “It’s really a personal quest, an approach that can help many young people to discover who they are and to develop projects”. Stéphane Quéré concludes: “Whatever the course, these young people will not have wasted their time! “.

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3 questions to Stéphane Quéré, Director of Ecosystems and Expertise at ENGIE Research & Innovation

You work in the Research and Innovation department. How do these two worlds meet and collaborate within ENGIE?
These two worlds, if there are two worlds, work very well together at ENGIE. Our research centers bring together extremely specialized experts who collaborate with start-ups, whether to test the technologies developed that are ready to be placed on the market or to meet a technical need of an operational entity. Our four main research laboratories – which are located in Paris, Lyon, Belgium and Singapore – are very open to start-ups and various partners.

You are Director of Ecosystems and Expertise at ENGIE, can you explain what your missions are?
We have several missions. Internally, we are promoters and facilitators of the culture of innovation in the group. This is reflected in particular by the Innovation Trophies, which allow any employee to propose an innovative project, which can then be developed via our incubation program. This year, we had more than 400 projects supported by nearly 2,000 people. We also encourage collaboration between start-ups and group employees through partnerships with incubators and European programs. We also make calls for projects at the request of an operational entity to find the start-up that can meet a particular technical need. It is also thanks to this proximity between the start-ups and the group’s employees that we are strengthening the culture of innovation. We also have a role in promoting all innovative initiatives, in particular through collaboration with start-ups, whether they are start-ups that are the subject of commercial collaboration or start-ups in which we let’s invest. This is what makes start-ups come to see us to develop their technologies with us. Finally, we have a talent expertise role. At a time when the energy transition has become the “hot topic” of most companies and a good number of start-ups, our mission is to identify the talents working on this subject, to attract them to our ecosystem and conserve them.

Has acting as an ecosystem to innovate and develop become essential?
Yes, because creativity is not a solitary exercise. It is by exchanging with others that we manage to have ideas and enrich them. And what matters is talking with people who are different, that’s how we move forward.

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1 https://presse.bpifrance.fr/indice-entrepreneurial-2021-la-france-un-terreau-fertile-pour-lentrepreneuriat-qui-resiste-a-la-crise/
2 https://www.franceactive.org/communiques/1-jeune-sur-2-souhaite-se-lancer-dans-lentrepreneuriat-et-pour-beaucoup-dans-un-projet-dentreprise-engagee/

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