FROM 1969 TO TODAY
Sophia Antipolis was designed in 1969 as a science and knowledge centre by French Senator Pierre Laffitte.
On a vast, arid plateau the technology park was built. 90% of the land was planted with vegetation and it is now home to 2,500 companies, valued today at more than 5.6 billion euros and employing more than 41 300 people.
Sophia Antipolis is a Greek origin name: Sophia means wisdomwhile Antipolis refers to Antibes, as well as the concept of ‘out of town’ creativity. From the outset, the technology park was based on a strong concept of cross-fertilisation, or creativity and innovation born out of exchanges between international researchers, engineers, educatorsand industrial leaders. The public authorities spearheaded the technology park’s development, allowing the project’s potential to shine through.
ORGANISATION AND STRUCTURING
From its beginnings, The Sophia-Antipolis Joint Association(SYMISA) has supported economic growth by creating office and residential areas, while maintaining a very significant proportion of planted areas. The first 1,500 hectares of green space were quickly transformed into departmental parks open to the public, while the hilltops were protected by a building ban. The innovation chain which began with the set-up of international R&D centres, continues today with the arrival of company creation and support players including incubators, competitiveness hubs, research laboratories and higher education stakeholders.
Since the first company opened for business in 1974, Sophia Antipolis has witnessed exogenous growth, and the park started to benefit from the IT revolution in the 1980s. Large French groups, (Air France, France Télécom – now Orange, Thomson Cintra ASM – now Thalès, Amadeus and GSF for example) chose to open premises in the technology park. Global reach and quality of life also attracted American companies (IBM and Accenture). Since the end of the 1990s and the arrival of the 1000th company, the technology park has pursued its course of economic development. More than 2,500 companies have opened for business in Sophia Antipolis, creating almost 1,000 new jobs per year.
From yesterday to today
SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS’ KEY DATES
THE LATIN QUARTER IN THE FIELDS
A member of France’s elite engineering Corps des Mines and Deputy Director of the Ecole des Mines, Pierre Laffitte published an article in the national daily Le Monde newspaper calling for decentralisation, to loosen up the grey matter in Paris by creating a “rural branch of the capital”. The idea of Sophia Antipolis was conceived.
DECENTRALISATION OF MINES PARISTECH
The Minister for Industry wrote to the Prefect of the Alpes Maritimes to reserve a 10-hectare plot in the activity zone planned for development north of Antibes, in order to open Research Centres for Mines ParisTech.
SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS ASSOCIATION
On 21 July, the official history of the technology park began with the birth of the Sophia Antipolis Association.
CREATION OF THE SAVALOR ECONOMIC INTEREST GROUP
The private, non-profit Economic Interest Group SAVALOR (Sophia Antipolis Valorisation) was set up to acquire land on the Valbonne plateau.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT ZONE AND FIRST PLOT PURCHASE
- The state created a 2,400-hectare Future Development Zone [Zone d’Aménagement Différé] at the heart of the Valmasque and Brague natural parks.
- L’Oréal purchased a plot on which to open a dermatological research centre.
ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST COMPANY: ARLAB FRANLAB
Franlab is a subsidiary of the Institut Français du Pétrole, while Arlab (a subsidiary of Mines ParisTech) specialises in water resource management. Focusing on water, energy and sound spatial management — they were 35 years ahead in terms of the environmental issues we face.
MINES PARISTECH OPENS IN SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS
The school opened research centres at the heart of the technology park.
ARRIVAL OF AIR FRANCE
The Valbonne Data Centre is one of Air France-KLM’s four data centres. The others are located in Toulouse, Paris and Amsterdam. It is also the group’s largest data centre.
ARRIVAL OF DIGITAL EQUIPMENT
The information systems pioneer created a stir when it decided to open its European Technical Centre in Sophia Antipolis. At the end of the 90s, it was one of the park’s largest employers. This marked the start of the arrival of large American companies.
ARRIVAL OF THE 100TH COMPANY
CREATION OF THE INRIA SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS RESEARCH CENTRE
Inria is the French National Research Institute for Science and Digital Technology. World-class research, technological innovation and business risk are in its genetic makeup.
CREATION OF THE SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS FOUNDATION AND INAUGURATION OF INRIA
The Sophia Antipolis Foundation promotes research and innovation projects through its fundraising activities in favour of patronage and donations.
ARRIVAL OF AMADEUS AND ETSI
- Inauguration of the Amadeus centre
- Opening of ETSI, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (2G/3G/4G).
CREATION OF NETWORKS
The first networks were created to encourage ties between companies and synergies between sectors of activity, thus realising the initial vision a little more: Club des Dirigeants, Club Hi Tech, Club Sophia Start up, etc.
CREATION OF THE TELECOM VALLEY ASSOCIATION
Which now has more than 160 members
OPENING OF THE CNRS
THE SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS GAMES
- Creation of the Sophia Antipolis Games which proved particularly successful and allow people from Sophia to come together to take part in sporting events.
- Opening of the Accenture Sophia Antipolis Technology Lab.
With the advent of the Internet, the park saw the arrival of giants including Ascend, Allied Signal, Sun and Lucent Technologies. The “French Yahoo” — the Voila portal, came into existence in Sophia.
CREATION OF ASK CONTACTLESS TECHNOLOGY
After opening in the park, the company became a world leader for contactless technology identification products.
ARRIVAL OF THE 1,000TH COMPANY
Emergence of 3 expertise hubs in the technology park: new information technologies and communication, life sciences and environment sciences.
ARRIVAL OF TOYOTA AND ARM
- Toyota inaugurated its European centre for automobile design.
- Arrival of ARM which opened a “strategic design centre” in the technology park.
ARRIVAL OF CISCO AND THE PACA EAST INCUBATOR
Opening of the Cisco Technology Center and creation of the PACA EAST incubator.
- The dermatology centre created in Sophia by l’Oréal teamed up with Nestlé and set up its main R&D centre; marking the birth of Galderma.
- Creation of Sophia Business Angels and launch of the Sophia Antipolis Urban Community (CASA).
INRA OPENS ITS DOORS
The French National Agronomic Research Institute opened a major research hub, particularly focusing on Plant Health and transferred the research carried out in Biot.
CREATION OF A “SECURED COMMUNICATING SOLUTIONS” COMPETITIVENESS HUB
Which currently has more than 300 members.
LAUNCH OF SOPHIA VISION
Thinktank for Sophia, partnership process with economic, academic and institutional stakeholders.
ARRIVAL OF IBM AND CREATION OF SKEMA
- With the acquisition of Ilog, IBM acquired one of the last major world-class French software companies.
- Inauguration of SKEMA Business School.
AN ACTION-PACKED YEAR
- Nvidia took over ICERA and hired 140 people in 2 years.
- Samsung arrived in Sophia Antipolis after acquiring CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio).
- Inauguration of the Sophi@Tech campus and creation of the Business Hub.
- The Sophia Antipolis 2030 project was unveiled at MIPIM.
SOPHIATECH CAMPUS, BUSINESS HUB AND SOPHIA 2030
- Inauguration of the SophiaTech campus
- Creation of the Business Hub, the technology park’s first company incubator
- Samsung arrived in Sophia after acquiring CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio).
- The Sophia Antipolis 2030 project was unveiled at MIPIM.
AT THE HEART OF INNOVATION
- Arrival of Magnetti Marelli & Bosch.
- Côte 121 Project selected for the new developments of Sophia 2030.
ARRIVAL OF HUAWEI AND FREESCALE
- The Chinese group Huawei chose to draw on the technology park’s ecosystem, based on microelectronics, image processing and connected objects to consolidate its research and development.
- Freescale opened its doors in the former Samsung premises.
ARRIVAL OF NEW STAKEHOLDERS
- Creation of Université Côte d’Azur.
- Qualcomm acquired EPCOS and Bosh Vision Tech opened in the technology park.
- Opening of Accenture’s Interactive Innovation Center.
EXCELLENCE CERTIFICATION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
IDEX Certification for Université Côte d’Azur for its “UCA Jedi” project (580 M€).
ARRIVAL OF A GIANT
- Renault aimed to draw on local expertise and the innovation ecosystem when it opened its R&D centre in the technology park.
- Inauguration of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.
- Arrival of American Fintech unicorn, Symphony
- First edition of the SophI.A. summit on artificial intelligence.
- Unveiling of the Ecotone Antibes project — to be developed in the Trois Moulins district.
- Sophia Antipolis shortlisted to host an Interdisciplinary Artificial intelligence Institute.