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Sophia Antipolis is a European[1] technology park. Much of the park falls within the commune of Valbonne, which lies northwest of Antibes and southwest of NiceFrance. Created in 1970–1984, it houses primarily companies in the fields of computingelectronicspharmacology and biotechnology. Several institutions of higher learning are also located here, along with the European headquarters of W3C and the ETSI. In the early years, one of the main challenges of Sophia Antipolis was to relate people and to create a sense of community. The "Human Factor" is what was to distinguish the Science and Technology Park in the world as a landmark of science, invention, innovation and research. It was to focus on building an international environment, creating an international community. This means taking into account and improving tenant interaction, networking and cross fertilization of ideas. The concept was that bringing together people from different intellectual horizons and "making" them meet, would bring added value and generate innovation. Many professional clubs were thus launched: The Sophia business angels club, the Sophia Nordic linkArt SophiaTelecom Valley are just a few.

Sophia Antipolis is named after Sophie Glikman-Toumarkine, the wife of French Senator Pierre Laffitte, founder of the park, and incidentally, Sophia, the Greek word for wisdom, and Antipolis, the ancient Greek name of Antibes. Many of the roads within the technology park have Greek names. There is a giant sculptured Greek urn as a centre-piece on one of the roundabouts.
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Sophia Antipolis, the science and technology park in the south of France, is looking to write a new chapter in its story. The city fathers in the region are expected to unveil in the coming months the Sophia Vision report, a plan to breathe new life into the project. Pierre Laffite, the founder of Sophia Antipolis, envisaged a new city of learning rising out of the hills behind Nice – something of a Cambridge on the Côte d’Azur – offering quality of life and intellectual excellence. Over the years, Sophia Antipolis became France’s Silicon Valley on the Riveria, attracting information technology and communications companies whose researchers and engineers commuted from the hilltop village of Mougins and the picturesque harbour town of Antibes. The science park is set in the hinterland of Nice, an arid area of scrubland, pine trees, and creaking crickets. Sophia Antipolis has grown steadily each year, bringing in about 35,000 jobs, says Jean-Noël Durvy, managing director of the foundation that promotes the science park, or technopole in French. That compares with about 300,000 in Silicon Valley and 70,000 jobs in Bangalore, the high technology capital of India, says Mr Durvy. About 1,400 companies are located in Sophia, occupying 1.3m sq m of office space out of a potential of 2m sq m. Average rents are about €150 a square metre, a foundation spokesman says. Since its beginnings in 1969, Sophia Antipolis has attracted big names in high technology, including Amadeus, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Siemens and Thales. Amadeus, the travel specialist, is the biggest employer in the park, with 2,600 staff. Start-ups and small and medium-sized companies have also located there. About 21 per cent of the investment is from foreign companies, with 59 nationalities represented. US and British companies make up a majority of the foreign tenants, followed by a Scandinavian cohort. Valbonne is particularly popular among British employees, perhaps because there is an international school in the town. The 1990s saw heady expansion, with new arrivals in the ITC sector. But the pricking of the internet bubble in 2001 led to more modest rates of tenants in the ensuing decade. Since 2008, organic expansion has provided much of the growth. Although the annual rate of new arrivals is steady, the number of jobs they bring is falling, Mr Durvy says. There are about 300 science parks around the world, from Singapore to Stockholm, and the French park, a first-generation model, needs to work on its attractiveness. There is domestic competition from Grenoble, at the foot of the Alps, and Saclay science park, part of the Grand Paris project that President Nicolas Sarkozy pushes as a way of developing the region around the capital. Sophia “needs a relaunch,” says Mr Durvy. The preparation for the future is Sophia Vision, says Chloé Sattezzi, co-ordinator for the Club des Dirigeants, an organisation that promotes the park. Ernst & Young, the professional services firm, presented a report in 2008 on the need for developing the park to keep it competitive. Many of the problems were laid out at the time. A complex system of governance, with a number of public and private actors, slows decision-making. Among the groups are the Alpe Maritimes regional council, Communauté d’Agglomération Sophia Antipolis (CASA) which groups the 16 town councils in the region and the Fondation Sophia Antipolis, a non-profit body. The transport links and roads are in need of improvement; the park’s attractiveness in the world league tables has been falling; there is little exchange between research and development in information technology and communications, done mostly in the public sector, and R&D in life sciences, mostly conducted in the private sector. A lack of support in creating new businesses was also singled out in the 2008 report. One of the objectives of Sophia Vision is the creation of 10,000 jobs, including 9,000 researchers and 9,000 students, boosting employment to 40,000. The Sophia Vision report will set out the tasks, who does what, and the sources of financing, says Ms Sattezzi. A science campus that will bring together engineering and telecommunications schools from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and the Inria National Computing Research Institute is due to open its doors in September. In 2010, “open sessions” by human resources specialist IDRH were introduced to provide training for small and medium-sized companies in the park that do not have the resources to deal with miles of red tape that go with employing foreign nationals. The park organises an annual Sophia Games, at which companies and schools field teams to compete in such conventional events as basketball and badminton but also poker and ultimate frisbee. Such initiatives reflect the original idea behind Sophia as a different place to live and work, partly fostered by the student idealism of 1968 that rocked France and the rest of the world. The park managers hope they can recover something of that freshness. “Sophia Antipolis was ahead of its time as a concept, it will be again,” says Mr Durvy.

 
How to get to Sophia Antipolis?

Travel from Nice airport to Sophia Antipolis

From the airport it is a 25 minute journey by car to Sophia Antipolis. There are taxi companies and car rental agencies where you can book in advance and benefit from discounted rate.

Free parking is often available at your hotel and conference venue at NOVOTEL.

shuttle bus service [n°230] is available from the airport ('Promenade des Anglais' outside Terminal 1) to Sophia Antipolis (not on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays). The bus ticket costs €1.50.

On the bus timetable you only see the bus-stop called "Skema" which is just before "Place Sophie Laffitte". 

To go back to the airport you have to take the bus n°230 at the bus-stop called "Place Sophie Laffitte". When leaving the NOVOTEL hotel, go down the road and take the bus stop on the "Place Sophie Laffitte", which is the nearest bus-stop, where the bus should arrive about 2 minutes after the time mentioned in the timetable for the bus-stop called "Skema".



24th ICE / IEEE ITMC Conference 2018
ConferenceChairs@ICE-IEEE-2018.org
 

Dr. Marc Pallot
Presence & Innovation Team, Arts & Métiers ParisTech


Dr. Alain Zarli 
Centre Scientifique & Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB)