CNC-Oseo-RIAM can help fund your "image" startup

Sep 28, 2012
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Although it has existed in its current form since 2007, the CNC-Oséo RIAM call for proposals is still a little-known way of getting funds for projects that deal with the “production, channelling and distribution of interactive or non-interactive images and/or sound, in a linear or non-linear form”. One of our most renowned French startups, Dailymotion, is using RIAM funds for its current efforts to challenge US competitors.

The French National Centre for Cinema and Animated Picture (CNC) have been working in partnership with Oséo Innovation to provide grants and zero-interest loans for the development of innovative products or services in the image domain. In 2009 for instance, 15 projects received funds totaling 10M €. CNC claims that these funds have either made projects possible, or made them more ambitious, or have brought development milestones closer. Projects are selected by CNC’s Research Network for Innovation in Audio-visual technology and Multimedia (RIAM), which is a network of experts and representatives of the Ministry of Industry, of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and of the Institut pour le Financement du Cinéma et des Industries Culturelles (IFCIC).

It’s not a competition

The CNC-Oséo RIAM call for projects is an “open call”, meaning that proposals may be submitted throughout the year. As such, it is not so much of a competition but more of a process that, owing to the feedback given by Oséo and CNC experts before and after submission, allows you to come up with a solid innovation project with tangible milestones, budget and commercial projections. Projects carried out by small and medium sized companies (< 2000 employees) may receive support from the very beginning to the end stages of development which helps them manage internal and sub-contracting expenditures linked to the project’s conception, to technical and commercial viability expertises, to R&D, to prototype development, patenting, market launch, search for partners, etc.

The first step in answering this call is to get in touch with Pierre-Marie Boyé or Baptiste Heynemann at CNC who will provide a first assessment of your proposal and the application form to be filled. Applications are pretty straightforward and require filling in a 20-page form (plus appendices). They are reviewed every 3 months and decisions are taken within 4 weeks. If a proposal is refused, it can be improved thanks to the accompaniment provided, and then it can be resubmitted later. Ultimately, more than half of proposals are approved. Funds are made available shortly after, with transfers spread over the duration of each project.

Filling in the application does take a bit of time if you haven’t thought things through beforehand, but it’s always useful to ask yourself the same questions that the people who give you money do, and to plan your work, even if you’re in R&D and particularly fond of R… You’ll have to start with the usual stuff: describe your company, your project, its context, how it fits in what the company is doing and its strategy, how it relates to what other people are doing, what is the commercial potential, etc. You’ll also have to identify both technical and commercial difficulties and risks. It’s important to do a background review of the state of the art and explain what you are doing differently or what you are improving. Equally important is execution and how you plan to reach your objectives. You’ll have to explain your methodology and break your project into sub-projects, give milestones, specify deliverables, indicate how you intend to validate them, and identify resources necessary to carry out developments.

Numbers

You may get between 30% and 50% of the budget estimated for your project in funds, part of which will be grant money, and part will be zero-interest loan. The precise amounts for each individual project are determined by CNC and Oséo, based on the RIAM expertise. For projects estimated at up to 100K € you may get pure grant money from CNC only. It is worth noting that you get more grant money if you have been labelled by a “pôle de compétitivité” such as Cap Digital! The RIAM label will also add to your credibility when in need of raising money in the future.

To get an idea of the range of project budgets, during the 2007-2010 period the smallest was at 34,568 € (Studio MAIA) and the largest at 1,779,092 € (3DTV Solutions), while Total Immersion was smart enough to submit two projects totaling 3,409,073 € in budget. In the 58 approved proposals, more than two thirds were submitted by companies with 1-19 employees, there was one third of young startups that were less than 3 years old and who submitted project proposals of around 100K € — there has to be some coherence with the company’s own funds. Most projects relate to disruptive innovation and to the creation of new products or new services, which have led to 3 US patent applications by RIAM laureates. The funds provided have allowed to maintain about 100 jobs and to create 100+ more. You’ll find more statistics in the Bilan 2007-2010 (in French).

Case study: Dailymotion

This is perhaps the most widely known company to have benefitted from the RIAM. Dailymotion’s current project is entitled DaaS — Dailymotion as a Service — but it looks like the resulting product has been renamed to Dailymotion cloud, which was relaunched in the summer. In short, it is a cloud-based video platform on which you’ll be able to host videos, have them automatically encoded in different formats and optimised so they play nicely on all devices and internet connections, and which will give you access to a customisable video player to embed on your site and statistics/analytics to find out how your videos are watched. The service competes with Brightcove (who went public on 17 February 2012) but Dailymotion cloud has a different pricing that is solely based on streaming hours.

The project actually started on 30 September 2010 and spurred from an effort to adapt to new usages of video on the internet. It was scheduled to last 30 months (one of the longest), it was budgeted at almost 1M €, and Dailymotion received the largest grant amount at 200K € plus a loan of 175K €. They clearly announced ambitious objectives (to become a global player in online video delivery and to establish the company’s international position). The developments implied an overhaul of the technical architecture and were made along 4 axes:

  • adaptation of the platform to multi-screen
  • automatic integration of advertisements through partner networks
  • creation of a cloud computing platform
  • streaming live video captured on smartphones (this has yet to come)

 

I am sure that some of the recent LeCamping graduates would also be great applicants for the RIAM grant/loan. The next session will be in December, get ready!