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Sanofi Does VivaTech

Flying cars, giant drones and child-size robots are what you expect from a tech fair, and VivaTech, the international hub for startups and leaders that took place at the end of May in Paris, didn’t disappoint. As soon as you step inside the cavernous exhibition hall, you can feel the buzz and energy of the 1,800 hopeful startups with their promises for tomorrow perched on the edge of the 1,900 established investors’ stands, all eager to drive forward the future together with innovative digital technology.

Among the constant chatter and flow of discussions from more than 100,000 visitors from 125 countries was France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, who talked to a huge crowd about the positive impact of tech and innovation in the economy and society. Already in the VivaTech spirit, Macron had hosted the Tech for Good Summit at the Elysée Palace the day before with global tech leaders including our CEO Olivier Brandicourt, who rubbed shoulders with Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Sanofi’s presence at the Tech for Good Summit and our second year at VivaTech seal our footing in the world of digital innovation in healthcare, but our journey continues. Dominique Carouge, Head of Business Transformation, who took to the stage to talk about ‘How innovation can make life easier @work’, emphasized the need to integrate the disruptive spirit of VivaTech into Sanofi. “We need to make innovation cool at Sanofi the way it is here at VivaTech, to make it percolate throughout the organization so it’s not just fun projects with young people but happening in every area so that everyone feels and wants to be engaged,” said Carouge.

Jon Fairest at a Vivatech conference with Alain Nteff
Jon Fairest, Head of Africa, Sanofi

The Sanofi stand was certainly engaged, from the moment Kathleen Tregoning, Head of External Affairs, took the mic to officially open our Tech for Health Lab and welcome our 31 startup finalists, “Sanofi is here because we love the energy it brings and the innovation it inspires and to meet with the best of the best innovators,” she said.

A packed program drew in large crowds during the three-day event with standing room only for our talks on innovation in China, to scaling-up a startup, and live startup pitches.

One winner, CareAngel, whose AI and voice powered, virtual nurse assistant scooped ‘Living with Life Long Condition’ category, described his innovation as “using technology to extend the human touch”. “A lot of things we do every day are robotic and mundane, so CareAngel is just taking the robot out of the human,” says founder and Chief Angel, Wolf Shlagman from California, whose motivation was his own mother. “I needed to be more proactive in taking care of her and this is the next stage in telemedicine, it’s not just technology but how you talk to your loved ones.”

At one point, the audience joined in in a live yoga session from corporate yoga startup, Yogist, as well as getting to its feet to stamp, clap and shout in the build up to announcing the Afric@Tech winning pitches.

“Our 10 finalists are an amazing group of people making a massive shift in how we operate,” said Jon Fairest, Head of Africa, whose excitement was palpable, as he congratulated the three winners on stage, including GiftedMom from Cameroon.

Jon Fairest at a Vivatech conference

GiftedMom CEO, Alain Nteff, explained: “Our mission is to democratize access to healthcare for the nine months of pregnancy and after the birth with our overall aim of reducing mortality.” A remote health support platform and bots provide pregnant women and new mums with life-saving health information and connect them with specialized service providers. There are already 130,000 women are using it in Cameroon, with plans to scale up across the continent to 700,000 users.

“What we’re really excited about is that technology can enable us to do things in underprivileged countries that don’t have the same access to medicine, healthcare, and diagnostics. We really believe that startups for health and technology brought to Africa can change medicine fundamentally and equalize,” said Ameet Nathwani, Chief Medical Officer, whose adrenaline was still flowing at the end of day two.

Our stand represented the biggest healthcare company there, standing among other giants from all walks of life, including luxury brand LVMH whose sleek black stand boasted free coffee and bespoke lipsticks; telecommunications Orange; and Sony Music. Being disruptive, however, is not just about keeping up with the competition, it’s about carving out our place with a 360° perspective. From luxury brands to transport, digital technology is happening in all corners, repackaged and tailored to suit a different audience, but often transferable to any sector.

Bending technology to attain our goal is about being an integral part of a changing world and our very presence at VivaTech shows that we already are.

  • Save the Date: VivaTech May 16-18, 2019 – what will you discover between now and then?
  • Check out Innovation at Sanofi.

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