Renault Group

The Refactory in Flins launches its Open Innovation Hub

30 January 2023
3 min
open innovation
The Refactory in Flins, France, is Europe’s first plant focusing on the circular economy in mobility – and now also home to the Open Innovation Hub, a space for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Renault Group created the Hub to help start-ups develop, encourage innovation, and work alongside more agile stakeholders on services and markets that complement the Group’s main initiatives. We spoke to Nathalie Rey, the Manager of this ecosystem brimming with ideas.
by Nicolas LE-BOUCHER

The Refactory in Flins aims to nurture cross-collaboration in order to integrate the circular economy in mobility, focusing on retrofitting, energy, the reuse of batteries, recycling and the manufacturing of the future. The Open Innovation Hub was therefore set up to offer services for each level of start-ups’ growth, with programmes for incubation, industrialisation and co‑innovation. A call for applications has launched for start-ups interested in joining (more info below). Find out more from Nathalie Rey, Manager of the Open Innovation Hub at the Refactory.

Nathalie Rey
Nathalie Rey is the Manager of the Open Innovation Hub at the Refactory

What does the Refactory in Flins do?

Nathalie: The Refactory is Europe’s first plant that focuses on the circular economy in mobility. Renault Group set it up to be an industrial and commercial ecosystem that is fully open to start‑ups and partnerships. It’s Open Innovation*. Based at a reconverted industrial site, it aims to develop new activities that incorporate the circular economy in mobility-focused products and services, while designing solutions to reduce their environmental impact – for example, through retrofitting, refurbishment, battery reuse, recovery and recycling. The power of this ecosystem comes from the synergy of skills and the effectiveness of industrial processes, as well as the sharing of innovations and research methods, all brought together in one place.

*Open Innovation is an innovation process used by companies to open up to a diverse group of outside players: partners, start-ups, universities, and more, all while promoting creativity at the company

The Hub’s location at the Refactory empowers start‑ups to make the most of the industrial facilities, as well as the 50 experts on site

What advantages does the Hub offer for start-ups?

Nathalie: Renault Group’s expertise enables start-ups to step up their development by nurturing innovation and testing solutions on a large scale. The Hub’s location at the Refactory empowers start‑ups to make the most of the industrial facilities, as well as the 50 experts on site. Some of the latter are specialised in retrofitting, mobility services, circular economy and recycling. Start-ups receive guidance over a six-to-nine-month period, depending on the programme in question. They can also rent office space at the Hub for more long-term projects. 

The Refactory's Open Innovation Hub is an open space for entrepreneurs and start-ups 

What are the various activities that the Open Innovation Hub offers?

Nathalie: The Refactory’s Open Innovation Hub offers a comprehensive range based on the level of maturity of the start-ups, rising to the challenges they face at every step of their business growth.

The Hub’s activities can therefore be divided into three different types:

First things first – incubation

Renault Group’s experts in recycling, mobility and the supply chain guide start-ups as they develop. The start-ups therefore get direct feedback.

Three programmes are set to come:

  • a programme focusing on the circular economy – the call for applications has launched (see text box);
  • a programme preparing start-ups for industrialisation – set to launch in 2023, with the aim of helping start-ups optimise their products and processes, identify the industrial resources that they need, optimise sourcing and prepare for fundraising; and
  • a programme offering bespoke incubation for specific projects linked to those carried out by the Refactory, testing business models and products and making the most of this industrial testing ground.

Second of all, industrialisation

The Refactory in Flins offers a specific space where start-ups can carry out pre-series production, with access to a highly qualified workforce and tools. The aim is to enable these start-ups to gain traction in their markets.

Helping the start-ups scale up to industrial production is linked to their growth and volume forecasts. Together, we analyse their product, study potential optimisation, and provide what the start-ups need to be able to produce greater volumes over time.

This encourages French manufacturing while supporting the development of circular and sustainable mobility solutions.

One start-up has already industrialised at Flins, with a second set to follow in the coming months. Other projects are currently undergoing review.

Virvolt sells electric bike conversion kits that, by extending the useful life of conventional bicycles, reduce their impact on the environment.
Renault Group has helped Virvolt in its first phase of development by assisting with assembly of the motor for its flagship kit – the 900 pedal drive kit, therefore the first electric bike conversion kit assembled in France.


Thirdly, the development of co-innovation projects

By identifying potential new business areas related to the circular economy, or subjects ripe for development and innovation, the Refactory also encourages cross-collaboration to design the solutions of the future – for example by facilitating introductions to Refactory’s business owners (at Mobilize and in after sales, remanufacturing, etc.) as part of an open innovation approach.

The call for applications is open! How to join a programme at the Hub

The call for applications just launched for the incubation programme on the circular economy in mobility. The programme is aimed at entrepreneurs and start-ups who want to incorporate the circular economy into their project in a significant way. 
The six-month long programme offers guidance based on three areas of expertise: the circular economy, mobility and entrepreneurship. It is a unique opportunity for start-ups and entrepreneurs to work on their business model and create a prototype of their mobility solution while taking a circular economy approach.

Check out the Open Innovation Hub programme

The Open Innovation Hub is supported by the Ile de France region and is a member of the Greentech network of incubators.

Trophées de l'Innovation Renault Frères

Renault Frères Innovation Trophies: launch of the 2024 edition

29 March 2024
View More
Renault Frères 2023 Trophies: Renault Group celebrates its inventors and the spirit of innovation

Renault Frères 2023 Trophies: Renault Group celebrates its inventors and the spirit of innovation

24 November 2023
View More

"The Sustainability Project": cars designed to last for longer!

23 November 2023
View More