Meet the 10 winners of the proof-of-concept call for proposals


They are creating start-ups and transfering knowledge and technology to the business world: meet the 10 winners of the proof-of-concept call for proposals by PSL-Valorisation and the Q-Life Institut Convergence.

PSL-Valorisation and the Q-Life Institut Convergence joined forces last November, with support from the Fonds National de Valorisation (CGI) and FEDER Ile-de-France, to launch a call for proposals with the aim of supporting innovative projects with a high potential impact, across all fields and disciplines. The aim is to fund studies, prototypes, or proofs-of-concept that could promote the transfer and socio-economic impact of these projects.

28 projects from 11 PSL institutions were submitted in response; after review by independent experts, 10 projects were chosen by the selection committee:

  • Laurent Bourdieu, Biotech, ENS : Microscopie non-linéaire pour l’imagerie en profondeur de tissus biologiques (Nonlinear microscopy for deep imaging of biological tissues)
  • Yong Chen, Biotech, ENS : Plateforme de culture de cellules souches (Stem cell culture platform)
  • Elena Dossi, Santé, Collège de France, Evaluation et optimisation du probénécide pour le traitement de l’épilepsie (Evaluation and optimization of probenecid for treating epilepsy)
  • Arnaud Gautier, Biotech, ENS, Interactions protéine-protéine en temps réel pour le criblage à haut débit en biologie quantitative et en médecine (Real-time protein-protein interactions for high-throughput screening in quantitative biology and medicine)
  • François Jouen, Santé/numérique, EPHE, Outils de surveillance cardiaque non intrusifs des prématurés en service de néonatologie (Non-invasive cardiac monitoring tools for premature infants in the neonatology department)
  • Brigitte Leridon, Environnement/Cleantech, ESPCI Paris, Supercondensateurs de haute performance pour le stockage d'énergie à haute densité (High-performance supercapacitors for high-density energy storage)
  • Emmanuel Siéfert, Physique/Design, ESPCI-Paris,Technologie bio-inspirée pour la création de meubles ou équipements déformables de manière organique (Bio-inspired technology to organically create flexible furniture and equipment)
  • Terence Strick, Biotech, ENS, Echafaudages d’ADN pour l’étude des interactions médicament-cible (DNA scaffolds to study drug-target interactions)
  • Carole Thomas, Santé, Institut Curie, Traitement du rétinoblastome par photothérapie dynamique (Treating retinoblastoma via dynamic phototherapy)
  • Florence Weber, SHS, ENS, Outil innovant de gestion de données d’enquêtes en sciences sociales (Innovative tool for managing survey data in social science)
Vue microscopique de mitochondrie, utilisée dans le projet FAST technologie développée par Arnaud Gautier, chercheru à l'ENS (membre de l'Université PSL)

In order to reach all the communities that make PSL so exciting, some funding was set aside for projects in the Humanities and social sciences, Arts and Design. The ArchEthno 2020 project sponsored by Florence Weber, director of studies at ENS, was selected for this award. The project calls for developing software that allows researchers who observe contemporary societies to build qualitative databases that can be viewed under certain conditions, combining inventiveness, professionalism, and confidentiality.

The call for proposals also encouraged other innovative initiatives, such as BioSPASM, at the intersection of Physics and Design: At the Physics and mechanics of heterogeneous environments (PMMH) laboratory, we have invented a new technology inspired by plant growth that allows us to dynamically program shape changes by activating initially flat objects. This new funding will enable us to accelerate our collaboration with Arca Ebénisterie to manufacture morphable artistic furniture and develop prototypes for industrial applications, such as adaptable headrests, physical therapy equipment, or minimally invasive surgical tools,” explains Emmanuel Siéfert, a PhD student at ESPCI Paris and leader of the project.

Schema des mesures utilisés dans le projet SUPERCAP piloté par Brigitte Leridon, chercheuse à' l'ESPCI Paris (membre de l'Université PSL)

SUPERCAP, another winning project, will produce affordable, high-performance, low-toxicity supercapacitor prototypes for high-density energy storage, for uses such as in electric vehicles. To do this, it will use a material recently discovered by the ESPCI Paris team with the property of being able to accumulate a very high charge density. “We have filed a patent through PSL-Valorisation and are planning to create a start-up in two years,” explains Brigitte Leridon, researcher at ESPCI Paris and leader of the project.

In the field of quantitative biology, the funding for 3D Re-RAMP will facilitate two technological developments necessary for Karthala System to market a new microscope. Sponsored by Laurent Bourdieu, a researcher at Institut de Biologie de l'ENS (IBENS), this project relies on the development of a two-photon microscope based on the synchronization of acousto-optic deflectors and a regenerative laser. It will be able to record and monitor biological activity in 3D, deep down in the tissues, with unparalleled temporal precision.

In the field of health, ProbEpi sponsored by Elena Dossi, a post-doc at Collège de France, aims to develop a selective treatment for epilepsy via a target expressed preferentially in the epileptic tissue when a seizure begins. “Epilepsy is a frequent neurological condition that affects the entire population at any age, with multiple causes. Our academic research has shown that a new target is involved in triggering epileptic seizures and that a medication used in the 1950s could be used to treat them. Our project aims to use a chemical approach to modify this old molecule, making it selective to our target and improving its cerebral access. We hope, within the next few years, to produce an innovative anti-epileptic drug specifically aimed at a functional target in the epileptic tissue when the seizure is beginning, making it more effective and better tolerated,” explains Dossi.

  • The Fonds National de Valorisation (National technology transfer fund) supports PSL on the experiments launched in 2016, because of their unique model of technology transfer focused on disruptive innovations and creating start-ups.
  • FEDER Ile-de-France supports PSL Valorisation on the PSL Transfert Entreprises project. It has funded 4 projects related to new start-ups across all fields of knowledge (MATIS@PSL projects).
  • The Q-Life Institut Convergences is devoted to quantitative biology and interdisciplinary study of the behavior and dynamics of living systems. Q-Life was involved in this call for proposals, supporting 3 planned start-ups in this field.