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French technology summit VivaTech boots up in Paris

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By Jeremy Wilks
French technology summit VivaTech boots up in Paris

The three-day VivaTech summit begins in Paris on Thursday, with President Emmanuel Macron in attendance along with industry leaders such as Jack Ma from Alibaba, Mickey Mikitani from Rakuten, the European Commission’s Margrethe Vestager and Ginni Rometty from IBM.

VivaTech has grown rapidly since the first event in 2016, with its reputation for diversity and inclusivity - 125 countries represented, and 42% female speakers on stage - boosting the crowd to over 100,000 people.

What’s new for 2019?

The show floors and stages are literally bigger this year, and the promise is that entrance door lines will be shorter at the Porte de Versailles venue. The new space includes the 4,400 seater Dome de Paris theatre, where global tech leaders and the French President will be making their pitches and presenting their concepts.

A new hall will include green tech and something called the ‘Better Life Avenue’, full of what organisers describe as ‘positive innovation’.

The event will see the announcement of the winner of the EU Prize for Women Innovators award, featuring a female founder who has show innovation, impact and capacity for inspiration.

What’s everyone going to be talking about?

5G will definitely be a topic, with the presentations from Ken Hu from Huawei and Börje Ekholm from Ericsson sure to garner attention. Europe is hesitantly embracing this next step to hyper-connectivity, in part because of concerns over security issues and the spying accusations made against the Chinese manufacturer, but also because of more technical arguments over the spectrum and product availability.

The burgeoning ’New Space’ sector is also getting more focus this year at VivaTech. The space world is filling up with startups eager to build businesses on everything from Earth observation satellites to deep space mining concepts, and their representatives will be at VivaTech in much higher numbers than previous editions.

One highlight should be the chance to hear from NASA’s Holly Ridings about the return to the Moon and Arizona State University’s Tanya Harrison about the exploration of Mars. The world’s first female space tourist and XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari will be talking about her experiences and visions for space exploration on the main stage, too.

Who’s in the crowd?

VivaTech draws a younger and more diverse than some other tech events in Europe. The AfricaTech zone is a refreshing chance to meet some of the impressive innovators from African countries so seldom seen and heard at rival European tech fests, while ‘Pitch Zones' are scattered around the main hall for youngsters to sell their ideas to potential investors.

It’s also a chance for the big French brands to promote themselves. There are large stands from La Poste, rail firm SNCF, transport firm RATP, hotel group Accor, motor manufacturer Citroën and telco Orange. Luxury group LVMH and beauty product giant L’Oréal also have a big presence, too.

The French regions have a series of stands to promote themselves as innovation hubs, and France’s national science and research organisation, CNRS, is bringing along a bunch of boffins to demonstrate their latest findings. One likely star will be the AntBot from robotics experts in Marseille which can navigate via the polarisation of light from the Sun, imitating insects in the desert.

Euronews is a media partner at VivaTech, and our space, science and technology correspondent Jeremy Wilks will be hosting two events on Stage X.

**From 09:55 to 10:25 a.m.**

Beam Me Up, Scotty: The New Space Race

• Holly Ridings (NASA)

• Jean-Christophe Henoux (ArianeGroup)

• Jeremy Wilks (Euronews)

**From 10:25 to 11:00 a.m.**

Fly Me to Mars… and Beyond

• Tanya Harrison (Arizona State University)

• Chris Lewicki (ConsenSys)

• Rick Tumlinson (SpaceFund)

• Morgan Irons (Deep Space Ecology LLC)

• Jeremy Wilks (Euronews)