Rhone-Alpes region of France has an Atlanta incubator to launch its companies into U.S. markets.

The Rhône-Alpes region of France has had an incubator in Atlanta for 10 years, and celebrated this anniversary during the 2009 Bio International Convention held here on May 19.

It is no accident that the incubator’s anniversary coincided with the biotech convention, which drew delegations to Atlanta from around the world. The U.S. incubator, Enterprise Rhône-Alpes International (ERAI), is based in Lyon, France’s center for biotechnology research and the pharmaceutical industry.

Biotech companies such as the international Sanofi Pasteur Inc., the largest vaccine company in the world, and Biomerieux Inc., a global leader in “in vitro” diagnostics, started and are headquartered in Lyon.

“Rhône-Alpes is the second most dynamic region in France,” Rose Mortazavi, the director of ERAI’s Atlanta incubator, told GlobalAtlanta, while noting that biotechnology and pharmaceuticals comprise only one of six strong sectors in the region. 

ERAI has also been drawing companies from the clean technology, environment and renewable energy, plastic, technical textile and machining industries.

As their U. S. operational base, Atlanta has provided these companies with an airport hub, lower costs, and growing automotive, aeronautic and technical textile industries, said Ms. Mortazavi.

Their anniversary celebrated the launching of some 30 companies through the Atlanta office as well as their Philadelphia office that opened in January. Twelve companies are currently based at Piedmont Center in Atlanta and two in Philadelphia.

Through a strong network of universities, research centers and companies, ERAI has focused on helping small- and medium-sized companies that offer a “very specific need and bring a plus to the United States,” said Ms. Mortazavi. The incubator has facilitated their transition to the U.S. and has encouraged independence once the companies have been established.  

The Atlanta incubator has assisted a number of prominent international companies such as Dickson Coatings, the market leader in the technical textiles industry. Known for innovation, the company was the first to introduce weaving looms for linen and currently operates in more than 125 countries.

In 1997, Dickson Coatings demonstrated its pursuit of global business by merging with Glen Raven Inc., an international manufacturing and marketing company based in North Carolina.

Dickson Coatings USA was launched five years ago, and have since managed their operations in the Carolinas and the Midwest through the Atlanta incubator.

“It’s a win/win situation,” Juan Hernandez, sales manager of Dickson Coatings USA, told GlobalAtlanta of their collaboration with ERAI. Mr. Hernandez described the incubator as a “great experience” and a “great office environment,” adding that “ERAI has provided us with the tools we needed.”   

Anthogyr Inc., the only company in the world that designs, manufactures and distributes dental instruments and implants, also transitioned to the U.S. through ERAI.

“They make it a smoother experience,” said Michael Foley, sales manager of Anthogyr U.S., of their move to the U.S. Anthogyr has now been in Atlanta for three years, and Mr. Foley accredited ERAI for helping Anthogyr establish a local presence in Atlanta as well as a national presence.

Other successful companies that have passed through the incubator include Chemica Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of heat transfer film for textiles that offers the widest color range in the market, and Maped Inc., the international leader of school and office accessories.

Additionally, ERAI has been building a solid reputation for business in the Rhône-Alpes region for American companies.

“We’ve been working for the past three to four years in the biotech industry in the U.S., to make sure that they think about Lyon and Rhône-Alpes when they decide to go to Europe,” Ms. Mortazavi said.

The program allows French companies to rent space in the Erai offices and work with project managers who help hire a U.S. sales team.  When the company’s U.S. sales grow to the point that they are able to hire three or more employees, the incubator helps it find offices of its own, freeing space in Erai’s offices for a new company to enter the program.

To contact Ms. Mortazavi, call (404) 233-8623 or visit, http://www.erai.org/en/front/