France Inaugurates Its First TR35 Awards Competition
November 2012 marked the official launch of the TR35 France Awards, now called MIT’s Innovators Under 35 Awards, an annual prize organized in countries all over the world by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Opinno. The award acknowledges the achievements of up-and-coming entrepreneurs whose projects have the potential to change the trajectory of business, technology, and society. It has been a months-long process of networking with leading innovators in the private and public sectors to attract France’s crème de la crème, and subsequent months of the nomination and evaluation stages. This month, March 2013, France will have its first class of young innovators.
Over the last few years, the TR35 awards, which began in the U.S. in 1999, have spread to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, and now France, with other editions in the works. The trend highlights the diversification of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship, facilitated by global communication and information networks that were concentrated in a handful of countries not long ago.
France is the second European country to present TR35 awards after Spain, which held the first of its annual Emtech conferences in Málaga in 2011. For Fanny Surot, one of the collaborators from Opinno in Madrid responsible for bringing TR35 to France, the fact that the prize is expanding during hard economic times speaks to the spirit of entrepreneurship that still exists in Europe. “In Spain, like in France, many say that because of the economic crisis there is nothing, but there is, it’s just a matter of looking for it,” says Surot, herself an expatriate from Paris living in Madrid.
To Jana Martí, the young entrepreneurs are all fed by the purest passion and exhibit a drive for their work that sets them apart from all their peers. “They’re all following their dreams,” says Martí, a competitions analyst who organizes the TR35 contests in Spain. “There exists the perception that, for lots of young people, the goal is just to find a job with the biggest salary and the best connections. It’s a minimum-effort philosophy that [the TR35 winners] don’t follow…all of them exhibit such a passion,” Martí explains.
One of these motivated few, Juan Moreno Sastoque stood up on stage at Emtech Spain 2012; honored not only as a TR35 winner, but also with the special recognition of being the Caring Innovator of the Year for his work developing systems for efficient rehabilitation for individuals with reduced mobility. A few days ago, Martí received an email. It was from a family friend whose young nephews live with cerebral palsy. “If he hadn’t won, perhaps he continues with his research but she goes on thinking there’s no solution to her problem when that’s not the case,” Martí recounts. “This is proof of the impact we’re having. Is there any greater privilege than that? Impossible.”