Reducing the Digital Divide with Tessares (Interview)

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This article is an English translation of the original article published in French here.

Tessares, a young company from Louvain-la-Neuve, has won an ultra-selective European subsidy of 1.2 million euros!

Denis Périquet, CEO and Co-Founder of Tessares

Nov 18, 2020

In Europe, more than 40% of homes in rural areas do not have a quality internet connection. Tessares has developed solutions to remedy this. This young company from Louvain-la-Neuve has won an ultra-selective European subsidy of 1.2 million euros to reduce the digital divide. It is one of the first in Europe to use the “equity” approach. In other words: not only is the European Commission funding it, but it will become an investor!

Internet connection is slow in some areas. It no longer meets current needs, amplified by the current health crisis and the obligation for families to work, learn and have fun … all at the same time!  And there is often little hope that optical fibre will be deployed, at least in the short term … Tessares’ solution? Combine two existing access networks, that of the fixed network and that of the mobile network, in a single “big pipe”. Since its creation in 2015 on the basis of research carried out at UCLouvain, Tessares has already convinced six European operators, starting with Proximus, to combine their fixed and mobile networks to increase speeds.

The company now wants to develop a second project: combining, at the level of smartphones, Wi-Fi and 4G / 5G networks. This would allow operators to reduce the load on their mobile networks, and offer a much better service to users: higher speed, higher reliability with smoother transitions between networks.

“It is for this project that we requested a European grant”, explains Denis Périquet, Cofounder and CEO of Tessares. “For our company, this second ‘product’ is extremely strategic. The world of telecoms is very standardized and demanding. If we are to develop an end-to-end smartphone and network application, this requires huge investment in development and time. This subsidy is therefore crucial, it will allow us to make it reliable and operable. “


The “Holy Grail” for an SME! 

When asked to tell us about the bidding process, Denis Périquet warns: “we have submitted our file four times! When we started in 2018 it was called Instrument PME, now the name has changed to EIC Accelerator. But never mind: we absolutely wanted it. It is prestigious, in addition it is a subsidy and not a loan, in short it is the Holy Grail for any SME! “.

During the first attempt, in November 2018, the Tessares proposal was included in the short list of European SMEs invited to an interview before the jury appointed by the European Commission. The presentation format is strict: slides sent in advance, ten minutes of pitch, followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers to the jury made up of 6 international experts. “There were some questions that embarrassed us, and one of the experts did not believe our solution. In short, we were not selected. We were very disappointed, but our score was good and the advice received helped us better prepare for subsequent bids. “


Fourth time lucky

After two more unsuccessful attempts, the fourth attempt, in October 2019, was the correct one. “We were able to do a full-scale 5G test in Korea in August. From then on, our innovative project had become concrete. We have repeated the pitch dozens of times. During the interview, we made sure to answer each question in a straightforward but brief manner, which allowed each member of the jury to pose their questions. Our feeling was very good. “

Tessares received the positive notification in December 2019 and then entered the negotiation process for a large subsidy of 1.2 million euros. The agreement was signed in April 2020, and the project officially started on May 1, 2020 for two years.


Fresh financing to cross the infamous “Valley of Death”

“It is a remarkable performance for a Walloon SME to manage to obtain this type of financing specifically dedicated to the best European start-ups”, points out Pierre Fiasse, co-director at NCP Wallonia. “It becomes the fifth Walloon company to obtain this financing. “

But above all, Tessares is one of the first companies in Europe to enter into the new “equity” approach proposed by the Commission. In European jargon, we speak of “blended finance” because the aid is a blend of grant and capital.

“In 2019, Europe has indeed developed a mechanism that allows it to enter the capital of SMEs to bring in new money,” explains Pierre Fiasse. This is a radical novelty intended to help high-potential companies to cross the famous ‘Valley of Death’, that delicate period when start-ups die for lack of access to finance. Tessares thus becomes the first Walloon entity to benefit from this capital contribution from the Commission. It is encouraging for the other Walloon entities to see that it is possible! “

For this new instrument, the European Commission has set up a specific financial fund. Tessares is among the very first players to enter this process. “The equity part is being negotiated in the coming weeks. This is support that goes beyond a purely financial logic, and which gives us a lot of credibility, “says Denis Périquet.


Interested in the EIC Accelerator?

Any advice for other start-ups interested in the EIC Accelerator? Denis Périquet lists some good practices to keep in mind:


Preparation – Don’t bother applying for this subsidy without being 200% prepared. Everything is scrutinised: your technology, the ecosystem, competition, differentiation, intellectual property protection, organisation, planning, management … Even without winning the subsidy, this reflection is essential and never lost.


References – You have to be good at writing, and pay close attention to references, market research, in short, anything that validates your hypotheses.


Strategy – Highlight how your project “fits” the European strategy. In our case, explains Denis Périquet, we fully subscribe to the European desire to reduce the digital divide. Today, and even more so with the health crisis, connectivity is seen as essential as water and electricity.


Time – The administrative aspects linked to the management of the subsidy are important. Different positions, such as reporting and contracting, take time. 


The next calls for the EIC Accelerator are scheduled for early 2021. 


Focus of the funded project: the Multipath Application (MPA)

  • Tessares is developing the first fully standardised solution to deliver higher speed, better reliability, and greater consistency on the go by allowing smartphones to combine Wi-Fi and 4G / 5G networks simultaneously. 
  • The project started on May 1, 2020 for a period of 2 years. Europe’s contribution amounts to 1.2 million euros and is part of the Horizon 2020 research program, through the EIC Accelerator (formerly Instrument PME).
  • The acronym EIC refers to the European Innovation Council which will be fully implemented from 2021 as part of Horizon Europe. 
  • Goal ? Support high-risk, high-impact ideas, transforming science into new businesses and accelerating the development of breakthrough innovators who shape the future.



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