Global Automotive Startup Companies Recognized During Grand Prix ACF AutoTech Competition

The awards were established in 2018 to celebrate excellence in commercialization, manufacturing and design of new automotive technology.

Grand Prix ACF AutoTech’s seventh annual competition recognized international startup companies devoted to the auto sector.

To encourage innovation in the automotive industry, Grand Prix ACF AutoTech holds an annual contest to reward international startup companies devoted to the auto sector. In April, three businesses were recognized in Paris, France, as part of the seventh annual competition. Genomines, Diamfab and Cylib received awards for their excellence in commercialization, manufacturing and design.

More than 94 applicants from 19 countries took part in the contest. The event was hosted by the Automobile Club de France, founded in 1895 by French carmakers, and ESSEC Business School, a school dedicated to developing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“We are excited to announce our winning companies – all promising startups in the automotive industry,” said Richard de Cabrol, managing director of Grand Prix ACF AutoTech.

Award Winners

Genomines received the Grand Prix ACF Award, designed for companies that are the most advanced in their development and have received a round A of funding or more. The company recovers metals from plants to produce nickel without mine facilities. Nickel is a metal used in the mobility sector, especially in the manufacturing process of batteries.

“We are honored to have won the award Grand Prix ACF AutoTech,” said Fabien Koutchekian, CEO of Genomines. “It was a great opportunity to pitch Genomines to influential experts and players in the automotive industry.”

GenominesCompany respresentatives from Genomines accept the Grand Prix ACF Award.

Koutchekian said the company is very grateful to have received such personalized support before and after the event.

“This award means a lot to us, and above all, we are extremely pleased to see how the automotive industry is committed to supporting impactful solutions for the energy transition,” he added.

Diamfab was given The Prix Pionnier ACF Award, which recognizes the youngest startups at the seed funding stage. Diamfab specializes in diamond semiconductors designed for power electronics and quantum applications. The components are expected to help revolutionize the mobility industry by optimizing system costs, reducing weight, minimizing the carbon footprint and mitigating environmental impact.

"We are deeply honored to receive this award from such a prestigious organization as the ACF,” said Ivan Llaurado, chief revenue officer and co-founder of Diamfab. “Participating in the contest has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Hearing Gilles Le Borgne, the Renault Group CTO, affirm that Diamfab has the potential to significantly impact the automobile industry was the highlight of the event. Beyond the recognition, which greatly motivates our team, we believe this award will accelerate the development of the next generation of power electronics.”

Llaurado said they are already scheduling meetings with key industry players, and the Prix Pionnier ACF award is undoubtedly a significant catalyst for the company's growth. He encourages all automotive-related start-ups to participate in the contest and all industry stakeholders to closely follow it to uncover new opportunities.

The Mention GPACF GreenTech Award, given to startups that have a positive impact on the environment, was received by Cylib, which has developed a holistic, eco-efficient process for recycling Lithium-Ion batteries.

“Winning the Mention GPACF GrennTech award means a lot to Cylib because we want to make battery recycling more sustainable and enable a green energy transition,” said Linus Glowinski from Cylib. “Sustainability is in our core DNA and we’re beyond excited to receive such positive feedback and acknowledgment.”

Propelling Innovation

Grand Prix ACF AutoTech was established 2017 as a joint venture between the Automobile Club de France and ESSEC Business School. Since then, the focus has been on propelling innovation amongst automotive industry entrepreneurs and promoting efficiency and sustainability.

In addition to a financial reward, winners receive an investment assessment, business coaching, legal support, potential investment capital and networking connections with corporate affiliates.

“Our goal is to leverage the expertise of some of the most well-known companies in France to help establish developing startup companies,” said de Cabrol.

Richard de Cabrol webRichard de Cabrol, managing director of Grand Prix ACF AutoTech.

Mentor companies include Renault Group, Forvia, Plastic Omnium, Crédit Agricole, FIDAL and MOTUL.

“It’s a win-win situation because we bring them in and give them a lot of visibility and it’s also an opportunity to find the next disruptive type of technology that we might use in our vehicles,” said Jean-Francois Salessy, Renault’s vice president of vehicle advanced engineering and upstream technologies, who joined the company in 2022.

He said that many auto manufacturers, including Renault, take a horizontal approach and identify the best partnerships to develop vehicle technology.

“We cannot do everything internally because the spectrum of technology is too wide,” he said. “You cannot be a specialist in everything.”

Industry Trends

Salessy, a contest judge, explained promising startups were selected that align with the industry’s expectations and shared some current trends.

“The first one is electrification of vehicles or carbon-neutral vehicles,” he noted. “When we talk about electrification, we are including hydrogen applications.”

He said that electrification covers the electrical powertrain, battery chemistry, energy efficiency of the engine, converters and the charging system, as well as the technologies associated with connectivity to simplify the user experience.

Jean Francois SalessyJean-Francois Salessy, Renault’s vice president of vehicle advanced engineering and upstream technologies, and a contest judge.

He said automakers are also focused on developing advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) centered around safety to help drivers better anticipate road situations.

In addition, Salessy said new technology based on artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed to provide drivers with a more personalized experience.

Future Opportunities

Since the inception of the contest in 2018, de Cabrol said each of the finalists has seen proven success.

NODAR, based in Massachusetts, received the Grand Prix ACF AutoTech award in 2023 and Brad Rosen, NODAR’s COO and co-founder, was a contest judge this year.

Rosen said NODAR has been working on disruptive ideas focused on automated driving and parking since 2018, and believes many opportunities exist for startups in the automotive arena as software becomes a driving factor and business model shift.

“We've benefited greatly from winning this competition last year, including establishing meaningful partnerships with some of the sponsors,” said Rosen. “The Grand Prix was top notch and managed extremely well, from the communications and awareness to the level of competitors, quality of sponsors, and finally, the beautifully run event at the historic ACF facility.”

He said companies don’t have to be based in France or even Europe to participate and win and encourages other startups to learn about the 2025 competition, which will be accepting applications in October.

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Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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