Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Innovation funds fill the gaps left by the Moroccan State

Special edition no.15: FEMIP

Written by Julie Chaudier, CASABLANCA on Monday, October 26th 2015 à 09:44 | Read 774 times

Morocco has not reached the targets it set itself in 2009 in its Moroccan Innovation Strategy (Stratégie Maroc Innovation) plan. Innovative project holders are consequently struggling to find funding, especially in the initial stages of their business ventures.

In June, 2015, the Moroccan Start-up Your Life association organized the event Level Up Morocco where of young people Moroccan start-upers met mentors of the Arab world. (photo: SYL)
In June, 2015, the Moroccan Start-up Your Life association organized the event Level Up Morocco where of young people Moroccan start-upers met mentors of the Arab world. (photo: SYL)
MOROCCO. According to the Moroccan Association of Capital Investors (AMIC) 2012 report on the state of innovation funding in Morocco, “Nearly 80% of Moroccan firms use self-funding to develop their R&D projects”, confirms AMIC Director General, Françoise de Donder.
When the Moroccan Innovation Strategy was launched in 2009, it was meant to produce 1,000 Moroccan patents and facilitate the creation of 200 innovative start-up companies by 2014. Last year, just 207 patent applications had been filed with the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which was the same as in 2007.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Kingdom still managed to gain 10 places and 3 points and reach 78th place in the global innovation index rankings published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The Moroccan Innovation Centre (Centre Marocain de l’Innovation) has been strongly criticised for its overly bureaucratic management of innovation loans and suspended its activities nearly one year ago now after having only funded around fifty companies. Apart from the banking system, the Réseau Entreprendre Maroc Association is now the only organisation offering loans to entrepreneurs.

In these circumstances, funding innovation remains a challenging process. Apart from the Maroc Numeric Fund (MNF) for innovative ICT firms (in which the State has a 35% holding), public sector funding goes exclusively to scientific and industrial innovations. The Morocco Incubation and Spin-off Network offers financial support of up to 230,000 Dirhams (€20,980) to develop innovation while project holders working in the renewable energy sector can use the Research Institute for Solar Energy and Renewable Energies (IRESEN). In 2015, IRESEN managed a budget of 50 million Dirhams (€4.5M) dedicated to projects linking universities with industrial firms.

Start-ups turn towards regional operators

ICT sector start-up companies are currently blooming in Morocco and must use their imagination (love money, or crowdfunding, etc.) as only the MNF and Oiffa funds are really adapted to innovation. And yet, “The MNF has changed its strategy and now only invests in companies that are several years old and have proved themselves”, explains Aline, founder of Blue House, a co-working space for ‘start-uppers’ close to Agadir. Eirène4Impact, created in 2014, together with a few rare Moroccan business angels complete this panorama.

In the medium-term, regional players supporting start-ups could partially fill the gap in local funding. Flat6Labs, Oasis 500, Cairo Angels, Sawari Ventures and Wamda Capital have already expressed their interest in the Moroccan market. “We spent two months in Jordan at Oasis500 where we met investors and we are now at the discussion stage”, explained Yassine Ziad, co-founder of Sheaply, back in July. Sheaply is an application that facilitates the shipping of packages between private individuals.  

As an associate in the Hispano-Moroccan capital development investment fund, Mediterrania Capital Partners (McapitalP), Hatim Ben Ahmed has invested €100M in North African SMEs since 2008 using finance from major international donors. “When we invested in the capital of Morocco’s second largest money transfer operator, Cash Plus, we invited selected consultants to design a single computer system adapted to the company”, he explains.

Special issue : Developing and Funding Innovation in Southern Mediterranean Countries

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