© Golem Images for TheCamp and Corinne Vezzoni & Associés

In Aix-en-Provence, on the boundary between the country and the city, a new-generation international campus will open its doors in a year’s time. This ambitious project, of which VINCI Energies is a founding partner, reflects the growing importance of issues relating to smart cities.

Introducing “thecamp”: this project, set in Aix-en- Provence, was inspired by initiatives dedicated to transformation, such as the Singularity University in Silicon Valley and the Center for Urban Science and Progress in New York.

Open 24/7, it will welcome students, renowned speakers, executives, leading business figures, chiefs of state, and Nobel Prize winners

Located near La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, thecamp will be a gigantic hub of collaborative projects focusing on the smart city and transformation. It will also be an alternative international location for innovation, experimentation, and development –at the same time a thriving laboratory and a stimulating living environment.

The figures are eloquent enough: thecamp is seven hectares of land nestled in splendid natural surroundings, 12,000 m² of buildings, 250 residential units, two restaurants, and a budget of 80 million euros.

Open 24/7, it will welcome students, renowned speakers, executives, leading business figures, chiefs of state, and Nobel Prize winners. It will be a place where researchers can focus on their work and where companies can develop new technologies and carry out initiatives in conjunction with players in the environmental, transport, energy, education, and health care sectors. Building on partnerships with local communities and national governments, thecamp will conduct large-scale experiments on emerging urban practices.


© Golem Images for TheCamp and Corinne Vezzoni & Associés

While dedicated to high-level work, thecamp will also be a relaxing, inspiring, and friendly place, where architect Corinne Vezzoni has allowed nature to put its stamp on the site’s design, including the abundant use of wood and translucent materials, and the generous presence of green spaces.

Public and private founding partners

The person behind the project is entrepreneur Frédéric Chevalier, founder of the HighCo Group, which specialises in digital marketing.

“Cities have become humanity’s predominant ecosystem,” states Frédéric Chevalier, who has a passionate interest in urban development. “As a result, they confront us with significant challenges that have critical consequences. Cities raise complex, diverse, and intertwining ecological, scientific, and social issues that require collaborative approaches. We cannot tackle these issues in isolation. Collaboration is the key, and fostering collaboration is thecamp’s mission.”


© Golem Images for TheCamp and Corinne Vezzoni & Associés

According to the American Academy of Sciences, urban areas worldwide will triple in size by 2030, covering more than 1.2 million square kilometres. The planet will then number 37 megalopolises, each with a population of 10 to 30 million.

To initiate this project, Frédéric Chevalier invested 12 million euros. A group of public and private founding partners, including VINCI Energies (see inset), has also invested in this ambitious project, whose delivery is set for spring 2017 and whose launch will occur in September 2017. According to projections, thecamp will create some 150 direct and indirect jobs.

Going from “think tank” to “do tank”

As a public-private partnership initiative, thecamp has brought together founding partners from various backgrounds, including communities, start-ups, and major companies such as VINCI Energies. “We share thecamp’s philosophy, which provides a virtuous circle driven by economic players, public-sector players, and trainees of varying age, young and old, including company personnel, who, together, will build the city of the future,” states Lydia Babaci-Victor, Director, Development and Innovation at VINCI Energies (1) . “We need to conduct experiments on twenty first century urban development in a setting that is free from the pressure of commercial imperatives – that’s fundamental. We need to move from think tank to do tank.”
(1) La Tribune, July 3-9, 2015