On Tuesday 19 March 2019, DEVISE project partners gathered in Laval (France) to begin their 2-day experience with a networking dinner cruise along the river Mayenne, that evening. Partners and stakeholders had the opportunity to network and make connections with people from all over Europe, including the 4H CREAT project (an Atlantic Area funded project) and other Laval Virtual exhibition attendees from as far away as China, Japan and the United States.

The following day, our partner Laval Mayenne Technopole, hosted a very engaging workshop “Pays de la Loire strategy to strengthen Digital technologies applications for the competitiveness of SMEs”  for DEVISE project partners and stakeholders. Christian Travier, Director at Laval Mayenne Technopole, welcomed the group to Laval, followed by an overview of the project by our lead partner, Jose Manuel San Emeterio. Afterwards, we learned about some of the tools and experiences such as Programme APOLLO and Challenge Competences, designed to support local SMEs in developing innovation and digital transformation. Before our transfer to the Laval Virtual exhibition for the afternoon, Christian presented the inspiring story which started more than 20 years ago, of how a small rural area in France - Laval - has become a world reference in the field of Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR). 

From the land of livestock production to the land of virtual reality, Christian described how they began with a building dedicated to VR research and education. With no prior experience in the industry, they have developed Laval Virtual into the indispensable catalyst and facilitator for organizations from the VR/AR and immersive techniques field, today. With 20,000 attendees, 330+ facilitators and 9,000 square metres exhibition space, it is now the largest trade floor dedicated to VR/AR worldwide. DEVISE project partners had an enjoyable experience learning many different ways in how VR/AR technology can be applied, with lots of new ideas to bring home to their regions.

On Thursday (21 March), the final day in sunny Laval, DEVISE partners met for their 2nd Steering Committee meeting at the Laval Mayenne Technopole main building. Our partners used the opportunity to discuss activities of the semester and to begin work on the next steps of the project.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our hosting partner, especially Valérie Moreau and Christian Travier, for their warm hospitality and generosity during our visit, and to all partners and stakeholders who made the journey.