March 21, 2024

Nuclear energy giant Orano to back European industrial startups with new €50m CVC

It is Orano’s first CVC — and the company hopes that portfolio companies can help boost and expand its activities

French nuclear fuel producer and state-backed multinational Orano is committing €50m to a new corporate venture capital (CVC) investment vehicle dedicated to early-stage industrial startups that have the potential to boost or complement the company’s activities.

It’s Orano’s first CVC and has been launched in partnership with French deeptech investor Supernova Invest. The fund, which has Orano as a sole LP, will be managed by Supernova; the team will also include two experts from Orano.

The CVC will back about 20 pre-seed to Series A companies in France and Europe, with tickets ranging from €100k-3m. The fund will be deployed over five years, with a third of the capital kept for follow-ons.


Europe’s industrial startups

Orano is a world leader in the mining, extraction and recycling of uranium, which is used to fuel nuclear power stations. In 2023, the company reported just under €5bn in revenues.

The French multinational is also developing a range of activities in other sectors, such as recycling electric vehicle batteries, manufacturing permanent magnets and exploring cancer therapies based on radioactive metals.  

Its investment thesis matches that, says David Claverie, Orano’s CFO. “We’ll be looking for synergies with the challenges we find in our industrial installations [...] but we also want to diversify, with activities that aren’t limited to the nuclear sector,” he tells Sifted.

The new fund will invest in companies developing technologies that optimise industrial processes: predictive maintenance, simulation tools and robotics that enable interventions in difficult environments. 

It’ll also back startups building industrial-grade technologies for decarbonisation, with a focus on the circular economy. This includes recycling strategic materials — such as lithium, which is necessary to build electric batteries — and the re-use of industrial by-products. 

Industrial sovereignty is a focus too, which reflects the priorities of Orano’s majority shareholder, the French government. “The recycling of batteries, for example, is a topic that has a strong strategic and sovereign component,” Claverie says.  

Startups Orano backs will be able to access its infrastructure and equipment to test their technologies in a real-life industrial setting, which will “significantly fast-track the development of their products,” says Supernova managing partner Pierre-Emmanuel Struyven.

While Orano’s current focus is startups at their earliest stages, Claverie says that in the longer term the organisation will consider partnering with or acquiring some of its portfolio companies.

Innovating at Orano

Orano was previously part of state-backed nuclear group Areva, which in 2016 went through a lengthy restructuring and recapitalising process after reporting billions of euros in losses. It then became an independent entity in 2017 and, seven years later, Claverie says that it’s the right time for the company to venture into the tech and startup world.

“After some turbulence, we’ve had five or six years of reinforcing our bases for our historical activities,” says Claverie. “Now, we are entering a new development phase with the perspective of growing our nuclear activity while also developing new projects. 


“Launching this CVC will support this development dynamic and infuse an innovation and startup mindset in our organisation, which is necessary in such phases.”

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn