SMILE, Smart grids as an industrial catalyst SMILE, Smart grids as an industrial catalyst

FRANCE, Brittany

by: Regional Council of Brittany and Bretagne Développement Innovation (regional agency for economic development and innovation)  (Public authority, Economic and/or innovation agency)

S3 domain:    Smart grids are one of the Strategic Innovation Areas featured in the Region’s S3: SIA 7 - Observation, and energy and ecological engineering, 7B- Smart grids.

Energy topics:    Smart Grids    /    Energy storage    /    other Energy Efficiency (in Industry, Transport, Services...)

Innovation type:    Technological    /    Commercial    /     System

Level of Good Practice implementation:     Regional 


The SMILE project aims to act as an industrial catalyst for energy transition and network upgrading thereby fulfilling multiple goals: combating climate change, improving local energy solidarity, spurring innovation, and fuelling community engagement. Thanks to the development of a series of pilot projects deploying and testing innovative smart grids technologies over a large and densely populated area (27 133 km2 – 3,4 M population), SMILE will provide concrete examples of innovative market solutions, validation of business models, regulatory innovations, awareness raising and mobilization of prosumers in the field of smart grids.

Strategic objectives :

  • Develop an integrated and exportable model that can be deployed at national level;
  • Create a showcase for regional and national industrial excellence in smart grid technologies for international markets.

Targets :

  • 10.000 jobs
  • Development of an international industrial dynamic
  • 1000 smart charging stations for electric vehicles
  • >50 MWh storage
  • 1000 positive energy buildings
  • 2000 intelligent lighting systems
  • 1 open community energy platform for awareness raising and stakeholder engagement at local level.

This ambitious project takes into account the very fragile energy situation of Brittany, mainly due to a very low domestic production of electricity and a great fragility of the supplying network with the risk of a total blackout during severe winter weather. The Breton Electricity Pact, adopted in 2011, targets a threefold decrease in demand growth by 2020 and a fourfold increase in the production of renewables, as well as short-term and long-term measures designed to secure electricity supplies. A regional roadmap for the development of smart grids, seen as a key element to a successful energy transition, was developed and integrated to the Breton Electricity Pact in 2014.

The project was officially launched in April 2016 after a year-long preparation phase that involved Brittany’s neighbour region Pays de la Loire as well as the whole industrial and economic ecosystem. The group dynamic draws on tried and tested cooperation between the two regions, benefits from the complementary characteristics and assets of its diversified territory, and is aided by a vibrant industrial ecosystem centred around smart grids.

To ensure adequate project governance and be more flexible and responsive, a non-profit umbrella structure was set up: « SMILE Smartgrids », composed of 160 members from both public and private organizations. The association is co-chaired by the French Regions of Bretagne and Pays de la Loire and vice-chaired by the Metropoles of Rennes and Nantes as well as by the 4 utility boards (of which the DSO and TSO for gas and electricity are shareholders).

Governance is also supported by the Chambers of Commerce of both regions, 2 competitiveness clusters (Images & Réseaux and S2E2), representatives of local authorities, representatives of both large companies and SMEs, universities and financial institutions. 

The SMILE Smartgrids association can count on the support of 3 groups of experts: a technical and scientific group composed of leading research centres, a second group working on financial instruments and a third one composed of representatives from different social and economic stakeholders as well as civil society (development agencies, consumer associations…).

Stakeholders involved in implementation

  •  Public authority
  • Economic and/or innovation agency
  • Energy agency
  • Intermediary
  • Research actors
  • Industry
  • SMEs
  • NGO
  • Civil society
  • Other: associations 


  • Research actors
  • Industry
  • SMEs
  • Start-ups
  • Other: associations


The project was launched in April 2016. The first year has been devoted to the definition of pilot projects, building the right commercial consortia and matching projects with adequate funding and financial resources. The first 4 pilot projects have been launched in July (see below for more information).

- ESIF and other regional funding (25 M€ from each Region)

- Regional Marine Renewable Energy funds

- Patrimonial Regional investment for self-owner building (smartgrid referencial for ports / airports / highschools / Trains)

- Interreg Franche Manche (Intelligent Community Energy) ICE project

- Interreg Europe SET-UP project

Public funding sources

  • ESIF T04 (low carbon economy)
  • National Funds
  • Regional Funds
  • Local Funds

Results achieved


The Project is fulfilling a wide range of goals, including spurring innovation, combating climate change, and fuelling community engagement. Here are some of the achievements that can be highlighted so far:

  • 17 sub-projects were approved in July 2017 that responded to the following criteria: i) partnership-based; ii) demonstrating mature technologies; iii) energy data exchanges; iv) viable economic model and with sound legal, technical, financial and territorial components.
    • Cyber secured energy data platform (PRIDE)
    • Large scale “collective self-consumption” project (RennesGrid)
    • Energetic performance and competitiveness tools for firms (ATL-EN-TIC)
    • Smart island, supplied entirely by tidal energy (Ouessant)
    • Smart monitoring in tertiary/educational buildings (BeFLEXI)
    • Electric vehicles charging stations monitoring (Drop’n plug)
    • Regional flexibility/demand-response platform (ATLAS)
    • Smart gas grid (West Grid Synergy)
    • Shared self-consumption in public/private buildings (Partagelec)
    • Hydrogen storage of renewable energy for mobility uses (Hydrogen Demonstrator)
    • Shared self-consumption in social housing centre (La Marseillaise)
    • Smart monitoring for awareness raising in schools (SESPEC)
    • Massive thermal conversion storage (STOLECT)
    • Self-consumption associated to innovative organic redox flow battery storage (Foirail Chateaubriand)
    • Smart residential and tertiary area (La Fleuriaye)
    • Shared self-consumption in commercial area (Zadig)
    • Shared self-consumption in residential area with setting-up of a cooperative company involving consumers (Phebus)
  • A non-profit association created to gather Smile partners:
    • 88 start-ups & SMEs
    • 36 medium and big companies
    • 18 training and research centres
    • 24 public authorities
    • 20 innovation and economic support centres
    • 5 banks and financial institutions
  • A website, in French and English version:

Future perspectives

  • 15 other projects to be approved in 2018
  • 12 more local governments to be involved (urban / suburban / rural)
  • Environmental and socio-economic analysis to be carried out and shared among stakeholders and at national level


The successful element of the SMILE project is the involvement of all stakeholders, especially consumers, which is the key to solve acceptability issues related to data management and privacy which are at the core of smart grids development. Without acceptability, already existing technological solutions cannot be validated and go through a process of market uptake.

Most important difficulties

The biggest challenge is related to the democratization and decentralisation of the energy systems. These processes imply great changes at many levels, from the regulatory framework to the market as well as the acceptability by the final users. It also implies the involvement of different policy and decision making levels, including the local level. Each of these actors is key and need to understand the interest and advantages (both social and economic) of smart grids.


The main objective of the SMILE project is to create an integrated showcase for regional and national industrial excellence in smart grid technologies, characterised by exportable integrated solutions. The deployment zone, centred around the cities of Rennes and Nantes, is representative of the wide variety of energy situations encountered across Europe. The pilot projects can therefore be easily replicated in the EU.

The methodology, meaning aggregating all relevant stakeholders following the quadruple helix approach, can also be transferred to other European regions and territories. 


  • Flagship project
  • Strategic programme 
  • Key actors Platform (for regional cooperation)
  • Interregional or International cooperation
  • Awareness-raising


  • Relevance to national and/or regional energy strategy
  • Synergetic use of several funds
  • High impact potential
  • Civil society participation
  • Inter-regional cooperation
  • Leading to private investments
  • Transferability of the practice


Contact person:

Françoise Restif, SMILE project manager :  (+33) (0)2 99 67 42 08 / (0)6 74 09 05 86