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Sporaltec, a unique initiative in the French sports & leisure industry

News International-French

25 Mar 2011

Sporaltec is a French association that unites manufacturers in the sports & leisure sector, research laboratories and technical centres so they might work together to promote innovation.

(Published on December 2007 – JEC Magazine #37)




Sporaltec was created in response to the French Industry Ministry’s call for projects through the 2004 cluster initiative. It rapidly became the sole interface for French sports & leisure players in a sector that lacked structure to start with. This role helped the association to become the competitive cluster for the sports & leisure market in the Rhône-Alpes region, within a year of its creation. And now public funders can also address a single interface for any project that is developed within the framework of Sporaltec: all that manufacturers and laboratories have to do is take advantage of this fantastic network to develop the innovative projects that will guarantee their future competitiveness!


About forty partners throughout France

Today, Sporaltec includes about forty partners (manufacturers, university laboratories, engineering schools and competence centres) who are involved in research and development (R&D) and the design of sports & leisure equipment.


The Cluster covers all of France, although most of the infrastructure and collaborative projects are organized around sub-clusters located in the Rhône-Alpes region, including an “Urban Sports and Health Sports” sub-cluster in Saint Etienne and a “Mountain” sub-cluster in Francin, near Chambéry.


The areas of activity are design and manufacturing of sports articles, sports infrastructures, and components for sports & leisure equipment. There are industrial market applications in mechanics, plastics processing (partnership with Plastipolis), textiles (partnership with Techtera), and nanotechnology.


Sporaltec works on eight major issues to increase the competitiveness of French companies:

  • characterizing the human/material interface,
  • training,
  • identifying emerging sports practices,
  • strategic intelligence,
  • in-vivo assessment (measuring physiological, biomechanical and environmental parameters),
  • modelling and simulation (using virtual means insofar as possible instead of actual prototyping to design sports items),
  • innovation methodologies,
  • quality control.


The convergence of these eight functions determines the overall choice of private, joint, and infrastructure projects likely to be developed within the Cluster.


Context and main players

The sports & leisure equipment industry in the Rhône-Alpes region accounts for 52% of the national potential. It generates 10,000 to 15,000 jobs and, it would appear, a turnover of more than four billion euros. Creating an industrially-oriented competitive cluster seemed particularly crucial, both to preserve the region’s jobs and long-established expertise and to keep up with the steady 5-10% growth of the global sports-equipment market.


Research units

There are 21 research laboratories in the Rhône-Alpes region whose areas of expertise focus more or less on R&D in sports & leisure equipment. Their research activity is recognized not only by manufacturers of sports & leisure equipment (81 contracts identified, including 53 in the Rhône-Alpes region), but also at the national level by the Ministry (CNRS, Inserm and EA seals of approval) and internationally through their numerous publications (250 in the field of movement, sports and health).


More Information...
Nine projects were approved by the end of October 2007, amounting to €7,617 millions: smart textiles in extreme environments, preventing ankle sprain in athletes, introducing nanomaterials in leather, assessing the comfort level of sportswear and shoes, measuring movement.


Training centres

The “sports & leisure equipment industry” cluster is supported by all of the Rhône-Alpes region’s institutions that provide training in the science and technology of physical activity and sports, and also by the majority of the region’s engineering schools. The engineering schools in Compiègne and at the University of Aix-Marseille also joined the network very early on. As a result, the cluster benefits from the support of three doctorate programmes, three research master’s programmes, five professional master’s programmes, and three engineering schools in fields that are more or less related to sports & leisure.


For the 2004-2005 period, these training programmes lumped together were able to tap 56 PhD students, 59 research master students, 136 professional master students and 2280 engineering students.


Some of Sporaltec’s lines of research

Sports from the measuring and sensor viewpoint


Sport = Performance


  • An athlete’s performance as measured on a machine
  • Measuring the athlete
    • Physiological measurements and measuring effort (improving technique)
    • Measuring trajectory (ski, mechanical sports, etc.)
  • Measuring the machine
    • Modelling a machine during use (improving performance)
  • Measuring performance
    • Accuracy
    • Timing
    • Speed
    • Sport = Safety and Regulations
  • Traceability of the equipment used
  • Monitoring athletes during effort
  • Validating the mechanical means used by athletes
    • Sport = Environmental protection and media coverage
  • Using new environment-friendly techniques to enhance media coverage of sports
  • or less related to sports & leisure.


For the 2004-2005 period, these training programmes lumped together were able to tap 56 PhD students, 59 research master students, 136 professional master students


Sports and material developments


Materials Functions Processes
  • Nanomaterials
  • Hybrid materials
  • Bio-based materials (cellulosic fibres, other polysaccha rides, etc.)
  • New compositions (alloys, polymers, ceramics)
  • Functional materials
  • Adaptive materials (piezo, shape memory, shear thickening, heat/photo sensitive, etc.)
  • Powder
  • Plasma
  • Sol-gel
  • Foam
  • Assembly
  • Composites
  • 3D textiles, etc.


Sports & leisure players now benefit from a single interface for their innovation and co-operation projects.