ICC Immersion : Underground Sugar and KERU expand internationally

ICC Immersion has allowed us to structure ourselves differently, to consolidate strong foundations and move forward in the presentation of our projects.

Julie Desmet Weaver (Underground Sugar) and Hélène Quintin (KERU) are the founders of companies who have benefited from the ICC Immersion programme, offered by the Institut français and Business France, a three-stage support system aimed at cultural entrepreneurs with an innovative concept. They discuss their participation, the broad range of support, but also their future international development. 

Published on 19/03/2024

2 min

ICC Immersion
© DR

Can you present your company and its activities? 

Julie Desmet Weaver: We are two associate artists, myself and Axel Beaumont, but since we both come from live performance, we also have our own company, called Underground Sugar. Our approach is to design new experiences, tangible spaces for experimentation that allow stories to blossom. We create, design and produce experiences that blend performance art, visual arts and new technologies. We have recently designed a project called E.MOTION, developed with the support of the ICC Immersion – Canada program. It features actors on the stage who will animate 3D digital puppets in real time using motion-capture. Thanks to ICC Immersion, we have been able to move from a simple performance to an immersive experience. 

Hélène Quintin: I am the co-founder of KERU, which specialises in creating digital memories. These offer a way for visitors to immersive cultural sites to extend the experience after their visit. In concrete terms, visitors are offered the option of scanning a QR code at the end of the visit sending them to a WebApp, adjusted according to the location, to create a digital memory. This can take several forms, either through collaborations with artists or through shared AR creation. This memory is combined with benefits, for example, the first digital souvenir at the Musée d'Orsay, the chance to win lifetime admission or VIP invitations to other private views. The aim is to create a more intense connection with audiences, to create a memory, which can even be community-based. These memories are secured on the blockchain and people actually own them in just a few seconds. 

Cohorte ICC Immersion Canada
La cohorte ICC Immersion Canada à Toronto

Why did you decide to take part in the ICC Immersion programme in South Korea? Why did you choose Canada, in your case Julie, and Taiwan for you Hélène? 

JDW: The origins of these hybrid forms are complicated because we didn't fit into any space, neither theatre, nor cinema, nor innovation. It was very difficult to find funding and I would say that the first partners who really listened were the Institut français, the first to support us, then the European programmes and those of the CNC. It should be pointed out that for ICC Immersion, this is also a partnership with Business France. For us artists, it was a bit of a revelation because, coming from live performance and the creation of works without great profitability, to benefit from support on business plans and more commercial meetings was a great opportunity. What interested us with ICC Immersion – Canada was to discover the Monroe ecosystem, see a different way to approach these creations and participate in a global economy. Since our creations are inspired by literary works (L'Écume des jours, Entrez dans la danse), we wanted to find a French-speaking country, but we soon realised that everything had to be adapted in English. We therefore had to rebuild the identity that was expected from our partners. 

HQ: With KERU, we wanted to go international very quickly. We are a new company and it is important for us to be active in Asia, in Taiwan, because these are territories that are really ahead of the new technologies. We need to know their everyday lives in order to be able to adapt their products and understand these markets in Asia. The initial remote phase with the courses was very comprehensive: it allowed us, in a short time, to understand the market, to know how to approach it and respect local customs. Travelling to Taiwan alone, without guidance, would have been much more difficult without ICC Immersion. 

Cohorte ICC Immersion Taïwan
La cohorte ICC immersion à Taïwan.

What has the programme brought you so far? Why is it important to receive support to travel internationally? 

JDW: The meeting with the incubator La Piscine and the Business France teams in Montreal was brilliant. We were taken charge of very quickly and this allowed us to structure ourselves differently, to build on solid foundations to move the presentation of projects forward. In phase 2 (on-site immersion), our dossier was already prepared with defined objectives. We were able to talk to a lot of partners: we only went to Canada for ten or fifteen days, but I feel like I was there for a month, to give you an idea of how interesting and relevant the meetings were. We are currently taking part in phase 3 (individual follow up to the immersion) with a tailor-made programme, that allows us to truly target the strengths we would like to develop. 

HQ: As Julie said, it was really intense. We didn't have any prospects in Taiwan before ICC Immersion and we had never visited Asia. We are currently in discussions with several sites, some of which offer exhibitions and we would like to go international soon. This also raises the prospect of going to live abroad. It really gave us a more precise knowledge of the market since there are also political issues between China and Taiwan. In Taiwan, particular attention must be paid to how to communicate on a business level. In any case, there was very good cohesion between us, as French companies (in each country, the ICC immersion cohorts are composed of several winning companies)

Travelling to Taiwan alone, without guidance, would have been much more difficult without ICC Immersion.

Following your immersion in the territory you targeted, what are your prospects for development? Do you have any concrete opportunities? 

JDW: We now have a real project to establish ourselves in Montreal. If this was the goal for ICC Immersion, we achieved it! Several projects are under way and we have engaged a production company in Toronto, working on motion capture. An immersive auditorium is also interested in hosting one of our experiences, which we have specially adapted for them. It also transpires that Entrez dans la danse now has a Canadian distributor, Le Hublot, and we are probably going to build an event at the SAT, an immersive dome in Montreal. We wanted to launch in Montreal in September 2024 but with immigration laws, it will take longer, probably at the end of 2024 or early 2025. 

HQ: We are slightly less advanced than Julie, but we are in contact with a number of locations. Our solution is not yet in place in Taiwan, although discussions continue. We are thinking seriously about going to Taiwan and we are in discussions with the National History Museum to create an artistic project around the works of San Yu, a friend of Matisse. The operators of this museum organise a lot of other exhibitions and it would be great to replicate our solution in Taiwan, but also throughout Asia. 

About ICC Immersion

Led by the Institut français and Business France, ICC Immersion is a programme for cultural entrepreneurs with an innovative project who seek to develop it internationally in a target market. 

Selections are ongoing for Saudi Arabia, India, Australia and Italy. 

Calls for applications will be launched for Denmark/Sweden, South Africa and Mexico in autumn 2024. 

Find out more 

L'institut français, LAB