France’s third-largest Mediterranean city, Montpellier has always been a business-minded place, with trading links across the Mediterranean world and a rich cultural life.

Education has always featured high on the agenda and, to this day, nearly a third of the population consists of students from the three universities and three higher-education institutions.

The city can rightfully regard itself as the Silicon Valley of France’s southern coast due to the presence of IT giants such as IBM, Capgemini, Ubisoft, Sanofi and Dell as well as a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Local success stories such as BIME – which was acquired by Zendesk for $45m in 2015 (check out our interview with Rachel Delacour) – as well as individuals such as Dr Bertin Nahum, who sold his company Medtech for €164m, only serve to inspire.

At Slush in Helsinki, I met Chantal Marion, vice-president in charge of economic development at Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole, who explained that there are more than 400 start-ups active in Montpellier, straddling sectors such as health, sport, infosec, agritech and ecology.

She explained that the Business Innovation Centre in Montpellier was one of the first start-up incubators in Europe, established 36 years ago.

She said that from healthcare to smart cities, Montpellier has always broken new ground. “We have the oldest university of medicine that is still in activity that dates back to 1189, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montpellier. We foster a lot of creative and cultural industries, including gaming and agritech. We also have a lot of start-ups working on irrigation and treatment for wine. In fact, the best ambassadors for our wine are our start-ups.”

Marion’s colleague, Pascal Ribes, head of the international department at Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole, also pointed out that Montpellier BIC has been ranked number two in the UBI Global ranking of top business incubators that collaborate with universities, after the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin.

Both Marion and Ribes were adamant that I come and visit to check out the start-up ecosystem in Montpellier, which I would love to some day soon but, in the meantime, here are 12 local start-ups we believe are worth watching.