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French Stereotype #3: “France is only good for food and luxury goods”

France is famous across the globe for its gastronomy and its expertise in luxury products particularly in fashion and cosmetics. Nonetheless, it is a narrow vision of France to simply reduce its economy to these two fields. France knows a growth in many more sectors such as in the biotech, in finance, in R&D etc. So, to tackle another French stereotype, today we are going to show that France has more to offer than food and luxury goods.

A perpetual growth for the French Fab

France has had a long-lasting history of industrial projects. There are more than 213,300 industrial companies, which comes in all shape and sizes, from the smallest ones to the giants like Thalès. These industries rely on a skilled labour force, creative engineers and high-quality products. The industrial network has recently been united under the banner of the French Fab. The French Fab represents, in 2018, 11% of the national workforce and 12.5% of the GDP.  The aim of this network is to support the rapid transformation of industries to guarantee that the French know-how keeps on expanding. Some sectors are particularly represented in this industrial network, such as mobility with automotive and aerospace companies. Nonetheless, the French industry is welcoming all kind of activities, which can explain the 7% increase of industrial company creation of the past year. 80% of foreign investors believe that the French industry is strong and attractive. France has thus become the first European destination for industrial and innovative investment (source: EY).  

The fast-booming activities

Following Brexit, France has positioned itself quite well to welcome financial services and platforms which desire to establish itself in a country member of the European Union. Moreover, France has taken on a leading role in Green finance. This niche of the financial sector is fastly growing. During the Climate Finance Day held in Paris last November, the French strategy for Green Finance was exposed. The strategy is based on 5 key measures in order to consolidate the French lead in the sector: strengthening the Energy and Green Growth Act to increase transparency on the climate risk; defining more clearly green projects and activities to enable the expansion of green finance; France needs to internationalize its standardization processes; channel the savings of French households towards the ecological and energy transition; foster measures at the EU level.  

The performances of France are rapidly growing in other sectors as well, for example in R&D. The French government has introduced attractive measures to increase R&D in France. The research tax credit (CIR) targets the research and development expenditures of companies of any size. There is also the Innovative start–up scheme (JEI) which allows R&D-intensive SMEs to claim tax breaks and exemption from social contribution. As such, there has been a constant growth of investment in R&D in France reaching €6,7 billion in 2018. France is now the first destination in Europe for decision centre; and Paris is ranked first in the world for hosting R&D investments,with +34% from 2017.

Promising sectors for a better future

It seems clear that climate change resolution and ecology have become European priorities. The way we live needs to evolve and innovative solution must be found. Nordic countries have already massively invested to ensure this change. France is also determined to follow this path. Clean technologies are growing; this market is worth €4.4 billion a year thanks to the 1,500 companies involved. This number is expected to grow has the number of incubators is flourishing across the territory and that supportive programmes are being launched within the regions and nationally. For example, the Mobilité 3.0 program ties together the Ministry of Ecology and of Transport to coordinate the strategy and bring together the various actors of the ecosystem. This represents a good opportunity for companies’ R&D. The Swedish Volvo is in this case showing the way by deciding to build the group’s second largest R&D centre near Lyon.

Read more: Volvo Group’s new R&D centre

The French HealthTech/BioTech ecosystem is also attracting the attention of Nordic investors. According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, France’s Biotech could employ 180,000 people directly or indirectly and have a revenue of €40 billions by 2030. As such key Nordic pharmaceutical group such as Novo Nordisk or Recipharm have established and keep on making their activities grow in France. AstraZena is another good example. The company recently inaugurated their production centre of the North of France that they have largely extended thanks to an investment of €135 million.

Read more: AstraZeneca in France