Promoting and supporting French innovation

Innovation is a major aspect of our economic diplomacy. France has been engaged for two decades in an active innovation policy (1999 innovation and research Act), which was deepened by the Act of 18 April 2006 on research. One of the aims of this policy is to “intensify innovation and forge closer ties between public and private research”.

Under the 2012 National Pact for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment, the government implemented a policy of strengthening incentives and support for innovation, including through the maintenance of a research tax credit and an extension of support for innovative activities by SMEs.

In 2017, the government set itself the goal of making France a “Start-up Nation”, announcing the creation of an innovation support fund with an endowment of €10 billion. This fund comes on top of the major investment plan of €57 billion over five years, which aims to foster the ecological transition and digital transformation, and to enhance training and business competitiveness.

Programmes to help French start-ups to expand internationally and to attract foreign companies to the French innovation ecosystem, support the achievement of these goals. With the support of its network, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs thus develops programmes for innovative companies and, more generally, all players in innovation (competitiveness clusters, technology transfer acceleration companies – SATTs, incubators, accelerators, etc.).

Ministry programmes for innovative companies

A number of programmes have been developed by the diplomatic network since 2005, in close liaison with the agencies Bpifrance and Business France. They seek to support French and foreign innovative companies (start-ups and growing SMEs):

  • NETVA (New Technology Venture Accelerator). This programme supports preparation for development and establishment of innovative young French companies in the United States. It was launched in 2010 and is focused on three aspects: training, networking and support. The programme provides a response suited to the challenge of technological and economic acceleration for French start-ups and SMEs on US markets. It has been expanded to Toronto, Canada, since 2015.
  • YEI (Young Entrepreneurs Initiative). The YEI was launched in Boston in 2005. It is a programme aimed at supporting foreign start-ups. The 2017 edition was thus open to start-ups from five countries: South Africa, South Korea, the United States, Italy and Taiwan. It enables start-ups to gain an understanding of the French legal and administrative environment and remain in contact with the innovation players in our ecosystem. In addition to its goal of job creation, this programme seeks to enrich our innovation ecosystem by fostering dialogue between French businesses and young foreign entrepreneurs and researchers, while highlighting French and European measures to support innovation.
  • COOPOL Innovation. This programme was launched by the French Embassy in Beijing in 2008. It is part of efforts to support the international expansion of competitiveness clusters that began in 2005. The programme seeks to identify partners for cooperation, in order to initiate joint projects in the fields of research, development and innovation (coordination with bilateral research and development co-financing programmes implemented by Bpifrance). It enables the owners of selected projects to discover opportunities for cooperation through a one-week visit to one or several of the country’s cities. The programme has been expanded to include Colombia and Russia.

The new network of international technical experts (ETI) specialized in innovation

In September 2013, in coordination with the Directorate-General for Business of the Ministry of the Economy, the then Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs launched the deployment of a network of a dozen technical experts in “technological innovation” in countries which, given their technological potential, justified specific support (Germany, Israel, Canada, United States, Brazil, South Africa, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore). Their role is to support the creation of technological partnerships between private and also public actors, with an eye on the prospect of commercial opportunities and economic benefits in France. They are also responsible for promoting the French innovation ecosystem and as such are involved in the activities of the attractiveness component of the “French Tech” initiative.

Enhancing the attractiveness of the French ecosystem through the “French Tech” initiative

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is a “French Tech” stakeholder. The main objectives of this interministerial initiative are to encourage the emergence of French start-ups, to help them to grow and expand internationally, and to promote the French ecosystem abroad. It is funded under the Future Investments Programme (PIA). The Ministry is particularly involved in the international aspect of the “French Tech” initiative (“French Tech Hub” label and the “French Tech Ticket” programme).

  • The “French Tech Hub” label was launched in January 2015 to support French entrepreneurs, particularly the leaders of start-ups and high-potential innovative companies, in their international expansion and establishment. The “French Tech Hub” label endorses ecosystems of French or Francophile start-ups situated in foreign cities which aim to form bridges between French and foreign ecosystems, facilitating market access for our innovative companies and promoting the attractiveness of France as a place to do business. The aim is to form a network for exchanges between entrepreneurs based abroad, in close liaisons with the 18 thematic French Tech cities and ecosystems situated in France. There are currently 22 French Tech Hubs situated in the cities of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Moscow, Barcelona, Montreal, Cape Town, Abidjan, Hong Kong, London, Milan, Seoul, Taipei, Dubai, São Paulo, Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and in Vietnam.
  • The “French Tech Ticket” programme aims to attract start-ups and international talent with ambitious entrepreneurial intentions to France. 70 international start-ups were selected during the programme’s second edition in 2017. This programme aims to promote the French innovation ecosystem, strengthen its international dimension, and to revitalize the French economic fabric through the creation of high-potential start-ups. It entitles laureates to a “welcome pack” including a fast-track procedure for the issuance of a residence permit as well as funding (provided by Bpifrance), as well as hosting within an incubator offering services for support and assistance for establishment in France.
  • The “French Tech Visa” is a fast-track procedure for the issuance of a residence permit and above all a “Talent Passport” for eligible foreign talent. It is aimed at international “Tech” talent: founders of foreign start-ups, employees of French scale-ups, and foreign investors. It is offered by selected French Tech ecosystem stakeholders (incubators or start-up accelerators, beneficiaries of the French Tech Pass, and venture capital funds) to foreign talent they have accompanied or recruited in France.

Updated: February 2018