Innovation is a major aspect of our economic diplomacy. For two decades, France has had an active innovation policy (1999 innovation and research Act), which was complemented 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”.
Innovation is now our major competitive advantage internationally. France was home to 78 research and development centres in 2017 (27 more than in 2016), increasingly affirming its central role in the European research and development and innovation economy. France ranks 6th in the world in terms of patent grants according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2018. Thirteen of the 56 Fields Medal winners have so far been French, meaning France and the USA share the leading position. The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is the world’s leading research body (Nature Index 2017).
In 2017, the government set itself the goal of making France a “Start-up Nation”, announcing the creation of a breakthrough-innovation fund with an endowment of €10 billion. This fund, which is financed by the transfer of State assets, 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 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 develops programmes for innovative companies and, more generally, all players in innovation (competitiveness clusters, technology transfer acceleration companies – SATTs, incubators, accelerators, etc.).
A number of programmes have been developed by the diplomatic network since 2005, in close cooperation 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 responds to the challenge of technological and economic acceleration for French start-ups and SMEs on US markets.
- YEI (Young Entrepreneurs Initiative). The YEI was launched in Boston in 2005. It is an immersion programme in the French ecosystem aimed at foreign start-ups. The 2018 edition was open to start-ups from five countries: South Korea, the United States, Italy, Taiwan and Finland. It enables the selected start-ups to gain an understanding of the French legal and administrative environment and to 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.
- The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is one of French Tech’s founding partners. Launched in 2013, this interministerial initiative initially aimed to strengthen the processes and structure of the French start-up ecosystem, to increase its international visibility and to attract more foreign talent, entrepreneurs and investors.
The Ministry is particularly involved in the international aspect of the “French Tech” initiative (The “French Tech Hub” label, the “French Tech Ticket” and the “French Tech Visa” programmes). 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 build 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. A reform of the foreign French Tech network is currently underway.
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 residence permits 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 multi-year residence permit, the “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.
The year 2018 was a turning point for the French Tech initiative: a new strategy was announced to support start-ups experiencing hypergrowth and to encourage companies with solutions which directly or indirectly respond to major issues for the planet and society (“Tech for Good”).
Updated: February 2019