Innovation is one of France’s major comparative advantages on the international economic stage.
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 sale of government 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 (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 provides a response suited 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 a programme of immersion in the French ecosystem aimed at foreign start-ups.
The aim is to promote:
- Creation of innovative start-ups in France by foreign researchers and entrepreneurs;
- French and European measures to support innovation;
- Dialogue between French businesses and foreign young entrepreneurs and researchers.
The YEi offers services tailored to the profile and specific needs of each technology start-up. They may include assistance for mobility, mentorship or access to one of the centres within RETIS, the French regional network of innovation support actors.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is one of French Tech’s founding partners. This interministerial initiative, launched in 2013, initially sought to strengthen the momentum and structuring of the French start-up ecosystem, to boost its international reach and to attract more foreign talent, entrepreneurs and investors. The year 2018 was a turning point for French Tech, now focused on supporting fast-growing start-ups: those with the greatest potential to become global leaders in technology.
The Ministry is particularly committed to the international dimension of “French Tech”.
Following successive calls for applications in 2018 and 2019, 56 “French Tech Communities” were recognized abroad, for a period of three years. These communities constitute 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.
The French Tech Visa. France has established one of the most accessible “tech visa” programmes in the world. Announced at VivaTech by the French President, the “French Tech Visa” was created in June 2017 to attract foreign talent to France. The French Tech Visa is a simplified process for ecosystem actors, allowing a multi-year “Talent Passport” residence permit to be issued for three categories of Tech talent:
- The “French Tech Visa for Founders”, for those founding international start-ups, selected by partner incubators and accelerators;
- The “French Tech Visa for Employees”, for international talent recruited by companies based in France and recognized as innovative by the Ministry for the Economy, Finance and the Recovery;
- The “French Tech Visa for Investors”, for international investors wanting to settle in France (minimum threshold of €300,000).
Access to key skills is today the most crucial factor for the growth of French start-ups. To attract and hold on to international talent, the new “Welcome to la French Tech” scheme supports applicants and simplifies procedures for settling in France.
In July 2021, France launched a complementary strategy for international tech talent, aimed at supporting the growth and vibrancy of the French Tech ecosystem through measures facilitating moving in or returning to France of experienced French and foreign profiles.
These measures include:
- A one-stop shop, Welcome to la French Tech, to access resources on administrative procedures, the French tech ecosystem, and a list of registered companies offering help moving to France;
- A dedicated team at the Welcome to la French Tech desk, offering tailored support to help move to or return to France;
- Simplified procedures for issuance of Talent Passports and French Tech Visas, and a network of French Tech contacts in all prefectures;
- The French Tech International Community, based at Station F, of foreign talent working in tech companies in France.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is supporting the implementation of this strategy, alongside the relevant agencies. France’s whole network abroad, with economic services, Business France, Bpifrance and the French Tech Communities, is working to promote the French Tech ecosystem. It is also helping identify relevant tech talent and accompany candidates in their administrative procedures to move to France.
Updated: July 2021