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A pioneer in innovation and R&D

With over 71 innovation clusters acting as catalysts for R&D, France is at the forefront of innovation. According to Innovation Cities TM Top 100 Index, its capital city, Paris, has also been recognized as one of the most innovative and creative cities in the world.

The French government actively supports innovation and excellence and has committed significant funding to higher education, research, industrial competitiveness, sustainable development and the digital economy through its €35 billion “National Investment Program”. As a result of this program and the best research tax credit in Europe, France is recognized as a world leader in research & development.

In France’s 71 open innovation cluster ‘ecosystems’, companies can develop partnerships and synergies with universities and research laboratories on collaborative R&D projects with an international profile – and receive tax credits at the same time. At the close of 2011, around 600 foreign companies had already joined an innovation cluster out of a total membership of nearly 6,500 companies (French Ministry for the Economy and Finance (DGCIS directorate), 2011)

France’s research tax credit – the most attractive in Europe - at a glance: 

  • Tax breaks: 40% of all R&D costs in the first year, 35% in the second year and 30% in subsequent years, up to €100 million, and 5% above this threshold.
  • Tax base: the tax credit is calculated on the annual volume of all eligible R&D expenditure (salaries, social security contributions, running costs, depreciation, patents, etc.).
  • Further incentives: the research tax credit rate is doubled for R&D carried out with public-sector bodies and is quadrupled for R&D undertaken by junior final-year doctoral and post-doctoral research personnel in their first two years of employment.

Innovation and securing future competitiveness 

  • Innovation is a key priority supported by the French “National Investment Program” and its €35 billion state-funded budget to underpin the competitiveness of the French economy. Major infrastructure projects include €19 billion in funding for higher education and research and another €16 billion to preserve industrial competitiveness, promote sustainable development and support the digital economy. 
  • To boost innovation and encourage investment in green technologies and companies, the French government recently also made available: 
  • Tax credits or deductions for ”green” companies working in the field of sustainable development
  • Financial aid for properties being adapted to help protect the environment

Intellectual property and patents

  • With 7,664 new international patent applications registered in 2011, France was ranked second in Europe and fourth in the world for the number of patent applications submitted. (WIPO, 2012)
  • A €100 million state investment fund “France Brevets” (patents) has been created, targeting mainly SMEs to help them establish a wide portfolio of intellectual property rights and market the resulting inventions.

France’s support for R&D (2.26% of GDP) is currently higher than the average in European countries (1.92%) and the latest list of the world’s “Top 100 Global Innovators” published by Thomson Reuters included more innovators from France than any other European country, ahead of Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Key funding programs for innovation, listed below, help keep France one step ahead:

  • OSEO Innovation, the main provider of state aid to innovative SMEs and mid-size companies (entreprises de taille intermédiaire – ETI) in France, awarded €650 million of funding for innovation in 2010. For more information, please visit: http://www.oseo.fr
  • Local authority aid for research and innovation: Local authorities have created their own measures to support innovation. Aid from these sources usually complements assistance provided by government or national bodies. For more information, please visit the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research: http://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/pid24627/innovation.html
  • Collaborative research funding is encouraged through the 34 Carnot Institutes, a network of 19,000 research professionals developing partnership research for companies.

- The purpose is to tap into public-sector research resources to meet business innovation needs.

- Every year, more than 5,000 R&D contracts are signed between businesses and the Carnot institutes.

- They are organized into seven major fields of excellence (ICT; micro- and nano-technologies; materials; energy and environment; earth sciences; life sciences and healthcare; construction and, as of this year, social sciences).

- Carnot institutes employ approximately 25,000 researchers and boast a research budget of €1.9 billion. 

“France is a place that takes research seriously. First of all, the education system there is excellent: you only have to look at the number of scientists it produces. Secondly, it is a place where the government actively encourages R&D. When you have all that, anything is possible.”

Robert Lu, President, China National BlueStar.