To make France a “Digital Republic”, the Government has launched a major collective effort to bolster the growth and standing of French digital start-ups. After a year spent stimulating a network of start-up ecosystems through the certification of nine French Tech centres, French Tech switched up a gear in 2015 to shape its international dimension, notably through the French Tech Hub label, aimed at providing a framework for French Tech communities in the world’s major innovation centres.
Successfully making the transition to digital would give French GDP by half-percentage-point boost every year. France already boasts a dynamic start-up ecosystem. Who knew, for example, that five of the top twelve connected objects sold via the Apple Store in the United States were French? Who knew that French web companies generated an average 39% of their turnover in international markets, as opposed to 3% for other SMEs, or that 87% of the employment contracts offered by digital start-ups in France were permanent?
Nevertheless, the French digital ecosystem needed to be shaped and its profile raised on the international economic stage. The Government is committed to making the development and promotion of digital technologies and uses an economic asset and a source of social progress that reflects the values of the Republic, and created the Digital Republic project with these aims in mind.
Since it was created in late 2013, French Tech has been an end goal and also a group not only of entrepreneurs but also all those who contribute to the growth and reach of start-ups, including investors, engineers, designers, developers, students, associations, bloggers, the media and public operators.
French Tech encompasses all start-ups, i.e. all growth companies that share a global ambition, at every stage in their development, from embryonic firms to growing start-ups with several hundred employees and their sights set on the international market. As is the case all over the world, digital technology is a major catalyst for its development, and French Tech represents both digital pure players and medtech, biotech, cleantech, etc. start-ups.
THE STATE DOES NOT LEAD, IT SUPPORTS:
The French Tech initiative was launched by the Government based on a certain philosophy – to capitalise on initiatives developed by French Tech members themselves and build on existing ideas to create a snowball effect. It is therefore a shared ambition given impetus by the State but supported and constructed with all stakeholders.
UNITING AND ACCELERATING
The “French Tech” brand is associated with the certification of extraordinary regional ecosystems known as “Métropoles French Tech” (“French Tech Centres”). Nine initial centres obtained French Tech certification in November 2014. Axelle Lemaire and Emmanuel Macron announced a new wave of certifications (both centres and themed ecosystems) in June 2015, creating four new French Tech Centres (Brest, Lorraine, Nice and Normandy) and four themed ecosystems (Saint-Étienne, Alsace, Avignon and Angers).
Cities applying for certification were audited thoroughly. Each had to show that it was home to start-ups that had completed substantial fundraising campaigns and entrepreneurs able to support projects and help young businesses. They were also required to have incubators and accelerators that would enable SMEs to develop and grow at different stages in their life cycles.
200 million euros will be invested in supporting the development of private start-up accelerators. With this in mind, an investment fund is being managed by Bpifrance with the aim of jointly investing capital in such accelerators. All funding is part of the Investments for the Future Programme.
EXERTING AN INFLUENCE
French Tech switched up a gear in 2015, adopting a three-pronged approach aimed at shaping its international dimension:
The emergence of French Tech Hubs within major international innovation regions. A “French Tech Hub” provides a focal point for the French entrepreneurial ecosystem in these regions to boost the development of French start-ups seeking to establish a presence there and make France more attractive to local entrepreneurs and investors. As was the case with the Métropoles French Tech approach, “Hubs” are certified by the State if their business proposal meets a set of specifications. Following New York, Israel, Tokyo, San Francisco and Moscow in 2015, six new hubs were certified on 29 January 2016: Abidjan, Cape Town, London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Montreal. These now have their own website at http://hubs.lafrenchtech.com/. During a visit to Montreal in October 2016 on the theme of innovation, in the presence of Axelle Lemaire, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on the names of 10 communities of French entrepreneurs abroad to which the State has awarded the French Tech Hub label: Beijing, Berlin, Dubai, Los Angeles, Milan, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Taiwan and Vietnam.
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