Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation Clusters

Clusters in France

A radical change in the innovation policy of France was announced in 2004. The new orientation supports “Poles de Competitivité” or Competitiveness Clusters, and is designed to promote development of world class high technology clusters combining R&D centres and industry.

‘Competitiveness clusters are designed to spark growth of industrial activities and jobs and to strengthen the regions. This tool is not just intended for emerging technologies (nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, microelectronics, etc.) but also for more mature sectors (automotive and aviation industry, etc.). Clusters must also fit into the international environment, primarily the European market: the creation of clusters with critical mass opens the door to balanced partnerships with foreign players, particularly within the framework of the EUREKA programme and the FPRTD (Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development)’.

The policy marks a radical change from the innovation policy during the 1980’ and 1990’ which aimed at the creation of large technopoles, real estate focusing innovation poles, and hard infrastructures.

On the contrary a competitiveness cluster is focusing on R&D, technology development, and institutional support. The cluster will bring together R&D institutions, training and industry within a single geographical region to work on a common strategy or technology area. Clusters will receive two main benefits; assistance with the cost of R&D projects and exonerations from some taxes and social charges. R&D projects brought forward by a cluster, and geographically located in the cluster’s “R&D zone”, will be eligible for full funding of public sector partners costs and up to 35% of private sector partners’ costs. Companies involved in cluster projects will be entitled to a rebate of social costs (national insurance contribution equivalents) for employees working on R&D projects – 50% reduction for SMEs, 25% for large companies, and tax exemptions up to the limits allowed under state aids rules.

In the first call for projects over 100 applications were presented. Total funding for the competitiveness clusters will be 750 M€ over 3 years, provided approximately 50:50 by regions and central Government.