Brussels, 23 Sep 2004
French Research Minister François d'Aubert has announced a raft of new initiatives to boost French research and innovation, as well as an additional one billion euro to finance them. 'This is a turning point in a crucial year for our research,' said Mr d'Aubert, announcing the 2005 research budget.
The measures are divided into three categories, or three 'great priorities', as the minister called them: reinforcing basic research through the improvement of personnel numbers and laboratories; increased funding for French research projects, to be funded by a new national agency for research; and the strengthening of measures to bring research and innovation closer together.
'Next year, an additional one billion euro of public funding will increase and invigorate national investment in research,' said Mr d'Aubert. ''Public investment' in effect, which is more than 'spending' - I am convinced that it's through a continuous effort that a nation establishes its research and its innovation capacity, that it puts itself in the optimum position for advancing knowledge, improving its competitiveness, preparing for the future.' The minister added that the increased budget will enable France to respect its commitment to the EU Barcelona target of increasing research spending to three per cent of GDP by 2010.
Some 97 per cent of this extra money will go to personnel and laboratories in research institutes and universities. They will therefore be receiving four times more than in 2004. The funds are intended to enable the establishments to cover previous financial commitments, make large investments in 2005 (in particular in order to build the new synchrotron facility 'Soleil'), and to increase laboratories' resources in comparison to 2004.
The minister conceded that money alone will not solve the problems faced in many research laboratories, and also announced new moves to lift the administrative burden placed on researchers. Mr d'Aubert announced that he has presented his Prime Minister with a series of proposals for simplifying the daily life of researchers, and that he hopes for a decision before the end of the year.
Some of the money reserved for laboratories will be used to create 200 new high level research posts. This is aimed at increasing France's attractiveness to researchers, and ultimately bringing in foreign brains and encouraging French expatriates to return. An array of initiatives will also be introduced to support young researchers.
The second priority is the provision of increased funding for research projects, to be awarded by a new national research agency. The agency will be responsible for selecting the best projects in those fields of research considered by the government to be priorities. For 2005 this principally applies to the life sciences, information and communication technologies and sciences, and energy and sustainable development. The funding could be provided by the agency directly, or the agency could delegate the execution of a research programme to one of France's research establishments. Mr d'Aubert said that the agency will be operational from 1 January.
In order to strengthen the relationship between research and innovation - Mr d'Aubert's third and final priority - a number of incentives will be introduced. Any company participating in a research project in one of France's 'poles of excellence' will benefit from tax exemptions on their profit, on their 'professional tax', and on their property tax. Some of the exemptions will be as high as 50 per cent for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and 25 per cent for other companies.
Funds from a new savings deal will also be made available as start-up finance and risk capital.
Mr d'Aubert described the budget as 'well-balanced', but emphasised that it is only the first step in the restructuring of French research, and that the future is the responsibility of the entire research community: 'The increase in resources is a guarantee to the scientific community that the necessary reform of our research and innovation system will be carried out within the framework of resources for growth. It is a chance, but also a responsibility for everyone.'
For further information on research in France, please visit: