Brussels, 04 Sep 2006
The French government has produced the first annual review of its regional clusters of competitiveness initiative, finding that results so far would suggest that the clusters are succeeding in their objective of creating innovative and competitive public-private partnerships. The 'poles de compétitivité' (regional competitiveness clusters) initiative was launched in 2005 to raise the international profile of French technology clusters and promote growth and job-creation in high value-added industries, anchoring these industries in a regional context. The vision of the French initiative is in keeping with that of the renewed Lisbon Strategy, which calls for, among other things, an increase in investment in research and development (R&D) by industry and the lifting of barriers obstructing public-private partnerships.
Clusters combining research and development (R&D), industry and training in a particular sector were invited to apply for additional funding for R&D and infrastructure support, as well as a number of tax breaks. A total of 67 clusters, six of which are deemed be internationally competitive, were selected to share the ¿1.5 billion in funding over three years which was on offer from the government and its agencies.
According to the government's assessment, all of the 67 clusters are now fully operational and have so far benefited from ¿540 million in funding. This has gone to support projects in the area of information and communication technologies (ICT), energy, health, biotechnology, aeronautics and transport.
Those that have benefited most from this funding, according to the government, are the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 40 per cent of the business beneficiaries. Their high number would suggest that the financial incentives proposed by the initiatives have gone some way to increase the participation of smaller businesses in these clusters. Incentives include covering up to 35 per cent of the costs of the private sector partners in any of the R&D projects proposed, and offering corporate tax exemptions and lower social security charges. Furthermore, under the scheme, clusters also receive funding towards putting in place the administration and infrastructure of the cluster, such as new buildings for partners and broadband Internet access.
The French government says that the next step will be to increase the clusters' presence internationally and mobilise private equity funding through 'innovation and competitiveness fora' organised by the regional authorities. Further information: