June this year in France is like no other. It rains. Temperatures are low. Social climate is depressed. Watching TV, reading newspapers, listening to the radio are no distraction. Debates are always on unemployment, tax increase, financial instability, austerity and restriction.
Our new President of the French Republic, François Hollande, structured his election campaign around the word “change” and, since his election in May, he has affirmed and reaffirmed again and again his intentions to stimulate economic growth.
To my greatest surprise, Hollande has never correlated economic recovery and growth with R&D and its contribution to innovation.
Last week, I was fortunate to be invited to the Leti’s Annual Review and on a tour of the Minalogic competitiveness cluster dedicated to micro, nanotechnologies and embedded software in Grenoble, France.
Those two days in Grenoble really lifted my spirits. Imagine. Sky is clear –While it is raining anywhere else in France. Faces are not wearing the usual austere mask. Streets are bike friendly. Style is casual –A CTO delivers a keynote wearing a dark vest with torn jeans and tennis shoes, and that makes no difference. More importantly, innovation –and economic growth
- is in the air.
The Grenoble area today gathers more than 39,000 jobs in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), including 22,000 in micro and nanotechnologies, 12,000 in IT and software and 5,000 in public research.
Grenoble is vivid and dynamic. 62,000 students, 60 percent of the population is under 40 and about 1500 companies are created every year.
In a speech at the Leti’s Annual Review, Laurent Malier, CEO of CEA-Leti, said the research center expects to create 2000 jobs every ten years by fostering startup creations.
He added: “Out of 24 startups created since 2000 at the Leti, only five failed. There is room for more risks. In the next five years, we will try to support twenty new startups that will generate another thousand of job creations.”
Among the newly-launched startups, Malier outlined Analytical Pixels (Apix), the first startup to emerge from an alliance between CEA-Leti and the California Institute of Technology. APIX has designed a miniaturized gas chromatography system based on nanoelectromechanical sensors. Targeted applications include gas analysis for industrial processing in the petrochemical and natural gas distribution industries and analysis of ambient air quality. Total is its initial customer.
The tour of the Minalogic competitiveness cluster, on the second day, brought the same sense of positive energy.