French poles of competitiveness on right track

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Assessment of the French regional 'poles of competitiveness' initiative concludes that the policy has reached its objective. The planned step forward is to boost the international development of these poles.

The French Industry Ministry's assessment of the French 'poles of competitiveness' - an initiative aiming to modernise French industry and to reinvigorate the country's economic competitiveness, announced in July 2005 -  concludes that this policy has reached its objective by strengthening the links between businesses, public laboratories and higher-education institutions.

In the framework of the initiative, the French government is set to spend 1.5 billion euro, along with tax breaks, between 2006 and 2008, on six industrial clusters (health, aerospace, secure telecommunications technologies, nanotechnology, biotechnology, complex transport and navigation systems) and another 60 regional poles of competitiveness. These clusters and poles bring together businesses, higher-education institutes and research centres - both public and private - to work together on innovative projects in a given geographical area. Close to half (40%) of the companies profiting from the initiative are small- and medium-sized businesses.

In order to further improve the policy, the government plans to boost international development of the poles and to mobilise private equity financing through 'innovation and competitiveness financing forums' organised in the regions.

In the framework of the relaunched Lisbon agenda, the Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen has repeteadly underlined the need for better sectoral industrial policies.

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