Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region, the promised land of innovators

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To confirm the interest that our magazine has regularly brought to the Nord-pas de Calais region, which is on the upswing, we offer you below a paper from RFI on the potential of this region, which is particularly at the cutting edge of innovation, and its players.

Over the last ten years or so, a major industrial shift has been taking place in the north of France. Innovative project leaders can count on a real ecosystem to create their company. Its strength: the public and private support structures act together. By focusing on rail transport and health, or on renewable energies and the Internet, the region has found the specialities of tomorrow.

The French North has a very good image with foreign entrepreneurs. But what about French entrepreneurs? What is paradoxical with Nord-Pas-de-Calais is that it is better known abroad than in France. According to the regional tourism committee, 70% of the French don't know this region. It is true that old clichés have a hard time. It is a region which has however not only great assets to be visited, but also to undertake there. And this is something that innovative project leaders know.

Leverage

The Public Investment Bank is one of the major players in the financing of these projects. Every year, BPI France borrows around EUR 4.7 billion on the markets, which it then repays. But it also lends to companies at low rates, including 0%. It also intervenes to strengthen companies' equity capital, guarantee their viability with banks and, finally, finance innovation.

But its role goes beyond simply giving money lent to it by the state, the region and Europe. This loan has a real leverage effect in the creation of companies that often have only a minimum of equity capital and bear the risk involved in innovation. And private banks are not prepared to accept this risk. The entire economy of the region benefits from it. In 2012, a total of €23.6 million has been raised to finance 178 innovative projects and partnerships. In the end, 144 projects were signed. This places Nord-Pas-de-Calais in 5th position compared to other French regions in terms of innovation.

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Nevertheless, this dynamic image hides a shadow. Out of some 100,000 companies working in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, only 15,000 dare to innovate, and only 400 are part of the competitiveness clusters. The region has yet to overcome its old demons to take full advantage of its potential. Nord-Pas-de-Calais produces €96 billion a year, placing it in 4th position on the map of French regions in terms of GDP. But this is not yet reflected in the wealth of its inhabitants and economic growth. With barely €24,000 of GDP per capita, the region is in 14th place, far behind the south-west and centre-east of France, and far behind the Paris region.

An industrial and cultural shift

But most of it's done. The ship has turned. Thanks to an ecosystem conducive to entrepreneurship, an industrial and cultural shift has taken place. Out of 27,000 companies created in 2010, more than half were created by self-entrepreneurs. The crisis has not started at this cruising speed, it is rather the rate of intervention for financing that has increased, due to the mistrust of banks. Now we have to stay the course!

Listen to the report © by Agnieszka Kumor

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