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Saclay science campus will go ahead, pledges Ayrault

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, has said that he is determined to support the Paris-Saclay science and innovation campus, a hugely ambitious project aimed at bringing together 11 higher education institutions with research organisations on a site south of the capital.

The project is aimed at creating a campus for 10,000 researchers and 50,000 students. However, it has been plagued by problems since its announcement by the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

A group of unions urged Ayrault to drop the project in September, arguing that bringing organisations such as Paris Sud and Versailles universities together would threaten their individual identities.

Speaking on 30 October at a conference on Paris as an economic capital, Ayrault described the Saclay project as “exceptional” and confirmed that his government would go ahead with its predecessor’s financial commitments to the project. This includes €850 million promised for Saclay under the “Plan Campus” programme and a €1 billion investment promised by Sarkozy in 2010. The total costs of the project are thought to be more than €4bn.

Ayrault also touched on one of the most pressing problems that could hold the project back from success: the lack of reliable transport links to the Saclay site, which is 20 kilometres from the city. He said that major improvements to the services will be needed to attract people to Saclay.