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‘Competitiveness poles’ to refocus on market gains

France’s innovation clusters, known as competiveness poles, are to be reorganised to focus more on products and services with genuine market potential.

This is one of the decisions set out in a 35-point plan for competitiveness published by the government on 6 November.

The poles are spread around the country, bringing together public and private sector researchers in particular topics, such as aerospace. Next June they are due to sign contracts with the state for 2013 to 2015 that will include measures to create a significantly larger role for regional authorities in the running of the poles.

The contracts will also include new procedures for evaluating the work of the poles, based on economic impact.

The plan, published by prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, warns that France has a weak record on innovation, despite being home to top-quality research. It argues that the innovation system should be less centralised and needs simplifying—particularly the intellectual property system.

The government says it will put in place measures to make it easier to turn ideas into commercially viable business opportunities. Funding from the government stimulus package will be made available to provide capital for businesses in emerging hi-tech sectors such as advanced materials and robotics. Competitions for this funding will be run by a public investment bank that was also announced in the government plan.

The measures are initial plans in a wider scheme to boost innovation. The government has enlisted Jean-Luc Beylat, president of private R&D firm Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs France, and Pierre Tambourin, director of the Genopole biotechnology hub in Essone, to lead an investigation on the subject. It is due to report back to the government in March.