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Anne Lauvergeon, head of the ‘Commission on Innovation 2030’

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has appointed Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva from 2001-2011, to chair a new ‘Commission on Innovation 2030’; the Commission comprises some 20 personalities – industrialists, scientists and economists. The Commission’s Report sets out 7 ambitions for France in this field.

Anne Lauvergeon, head of the ‘Commission on Innovation 2030’

Interactions – In your view, could these 7 ambitions lead to a real industrial policy in France?

Anne Lauvergeon (AL) - The Commission I had the honour to chair received its remit, April 18, 2013, to select a number of strong ambitions based on major innovations. Our work was complementary to that undertaken by the Nouvelle France Industrielle in the framework of the industrial and innovation policies decided by the Government. The ambitions we chose are all long term: they should stimulate innovative practice in enterprises of all sizes focusing on sustainable priorities so that France can avail of world-class leaders in rapidly growing sectors. These 7 ambitions are opportunities we cannot afford to neglect, all the less so that they correspond to strong societal expectancies. They also represent strong potential markets for which France has solid key features. Interactions – What obstacles do you see opposing innovation in these same sectors? AL – France’s international competitors will not sit down while our country moves with determination into these markets. We must be aware of this and stop “zapping” and dispersing our efforts. We must concentrate on a limited number of ambitions and mobilise all we can get (from public and private sectors) to attain our goals. It is as if Society today was simply afraid to innovate. Our Commission recommends some structural reforms in terms of education to entrepreneurship and innovation per se. Our children must learn in school and lycées that taking risks can be value-adding and rewarding. For this reason, we propose that there should be an innovation principle, seen as complementary to the precautionary principle.

Interactions – How could we free opportunities in these areas? What is the nature of added value you foresee for 2030 ?

AL – The Commission selected these 7 ambitions to be in phase with global needs. The sectors concerned will be world-level markets and with very high financial prospects (sea water desalination, value adding to big data processing and storage). The major associate innovations will create wealth and lead to employment opportunities in France. Of course, this creation of wealth will also depend on our capacity to win these markets. For this reason, we must get our act together today in order to ensure that we shall have these economic champions in France in 2030.

Interactions – A series of innovation-intensive competitions was launched on Dec.2, 2013, with a budget outlay of some 300 Meuros. What are the selection criteria and what do you expect in the way of applications.

AL – The world-level competitions in innovation that we are launching also have the objective to attract talented persons to France and to support them in order to ‘create’ the world leaders in these 7 pre-defined fields tomorrow. The competitions are open to all. Any enterprise, small or large, French or foreign … who wishes to develop a project and create employment in France can be an applicant. Each competition has 3 phases. First phase began December 2, 2013 to pre-select some 100 innovation-intensive projects. Each project pre-selected will be financed by the French state an amount of 200 00 € to cover R&D expenditure. We shall begin the second phase in a year’s time. A more stringent selection process will identify some 30 “most innovative” projects and will be accompanied in their development. Public finance could amount up to 2 Meuros per project and we wish to co-finance these development phases in partnerships with the private sector. A third phase will bring the number of projects down to 10 or so, to help the beneficiaries expand with an input of public finance up to 20 Meuros/project. Final selection will depend on the coherency of the project with a chosen ambition, its innovative features (technology based or not), its technical and/or scientific feasibility, its economic potential and above all other considerations the capacity of the applicants (project leaders and managers) to be really successful in the market place. At the Commission, we want to select men and women truly capable of taking their innovation projects forward!

Interactions – What will be the role of research and of the universities to implement these ambitions?

AL – The calls for projects are addressed to single enterprises or to ad hoc consortiums, whether in association or not with actors in the public research sector. The project leaders are free to choose the means they see best fitted to efficiently developing their innovations. The Commission chose 7 ambitions in areas where France has intrinsic advantages, notably in public and private sector high level research. Movements between public and private domains in terms of development are often necessary, to see the innovations complying with a real need and to position themselves appropriately in Society. But it is up to the enterprises to decide: they are the candidates and it will be among their innovations that the selections are made.

Did you know this ?

The seven ambitions set out by the ‘Innovation Commission 2030’ are energy storage, recycling of raw materials, valorisation of rich marine resources, of plant proteins and plant chemistry, personalised medical care, big data and the so-called ‘silver’ economy.