Interview Conducted by Anne Gadel, Head of Public Affairs, Autonomy
In what ways does PRE promote the Capital Region’s attractivity ? Can you give us a recent concrete example of your international action?
Paris Region Entreprises is publicly funded by the Paris Regional Council. It is a catalyzer of business and innovation which assists each year more than 1000 foreign companies with establishing and expanding their operations in the Paris Region. Our team of 80 people is based in Europe, the US and China. We help companies initiate technological and commercial partnerships with the best of French research and with French corporates, and it’s all free and strictly confidential.
A recent example of our action is centered on urban mobility: we want to raise awareness among investors on the business opportunities in this area. In that objective, we have built a whole high-level program of B2B meetings in October-November around some of the world’s most important international events, including Autonomy. Foreign companies can apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about PRE’s mission, see here
What are Paris and the Ile-de-France Region’s assets on the international mobility sector?
There is a strong political will at all levels for the Paris Region to be a world leader for autonomous and electric mobility, with a strong articulation between the public and the private sector. Valérie Pécresse, President of the Paris Region, decided to launch a 100 M€ investment plan to adapt the road infrastructure in the Paris Region for mass deployment of autonomous vehicles in the real-world environment. For example, the highway linking Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport (A1) will be equipped with physical and digital equipment (High Definition mapping, V2X communications, etc.).
On electric mobility, the goal is to have only clean vehicles in Paris and its closest suburbs by 2025 and for the whole region by 2030. For example, the largest public bid in Europe to renew a fleet of buses has been launched. All this is backed by a strong ecosystem in research, with the Paris Region being by far the region in Europe with the highest private and public R&D spent and number of researchers, particularly in the field of applied artificial intelligence in the Saclay scientific cluster. The Grand Paris Express metro and the Olympic Games in 2024 will also serve as catalyzers for innovation in these areas.
Is the economic ecosystem of the Capital Region well known abroad? Does the Ile-de-France Region generate interest from international investors? What would you say to a foreign investor or entrepreneur who would like to settle or invest in Paris?
Paris Region is the number 1 region in Europe for R&D, innovation and business, with the highest GDP in Europe, a vibrant startup scene, and an unmatched network of more than 600 incubators. Its image has gradually been transformed in the last two years, thanks to a new pro-business stance both at the regional and the national level, alongside the difficulties of some of our partners. The pool of talent here is also very deep, and we know that’s important when it comes to taking the decision to relocate an HQ or R&D center. Today, the Paris Region is becoming a global innovation hub, and international investors now name Paris as the most attractive capital city in Europe (EY, June 2018).
Are you a foreign business? See here to learn why Paris is one of the most attractive European cities for investment.
Why is it important for PRE to partner with Autonomy this year?
Autonomy is an international event which is gathering momentum on the European scene. We are most happy that Autonomy chose Paris as its location three years ago. We collaborate with Autonomy to highlight the business opportunities in urban mobility in the Paris Region.
France, and particularly Paris and its Region, position itself as a world innovation hub. How do you see the recent reports on AI (by Cédric Villani, which identifies transports as a priority for investment) and on AVs (by Anne Marie Idrac)? Are we able to develop these sectors and lead these experimentations?
The ecosystem around AI is very strong and attracts foreign companies: Fujitsu, Samsung, and Facebook are some of the companies which created major AI hubs in Paris. On autonomous vehicles, several experimentations are already under way in Paris Region. The public labs have been working on autonomous vehicles for at least the past 10 years (Inria, Mines ParisTech, etc.). Still, there is a lot to be done, including research, before we reach a concrete mass deployment. These are major opportunities for French and international companies.
The mobility sector is one of the most dynamic and innovative in the world, and it has a massive need for investment. Investments, however massive they are, do not go in priority to French companies and startups. What more can we do to entice foreign companies to choose Paris Region to set up their HQ?
Things are changing gradually. France became Europe’s leading country for venture capital in Europe at the beginning of 2017, ahead of the United Kingdom and Germany. Apart from the two major deals, all of the other were made by French funds: Partech Ventures (€400 million), Cathay Innovation (€287 million), Alven Capital (€250 million) and Omnes (€245 million and €210 million). Our message towards investors isn’t targeted only to companies, but also to VCs and financial investors. Brexit is also helping position Paris as a major financial hub in Europe. Paris has a strong startup scene, acknowledged by the fact that French Tech was represented at CES2018 with 1 out of 6 exhibiting startups being French! Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus, is also well renowned.
Do you have a specific communication towards British companies and investors in the context of Brexit?
A dedicated one-stop shop operated jointly by the local authorities, the Chamber of Commerce Paris Ile-de-France, and Business France was set up end-2016 to answer the questions of companies with specific Brexit-related questions, with PRE and Business France being the co-pilots of the initiative. This structure gives support to individuals and companies willing to settle in the Paris Region. More than 100 companies have benefited from our services so far, and about one in three have made its projects public.
These actions are strongly supported at the highest level: Valérie Pécresse reacted on the day after Brexit by sending a message to 4000 companies based in the UK that they were welcome to develop their activity in Paris, and she regularly goes to London to meet with key economic actors and investors. Our intense mobilization allowed us to win the vote for the relocation of the European Banking Authority, which will move to Paris in 5 months. But Brexit won’t only have an impact on the financial sector: the industry will also see consequences. Brexit for sure means uncertainty, and it will have impacts for companies on norms, standards and regulations. We are working hard on that too, because the Paris Region is also a major industrial hub: it is for instance the first region in Europe in aeronautics and space for a number of jobs. And this could be better known. It’s our next challenge.