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Coupled with Macron’s entrepreneurship-friendly policies, growing enthusiasm from international investors will squarely position France as a core hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the years to come.
The optimism is justified: To begin with, besides having a long mathematical tradition, France boasts a top-notch technical education system that sets a solid foundation for growth in the tech space. According to the French Tech France has more than 1.3 million engineers, 100,000 researchers, and 400,000 Research & Development personnel. Esteemed engineering schools, including Polytechnique, Centrale, Les Mines, Ponts et Chaussées, or schools of computer science, such as Epitech or Ecole 42, produce an abundance of brilliant minds. France also holds the second largest amount of Fields Medals after the US, the highest honor a mathematician can receive. Impressive for a country only 1/15th the size of the US.
The momentum for innovation is picking up. In 2016, HEC Paris and Polytechnique announced plans to launch a Data Science for Business program, while 20 French universities, with over 65,000 students, 350 labs, 10 incubators, and several research centers are all working under the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay “label” to position France as Europe’s top R&D hub, with as many as 155,000 researchers. Paris-Saclay boasts its own Seed Fund, raising as much as €50m to invest in students, professors, and research projects. France is now on its way to become Europe’s biggest hub for machine learning and artificial intelligence startups, validated by Facebook opening up its first AI Research Center outside of the US in Paris in 2016.
Marching to the beat of Macron’s innovation drum
Startups and incubators are mushrooming at an impressive speed. There are almost 10,000 startups in France, of which 64% are Paris-based.
Larger funds are now betting on the trend and are expected to invest up to €3.5B in France this year. French VC funds have expanded in size (with Partech raising €1B, Ventech, €800m, Alven, €250m, Idinvest, €250m, Newfund, €200m, Isai, €150m, among others), and we are also seeing a huge growth in foreign capital investment to France, including Balderton, Accel, USV, Benchmark, First Mark Capital, Insight Venture Partners, and more recently General Catalyst. Japanese group Fujitsu has even embarked on a €50m investment in startups of the French Artificial Intelligence, setting its headquarters at École Polytechnique.