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Entrepreneur Visas, Other Policies to Promote Startups in France

Mark Marich

‘Entrepreneur visas’ aren’t only being discussed in Washington, DC. Recently, French President Francois Hollande announced a series of measures aimed at jump-starting entrepreneurial growth that included capital gains tax reforms, support services for SMEs and entrepreneur visas for those looking to launch and grow startups in the country.

The news follows on the heels of the latest rankings from the Innovation Union Scoreboard that show France toward the middle of the pack despite having the third largest economy.

How else can the country energize its sluggish economic performance of late? A new report entitled Innovation: High Stakes for France, Dynamizing the Growth of Innovative Companies contains 19 recommendations for three federal ministers. According to Herve Lebret of the Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne and one of the 25 experts that contributed to the report, the recommendations are broken down into four primary categories: developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship; increasing the economic impact of public research through the marketplace; supporting the growth of innovative companies; and developing instruments of public policy for innovation.

For those of you who don’t speak French (the report is written in French), Levret summarizes the 19 recommendations, including:

  • Revise teaching methods in primary and secondary schools to develop innovative initiatives
  • Implement a large-scale program for entrepreneurship learning in higher education
  • Promote the dissemination from large groups through spin-offs
  • Develop a policy for attractiveness of talent around innovation
  • Implement the operational monitoring of 15 measures for rebuilding the transfer of public research
  • Promote the mobility of researchers between the public and private sectors
  • Develop a coherent program for the transfer through the creation of businesses
  • Focus SATT on maturation [SATT is the new French structure for academic technology transfer]
  • Establish a consistent policy of public-private research partnerships, bringing together different and currently-scattered policies
  • Address the lack of equity financing for innovative companies (venture capital and later-stage growth equity) by mobilizing a small part of the French savings and improving the possible exit strategies for investors in these segments
  • Launch “early stage” sector initiatives
  • Implement the policy instruments of protection (IP, standardization) serving innovative companies
  • Harmonize the different labels of innovative companies and link them to the growth of companies, consistently aligning all support tools available
  • Encourage large groups and large public institutions to be involved in the emergence and growth of innovative enterprises, integrating new dimensions in their obligation for environmental and social responsibility
  • Recognize the role of metropolitan innovation ecosystems as the support for regional strategies as well as for the national innovation strategy
  • Organize the tech transfer system to make it more readable and more efficient
  • Provide the means to develop, pilot and evaluate a comprehensive and coherent strategy of French innovation
  • Appoint a single operator for the consolidation of public finance policies of innovation—the BPI (the Investment Public Bank in its innovation component)
  • Making innovation a real political issue and organizing a broad public debate.

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