Eleven business associations, many of which represent the interests of the tech sector, published and presented yesterday to the French Senate their ‘Three urgent measures for innovative companies’. One of their principal propositions is the establishment of the EIC classification (Entreprise d’Innovation et de Croissance, in English, Innovative Growth Company), which would bring together the current JEI (Jeune entreprise Innovante) and Gazelles classifications. This idea was originally conceived by the Comité Richelieu, one of the organisations that represents small and medium ‘innovative’ companies, in a white paper they drafted prior to the presidential election.
This proposed classification would apparently impact between 20-30k companies in France. In addition to this proposal, they also advocated creating a new financing and ‘risk sharing’ partnership between the French government and private investors. They to see the creation of a mechanism that will give private investors additional tax advantages for investing in EICs.
The third measure they propose is creating a Public Investment Bank, which is consistent with what was proposed by several candidates (including Francois Hollande) during the presidential campaign. Of course, the associations are pressing for this bank to direct its investments towards companies with their proposed EIC classification. Finally, they also stressed the importance of the Crédit impôt recherche (innovation tax credit) and encouraging stronger partnerships between larger companies, small, and medium enterprises.
Whether the measures they propose are, in fact, the right ones or even feasible given the on-going budgetary constraints can be debated. However, the overarching theme of this initiative is spot on. Namely that there is a real urgency for the government to clarify (preferably via a detailed plan/policy proposal) what their approach to supporting innovation, PMEs, and start-ups will be. So, for example, which financing and R&D measures will they maintain? What new policies will they implement? Will they largely continue what started under the previous administration(s) or will they change course?
How will their policies differ in regards to PMEs vs start-ups (these types of companies have very different needs and objectives). To be fair, there obviously has been some commentary from Fleur Pellerin on certain aspects of this, but the government has not yet put forward a comprehensive approach. Hopefully a clear strategy will come in the fall that draws on many of the ideas coming from France’s tech sector and, particularly, its start-up/entrepreneurship ecosystem.