Mixed messages In French Innovation Ad in NYTimes

Oct 24, 2012
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New Yorkers and readers around the world woke up Tuesday morning to find a full-page ad in the New York Times advertising France’s legal propensity for innovation and entrepreneurship. The ad, original pointed out by ISAI GM & #geonpi spokesperson Jean-David Chamboredon, received a fair amount of attention, perhaps because it came out on the same day that 3,000 entrepreneurs, representing 100,000 jobs created, signed a petition to president Francois Hollande concerning the proposed tax laws (you can find my name at number 2400, organized alphabetically under “Rude”).

Eiffel Tower + Mannequin X Brain = Money

The full-page New York Times advertisement reads “Did you know that the country of haute-couture has created a tailor-made tax system to encourage innovation?” Beneath that, the ad highlights four main points:

  1. France has the most attractive research credit in Europe: Interestingly enough, this is true, but it had to be harshly defended by France Digitale just weeks ago, who submitted the preservation of tax credits (specifically, the CIR) as one of the 4 propositions they gave to the government. This came after, earlier in the year, a study by Ernst & Young with France Digitale showed that only a fraction of startup money spent on R&D was being subsidized by the government.
  2. More than 70 innovation clusters in France improving syergies between public & private sector: I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve been reading up a lot on Grenoble’s Minalogic, which is a silicon manufacturing cluster that has been getting a lot of praise this year.
  3. France is among the leading countries in terms of international patents filled
  4. France stimulates entrepreneurial spirit with a new simplified and tax-effective status for self-employed: This may not sound so innovative to Americans, who are used to a country where you don’t need to file for a status in order to be self-employed, you just are. In addition, I believe this is referring to the auto-entrepreneur status, a study of which recently showed that the average 539€. Not exactly innovating on a 6000€ annual salary – in addition, the government announced that one of the most appealing parts of the status, it’s tax-ease for those making under 30,000€ annually, will be lifted, and even those making very little income will be subject to tax (albeit 3%, if I understand correctly.)
Sadly, the ad comes at a bad time for France. While ads like this are quite common in NYT, it could have very well been in the same section as an article about the #geonpi, who have been getting quite a bit of headlines these past three weeks with their “anti-startup government” chants. The ad itself links to a site called “Say Oui To France,” which will launch on October 25th, revealing the “true formula to successful investment in France.” I really hope that answer isn’t “Belgium.”