With Asian tech leaders like Gumi and Samsung and French stars like Criteo setting up tech centers in Paris, is France finally starting to build a name for itself as one of the top places in Europe for international companies to put their R&D operations? Yesterday’s announcement that ecommerce giant Rakuten has selected Paris as the European hub for their R&D is certainly evidence that France’s top-level tech talent and governement financial incentives for R&D investment are proving to be very attractive draws. Their Paris center will actually be the third R&D center for Rakuten, joining their two others based in Tokyo and New York. Rakuten expects the new center will “commission projects to help revolutionise data analytics, fraud detection, language, recommendation systems, image processing, user interfaces, and the ‘online to offline’ transition in e-commerce.”
Japan-based Rakuten, one of the world top ecommerce giants, already has a sizeable presence in France via Priceminister which they acquired back in 2010 for $275 million and has employed an acquisition strategy to steadily expand elsewhere in Europe — in Germany with the acquisition of Tradoria and the UK with Play.com. More recently they’ve also conducted two big-ticket acquisitions, Viber which was announced a few days back for $900 million and streaming site Viki for $200 million, which will undoubtedly help them reinforce their position across Europe and beyond.
Of course Rakuten’s CEO of Europe and Priceminister Cofounder Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet is quite bullish on the opportunity that France in particular and Europe more generally offer in terms of R&D talent adding about the move:
“From the Micral N, the world’s first personal computer, to the emergence of CG technology, France and Europe have developed world-leading culture, business and technology, and the number of qualified engineers and developers in France and Europe-wide is a real asset. Opening an R&D centre in Paris makes perfect sense for Rakuten, and is a fitting acknowledgement of the Group’s success in France and across Europe.”