Interview with Joelle Seux, Deputy Director of AEPI-Invest in Grenoble-Isère, France Agency in European Business Magazine
The French city of Grenoble, situated at the foot of the Alps in southeastern France, is an important scientific center. Forbes ranked Grenoble the fifth most inventive city in the world. Since 1997, AEPIInvest in Grenoble-Isère, France Agency has been responsible for promoting the city and its surrounding area to innovative businesses and has attracted over 465 French and foreign companies to set up in the region, creating over 10,500 jobs.
“We have the highest density of research scientists of any city in France, both at public universities and in private companies,” says Joelle Seux, Deputy Director of AEPI. “There are renowned names such as Xerox, which has had its research headquarters here for 20 years, and AtosWorldgrid, bioMérieux
and Constellium. Grenoble-Isère is also in second place for production (16% of jobs versus 12% in France). Hexcel have recently built a new production site in the area.”
Grenoble has carved itself a particularly successful niche in the hightech arena, offering both hard and software expertise. Digital technologies are the core business in the area, providing 40,000 jobs. “We are one of Europe’s five global micro and nanotechnologies clusters, thanks to STMicroelectronics and
Tronics, covering design to application sectors such as telecommunications, the automotive industry and the IoT,” says Ms. Seux. “Advanced technologies such as MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), electromagnetic sensors and microprocessors for autopilot systems are made here.” At the same time, the area is a center of programming expertise, which is a key advantage for companies involved in the digital revolution which are willing to integrate into the FrenchTech in the Alps network.
Since the Olympic Games in 1968, Grenoble’s success has snowballed over the years and is self-sustaining. “Our job at AEPI is to encourage the establishment of new start-ups from the
local academic ecosystem and from abroad. We aim at attracting more large companies to move here,” explains Ms. Seux. “We also want to help diversify the mix of industries represented in order to facilitate the cross-pollination of skills and expertise.” One current area of interest is food processing. Recently, Chartreuse liqueur has invested seven million EUR in a new distillery, and General Mills is developing its technical center to invent new flavours for Häägen Dazs ice creams.
As well as providing a recruitment pool of highly qualified scientific experts, Grenoble offers lifestyle advantages such as a favourable climate at the foot of the Alps. “We promote these benefits at trade fairs in France and abroad,” says Ms. Seux. “Our annual budget of three million EUR is spent on marketing and promotion in order to attract further inward investment.”
The presence of so many multinational companies means that there is a very international atmosphere to the city. English is the lingua franca and can be heard everywhere. Companies interested in basing their operations in Grenoble can expect substantial support from AEPI, from helping them find the right premises to forging partnerships with locally based research institutions, and more.