Innovation Ecosystems in France and in the USA

By Dr. Didier Kane, FABCA Board Member

Both France and the USA have a well-deserved reputation of being very innovative countries. In both countries, the educational system does contribute to the quality of the innovative ideas produced, but there are definite differences in the way it is financed and in the ability to turn these ideas into commercially successful products or services.

1) Sources of entrepreneurial ideas

a) In France, since Napoleon, the most prestigious higher education establishments are called “Grandes Ecoles”. These establishments, outside of the framework of the public university system, prepare administrative, scientific and business executives (called “cadres”) to become leaders in government or in private enterprise. By contrast with the United States, entrepreneurship education started late, with a handful of leading business schools having an entrepreneurship curriculum by the late 80’s. By the end of the century, there were over 1500 programs, but the internet bubble crash of the early 2000’s put a halt to this trend. A renaissance occurred nonetheless when President Jacques Chirac launched his objective of creating 1 million new companies in 5 years. In the last 10 years, government policies have encouraged innovation and entrepreneurship education by funding programs and infrastructure. This has led to world class entrepreneurship programs at schools such as EM Lyon and ESCP Europe. Not so long ago, the percentage of French students who contemplated an entrepreneurs life would be a one figure metric; now it is close to 30%.

b) In the US, as early as in the 1950’s there has been a focus on small businesses, with the creation of the National Council for Small Business Management Development and of the Small Business Administration Research Initiative. The first endowed entrepreneurship position was at Georgia State University in 1963. By the end of the 80’s, there were already close to a hundred endowed positions, entrepreneurship competitions at a number of universities and several conferences focused on that topic. While this trend has continued, it is important to point out the importance of the close collaboration between industry and universities and the corresponding programs funding which far outweighs what is done in France. That being said, the French Public Investment bank Bpi France makes billions in loans and grants available to fund start-ups and accelerators at easy terms. President Macron recently announced another €10 billion euro public fund to invest in start-ups. France is quickly catching up, but for the most part, the money comes from the Government instead of coming from the private sector.

2) The innovation infrastructure: Technology Transfer
Technology Transfer is the process of transferring the research results from educational and research institutions to the private sector, in order to enable the development of products, services or technologies from the knowledge at these institutions.
a) In France
Being part of Europe, France benefits from the EU’s innovation initiatives. PROGRESS-TT (“Public Research Organization GRowing Europe through best practice SolutionS for Technology Transfer”), launched on January 20, 2015, is the European Commission initiative to improve the capacity of public research organizations to convert investment in research into commercial returns through innovation. This is part of the broader Horizon 2020 program, the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). A strategic agenda “France Europe 2020” was issued by the Minister for Higher Education and Research on May 21, 2013. Starting in 2012, 1 billion Euros were invested through a national loan called “investissements d’avenir” (investments for the future). Among other priorities, it gave rise to 14 SATTs (Sociétés d’Accélération de Transfer de Technologie). This was part of a regional strategy in which universities in a given region have been regrouped under a single umbrella. As at July 1, 2017, the SATT had 596 Professionals specializing in intellectual property, technology project engineering, law, marketing and business development; 8 777 innovative projects identified and analyzed; 1,906 priority patents filed
573 operating licenses signed with companies of which 202 start-ups created. According to the European Patent Office, around 11,000 patents are filed each year in France, whereas the US files 4 times that number in Europe. To put things in perspective, a 2014 report published by the World Intellectual Property Organization revealed that approximately 2.1 million patents were being filed each year, a number that has continued to grow exponentially in the last three years.

b) In the US, Technology Transfer dates back to the 1920’s, with the establishment of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The 30’s gave birth to the Iowa State Patents Foundation, and the 40’s to the MIT Licensing Office; the 50’s to the University of Minnesota Foundation and the late 60’s to the Stanford University Office of Technology Licensing. But it is the Bayh/Dole Act of 1980 that considerably accelerated the number of TTOs (Technology Transfer Offices), from 35 then to over 160 by year 2000. In recent years, Stanford has been generating around $100 Million per year in direct technology licensing and another $20 million in equity liquidations. Its “BASES” network is the largest student-run entrepreneurship organization in the country, with other 5,000 current and alumni students. In Texas, Texas A&M ‘s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) has generated over $60 M in the ;last 5 years and over $170 million in the last 10 years. As for the University of Texas, its OTC generated close to $23 million in 2015 and close to $160 million in the last 10 years. According to the 2015 AUTM licensing survey, over the past 25 years, US research faculty, students and staff have reported more than 380,000 innovations to their technology transfer offices, filed more than 206,000 new patent applications, and were issued more than 84,000 US patents. These innovations were licensed to thousands of companies, including nearly 11,000 startups. Research institutions shared in the success of their startups, earning more than $1 billion in equity, much of which was reinvested for future research.

c) The Office for Science and Technology of the Embassy of France in the United States – has launched in 2008 an exchange program dedicated to managers of technology transfer entitled: «Technology Transfer Fellowship Exchange Program». This program is aimed at senior managers from universities, research labs who want to improve their competencies and to share their experience in terms of technology transfer. Beneficiaries of the program are welcomed into a structure which provides them access to an office in the Technology Transfer department for several weeks (up to 3 months) in order to exchange good practices and to work on concrete examples.

3) The innovation infrastructure – Incubators and accelerators

a) The first incubators (called “pépinières d’entreprises”) were established by a French Government Agency (“Agence pour la création d’entreprises”) in the early 90’s. Their number has kept growing since. In the last 10 years, large French Corporations seeing their growth being somewhat anemic, decided to launch their own (e.g. Orange Valley). Their number keeps growing (there were over 50 in Paris alone in 2016).
In order for these companies to progress to the next stage of growth, a first French accelerator, Numa’s “Le Camping” was launched in 2011. While new laws on “auto-entrepreneurship” were established in 2009 to make it easier for people to create their own company, entrepreneurs had to rely on their personal network and on their investors to find mentors to help them beyond the incubation stage.
Fast-forwarding to today, France has done remarkable progress to catch up with other leading innovation ecosystems around the world.
Today, Xavier Niel, who started Iliad, France’s fourth-largest mobile operator, lunches a vast, vaulted 360,000-sq.-ft space, in a former train depot renamed Station F, will be the largest incubator in the world, housing 1,000 start-ups and 3,000 work spaces for entrepreneurs, consultants and investors. According to Paris Genome 2017, Paris has between 2,000 and 2,600 Tech startups and an ecosystem valued at US $12 Billion. In 2014, the government started French Tech to facilitate and showcase the country’s tech credentials. Initially, thirteen French cities were designated high-tech hub and the number has grown since. The French Tech ecpcystems sometimes assemble several cities around a ingle theme, e.g. : Normandy French Tech (Caen, Le Havre, Rouen); LORnTECH (Nancy, Metz, Epinal, Thionville), Lille’s French Tech (Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Calais, Va-lencienne), Dunkerque, Lens), French Tech in the Alps (Grenoble, Annecy, Chambéry, Romans- Valence), etc. Austin’s sister city in France, Angers, acquired the label for its IoT expertise (even though Toulouse, with its IoT valley, is very active in this area). The French government also supports the growth of French start-ups in dozens of foreign cities, including Abidjan, Barcelona, Hong-Kong, Israël, Le Cap, London, Montréal, Moscow, New-York, San Francisco, Seoul and Tokyo, to which were added Berlin, Dubaï, Los Angeles, Milan, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Shanghaï, Shenzhen, Taiwan and Vietnam. The vibrant French Ecosystem in Austin is very likely to be next on the list. La French Tech promotes French entrepreneurs at big industry events like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (where this year the French Tech contingent won a staggering 50 innovations awards in total, and 3 Best of Innovations awards). For the sixth year in a row, France dominated the rankings of Deloitte’s 2016 Technology Fast 500 EMEA, which identifies the fastest-growing technology companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The country has several unicorn startups too, like BlaBlaCar, Sigfox and Devialet.

b) According to According to the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Index, published by the GEDI, France has a robust entrepreneurial environment. But it was placed 13th out of 137 in the 2017 rankings, and took 10th place in Europe. By contrast, The United States held onto the top spot this year, followed by Switzerland and Canada. The latest Kauffman index of startup activity shows that Rate of New Entrepreneurs, calculated as the percentage of adults becoming entrepreneurs in a given month, has increased by more than 15 percent in the last two years. Entrepreneurial activity seems to be increasingly happening beyond the stereotypical entrepreneurial hubs of places like Silicon Valley and Boston. Among the other cities that had the most IPOs are San Diego, Nashville, Dallas and Washington DC, Denver, Cincinnati and Charlotte. The metros with the highest levels of activity relative to their size in the most recent Kauffman report are Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX; and San Jose, CA.
As of January 2015, there were roughly 300 true accelerator programs in the US and over 1,000 incubation/tech transfer programs. Every year from 2008 to 2014, the number of accelerators in the U.S. jumped by an average of 50 percent, according to a Brookings Institution research report. According to Startup Ranking, there are close to 38,000 startups in the US, India is a distant second with less than 4,000 and France ranks 15th with less than 500. While this may be a reasonably accurate overall picture, in some sectors, France fares much better. For instance, in the January 2017 Nature Biotechnology Survey, France ranked 3rd, ahead of China and Canada (but behind the UK and far behind the US) for the number of startups in that sector.


The US remains, by far, the world leader in entrepreneurial education and for the creation, launch, funding and growth of startups. France has invested heavily in the last 5 years in this sector of the economy, and its strong and evolving education system has also developed a culture of innovation, present in French companies of all sizes. However, the elite “Grandes Ecoles” are still geared towards guaranteeing leadership roles in the CAC40 companies. Both countries have introduced laws that favor innovation and entrepreneurship. But the biggest differences between France and the US are the amount of venture capital funding that is significantly higher in the US, and the respective roles of the Government and of Industry: the former leads in France and the later plays a very limited role whereas the opposite can be seen in the US.


Austin’s growing sister city relationship with Angers, France

SmartAustin has recently been excited by the opportunity to develop international relationships that can support business for our ‘smart cities’ startups, and which can be leveraged to attract international startups to Austin. In particular, we’ve been intrigued by various pro-startup gestures and efforts from the French government and have been pleased to learn about strong, related activities sponsored by the French-American Business Council of Austin, led by Liz Wiley, a local business attorney. We sat down with Liz to learn more about the budding relationship between Austin and its sister city of Angers, a rising French and European IoT center.

Opportunity with Business France at SXSW 2017

SXSW 2017
For the 4th consecutive year, Business France will showcase
some of the hottest tech Startups hailing from France
on the French Tech Pavilion at SXSW,
Austin, TX, from March 12th to 15th.

an innovative start-up with strong international potential
to increase your visibility in France and abroad and to build a network in the US
Apply online before December 16, 2016

Angers Week Press Release

Austin Angers Creative and Freestyle Language Center present:
A multi-venue, multi-disciplinary event highlighting Austin’s cultural exchange
with our sister city of Angers, France.
NOVEMBER 8-12, 2016

Festival adds Photography Exhibit “Austin & Angers in Pictures” at The Butterfly Bar Nov. 1-12 highlighting work from Angers & Texas artists.
Chef Casey Wilcox to host culinary pop-up Nov. 9th at Aviary Wine + Kitchen (recently returned from his second Austin Week in our Sister City).
SprATX hosts Meet & Greet with visiting Angers graphic artist SMOH on 11/8 — Jackrabbit Mobile at 1620 E 7th donates wall for Sister City Mural.
Angers artist VedeTT to perform live in KUTX Studio 1A on 11/10/16.
Angers artist Meduse joins Sound Dessert showcase at Stay Gold on 11/10/16.
Angers artists VedeTT and San Carol join Annabelle Chairlegs at Barracuda Austin’s King Khan & BBQ Show Official Aftershow on 11/10/16.

Monday, October 31, 2016 (Austin, TX) — Angers Week has recently added a 12-day photography exhibit at The Butterfly Bar (2307 Manor Rd) featuring the images of Paul Liaigre (Pilou, Angers), White Light Exposure (Austin, TX) and Caroline Ruffault, a culinary pop-up with local Chef Casey Wilcox (recently returned from his second Austin Week appearance in our sister city this past September), and confirms that local startup Jackrabbit Mobile will donate a wall at their offices (1620 E 7th St) for visiting Angers graphic artist SMOH and partners SprATX. In Angers Week music programming, VedeTT will perform at KUTX Studio 1A the afternoon of Thursday, November 10th, Meduse joins Sound Dessert showcase at Stay Gold on 11/10, and VedeTT and San Carol join the official aftershow lineup for King Khan & BBQ Show with Paint Fumes at Barracuda Austin on 11/10.

Austin welcomes creative delegates from its sister city of Angers, France to the Live Music Capital of the World to celebrate the cultural connection between our two cities. Angers Week takes place Tuesday, November 9th to Saturday, November 12th with programs, concerts and activities featuring French music, film, cinema, art, culture and technological innovation from Angers, France. Austin Angers Creative facilitates Angers Week and the French counter-festival Austin Week to present the unique collaborative exchange between the two cities to the greater public.

Programming for Angers Week includes Angevine musicians Cherry Plum, VedeTT, Meduse and San Carol, visual artists SMOH and Paul Liaigre, Chef & Owner Pierrick Le Drain of Un Brin Folk, Brewer Benoît Durand of Brasserie Angevine and Premiers Plans Film Festival Director Xavier Massé in collaboration with Austin-based artists including Devin James Fry, Project ATX6, Ethan Azarian, Kalu James, Little Mazarn, The ABGB brew-masters, Chef Lynzy Moran and SprATX.

Events range from daytime to evening, free or ticketed, 21+ or all ages. Participating venues include: Capital Factory, Cheer Up Charlies, Lenoir, Aviary Wine + Kitchen, Kitty Cohen’s, The Blackheart, The ABGB, Stay Gold, Swan Dive, Freestyle Language Center and Austin Film Society Cinema.

The Vortex & Butterfly Bar will host a family-friendly French “pique-nique” on Saturday, November 12th from noon to 7PM featuring all visiting Angers musicians, a photography showcase highlighting the “Austin Week” and Austin Angers Creative experience, children’s activities, food & drink specials, and Francophone community groups.

A full lineup and schedule is available at or Tickets for film screenings at Austin Film Society Cinema are available in advance at

“Angers Week” follows on the heels of the 2nd Annual “Austin Week” in central France, which took place this September (at the same time as Levitation France) and featured over 50 Austin-based musicians, producers, chefs and artists including Project ATX6, Kalu James, sculptural artist Amy Scofield, muralist Ethan Azarian, Texas films, cook-book author Tiffany Harelick, SprATX, Chef Rick Lopez of La Condesa, Chef & Owner Todd Duplechan of Lenoir, Chef & Owner Lynzy Moran of Baton Creole and Chef Casey Wilcox.

Traveling with Project ATX6 to document this unique cultural exchange with Austin’s sister city, KUTX’s Laurie Gallardo got a first-hand look into the life of a touring musician in the context of an international music festival:

Austin Chronicle Playback Reporter Kevin Curtin covered Austin Week, Project ATX6 and Levitation France during his time in Angers at the sister city festival:

“Angers Week” is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Our sponsors include Ville D’Angers, SACEM, French American Business Council of Austin and Freestyle Language Center, The ABGB and Cointreau. For additional information & press content, contact Festival Co-Director Samantha Phelps at or for general information, please connect with

Austin Angers Creative is a sister city exchange between Austin, TX and Angers, France fostering the collaboration and expression of ideas across artistic mediums through the development of art, events and educational opportunities. For more information:


IoT Tech Mixer

Thanks to our sponsor World First and Grable Martin Fulton PLLC’s Liz Wiley, French American Business Council of Austin (FABCA) cordially invites you to attend an IoT Tech Mixer TUESDAY NOVEMBER 8, 2016 AT CAPITAL FACTORY, 5:30-8pm, to kick off Angers Week.

Come hear about the Austin-Angers IoT connections and smart city platforms possible through the Austin/Angers sister-city relationship. Special guest speaker will be Angers-based Qowisio, an IoT company that recently opened an office in Austin. Register here. Space very limited!

We also will be sampling at this event a local Rosé d’Anjou from Château de la Roche Bousseau, thanks to Domaine de la Petite Roche near Angers.

For more about Angers Week, visit Austin Angers Creative on Facebook: AAC is organizing this fantastic celebration of French-American cultural exchange with our sister city, Angers, France. See also for more about Angers.

Liz Wiley
Honorary Consul of France for Austin

French Tech Austin – March 15

FABCA’s value proposition was confirmed by the overwhelming response to its French Tech Breakfast panel on Tuesday March 15. The fact we were oversold, and had people crowded into every corner of the conference room at the Cultural Arts Division offices for the City of Austin, proves there is a need for this type of content on the French startup ecosystem and how it compares with our own. The audience included the startups who won a juried competition with Business France to be at the trade show, investor and sales and marketing experts, engineers from Dell, a mechanical engineering professor from the University of Texas, and decision-makers from Austin Community College.
Christophe Daguet, leader of our French Tech Austin committee and FABCA Board member, and I moderated the breakfast panel. Austin Chamber of Commerce statistics show there are 46 incubators, accelerators, co-working and maker spaces in the Austin area, but we selected 3 of the most prominent accelerators for the Austin part of the panel: International Accelerator, Tech Ranch, Capital Factory—each with its own strengths. The renowned ATI (Austin Technology Incubator) and IC2 Institute also were in the room. Michele Skelding, Senior Vice President for Global Technology and Innovation at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, opened the panel discussion by highlighting the many changes in the Austin tech landscape since the bubble burst in 2001 and the diversification Austin had to embrace as an economic development policy to become the tech hub it is today. Local French entrepreneur Thierry Daupin gave a robust endorsement for Austin, describing the rapid growth of his own career and his startup’s fund-raising efforts in just his first year in Austin and calling his move to Austin as the best decision he ever made. Tech Ranch’s Kevin Koym described the hallmark of Austin’s unique style of entrepreneurship as based in the open and generous spirit of the hippie and musician culture of Austin; International Accelerator’s Angelos Angelou let us know about some immigration reform for entrepreneurs that should greatly improve non-U.S. entrepreneurs’ access to setting up subsidiaries or creating their companies here; and Capital Factory’s Ali Syed spoke about the entrepreneur-in-residence program and the Touchdown Austin program.
To outline various angles of the French tech sector, including the investment deals getting done these days, Grégoire de Padirac of Orange Digital Ventures outlined trends in funding, including the weakness in the angel investor network, and Orange’s creating a fund of 100 million euros for this purpose. He is one of the team of just 10 people who runs that fund with considerable independence. While Total and energy sector giants have been doing corporate venturing for some time, Orange has led the way with a model for how to stay on top of cutting edge technologies by tapping into the startup sector. Yann Bonnet – the Secrétaire général of the Conseil national du numérique—outlined tax advantages and public policies encouraging innovation, including the tax credit for anyone who invests in a startup. Roman Navalpotro of Paris’s NUMA described how NUMA’s highly selective process for cohorts in their accelerator program—only 20 out of several hundred are selected—results in seed funding within 6 months for the selected companies. NUMA has expanded its vision and model all over the world. I continued that conversation about NUMA and the Paris ecosystem the next day when I interviewed Roman and NUMA’s communications manager Tristan Lebleu, at the recording studies at Capital Factory.
The take-away: We have much to learn still about what is happening in France. The conversations will continue throughout the year. I am hopeful that a May trip to France will take place and allow me to visit with contacts in Nantes, Angers, Paris—and now Marseille—which will accelerate FABCA’s growth and importance as the Texas hub for French tech initiatives.

Angers Day 2015

In 2012, Angers, France became an official Sister City of Austin, Texas. A team of curious Angevins decided to visit SXSW that same year, to discover for themselves what opportunities existed in the Live Music Capital of the World. Inspired by the music, culture, growing film scene and the culinary industry, Austin Angers Creative was born; developing a community of chefs, musicians, artists, producers and Francophiles who work to exchange creative ideas, events and opportunities year round. Angers Day is a celebration of this partnership, focusing on the foundational aspects of our exchange: food, tech, film, music & of course, culture! .

Click here to see the agenda!

Eco Austin 2015

AUSTIN, Texas – October 13th, 2015 – At COP21, the Global Summit on Climate Change hosted by
France next month in Paris, world leaders are expected to agree on a global climate deal. To
contribute to COP 21, the French-American Climate Talks (FACTs) provide a unique opportunity to
raise awareness, compare approaches and develop a dialogue on climate issues. As part of FACTs,
TKUniverse: Eco (TKU: Eco) will focus on self-sustaining micro-communities, one of today’s hot topics
of the global warming debate.

This round table summit will take place on November 13, 2015, at the AT&T Executive Education and
Conference Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The Honorable Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin,
Texas and The Honorable Christophe Béchu, Mayor of Angers, the French Sister City of Austin, The
Honorable Sujiro Seam, Consul General of France in Houston, and Michel Salomon, President & CEO
of SM2D Inc., an Austin-based aggregator and facilitator of clean water and energy development in
micro-communities worldwide, will make the case of climate action across the Atlantic.

See the full press release here:

Click here to register!

2015 Lone Star Le Mans – FABCA Discount

Once again friends of FABCA will have a discount at the Lone Star Le Mans Race out at Circuit of the Americas. See below for a registration link and discount code:

Group Discount Link:

Group Discount Code:


The offer is $20 of a 3-Day General ticket. Normally $89, now $69 with your discount code.