The globalisation and the extraordinary technological progress of these past 30 years have change the rules forever, for everyone and for all developed countries.
Since his election at the Presidency of France (2007), Nicolas Sarkozy has driven a policy to deeply reform French Universities (link, link, link). The goal of his reform is to enhance the competiveness of French Universities and to bring them at the level of US and UK Universities. But his reform will also deeply impact and positively change the French economy and enhance the competitiveness of France.
University Nice Sophia Antipolis
What is the Sarkozy's University reform? To make the story short, our Universities are becoming:
Independant from the Government policy and strategy concerning education & research choices.
« Autonomous ». They will freely establish their strategy and priorities. They will be allowed to partner with industrial companies and find other sources of funding than those provided by the French state and ministries. They will be free to hire and manage their human resources. The Universities will be the owner of their real estates and tangible assets (for example, at 2012, the University of Nice will be the owner of more than 1 billion euro real estate!).
Before the Sarkozy's University reform, French Universities were big public administrations having bureaucratic management, and working without interaction with the real economy.
After the reform, the Universities will be corporation-like organizations, with regular accountancy, with thousand of employees (Professors, Researchers, Engineers, Administrative and Management staff). These big corporation-like organizations will now completely change the economy and the rules of the game at the local regional level. The economic center of gravity of each French region will become its University.
At January 2011, 73 on 83 French Universities accepted to be autonomous, and at the beginning of 2012, 100% of Universities will be autonomous. The reform is also accompanied by an unprecedented financial commitment of the State: 50% increase in the budget for higher education over 5 years, a total of €16 billion of « additional » government funding for universities.
Nicolas Sarkozy has launched an important investment plan of €35 billion, focused on:
- knowledge and intelligence (higher education and academic research), €16 billion
- innovative industries, €19 billion (ex. €4.25 billion for digital economy)
The missions of French Universities before Sarkozy's reform:
Research and knowledge production
Knowledge transmission through scientific article publications and teaching to students and to professionals by continuing education
The missions of French Universities after Sarkozy's reform:
Research and knowledge production
Knowledge transmission through scientific article publication and teaching (to students)
Professionalisation of students (the goal is to enhance their employability)
Entrepreneurship and Innovation through applied scientific research and technology transfer into firms (commercialization of scientific discoveries)
Other organisations involved in the innovation process
French Universities are strongly linked to other organisations involved in the innovation process. The following organisations have also been strongly pushed and supported during the Sarkozy presidency:
- In France, we have 83 Universities, and each one has a Business Incubator dedicated to support the transfer of academic research and technology into spin-off startups. Each incubator holds around 100 technology-based startups (around 8000 startups are currently in our incubators!). We have startups having innovations coming from every academic and scientific fields (Formal Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Life and Medical Sciences ...).
As example, you can visit the website the Incubator of University Nice Sophia Antipolis, Incubator PACA-EST : http://en.incubateurpacaest.org/
- French Universities are also launching business incubators dedicated to their students. The need of launching incubators dedicated to students is very promising. Indeed, among the thousand students of each University, we could have several potential Mark Zukerberg (Facebook's founder-CEO) that have crazy dreams and wishing to change the world.
Of course, startups launched by University students are less technology-based compared to University spin-out startups backed by several years of scientific research. Nevertheless, the success and profitability of such new ventures based on “good ideas” could very high (Facebook, Goolge, eBay ...).
Student-entrepreneurs wishing to launch their startups will have a strong support from the university’s academic resources (business training, expertise and mentoring from Professors) and facilities (laboratories and engineering for prototyping, business offices ...), and also from local expert such as CEOs and Managers of growing companies.
Incubators increase dramatically the percentage of success compared to startups without having had the support of an incubator. The incubation clearly diminishes the risk of failure.
- Without incubator: Over 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within the first five years (according to the US Small Business Administration)
- With incubator: 90% of new ventures are still alive and are operating 5 year after leaving the incubator.
Industrial Property Management firms
- Each University will also have an independent company only dedicated to the management and marketing of University industrial property (patents) and licensing negotiation to industrial companies. These management companies are named SATT (Sociétés d’Accélération du Transfert de Technologies). The SATTs will provide all the resources needed to favor the transfer of innovative technologies from the academic labs into firms.
For example :
http://www.floralis.fr/ IP Management company of the University of Grenoble
http://www.valorpaca.fr/ (wesite only in French) IP Management Association of Universities of the PACA region (Nice, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence). Valorpaca is not yet a SATT, but it will become one soon (and will be renamed SATT PACA Corse).
The SATTs are very efficient organisations because they are not an administrative department of University. Although SATTs investors and shareholders are public organisations (67% Universities, 33% French State through its Sovereign Wealth Fund), they are fully independent corporation having their own governance, management and staff, and at the opposite of public administrations, and like every corporation they have to be efficient and profitable.
The proof of the efficiency of SATTs is their annual financial statement. For example "Floralis", founded at 2009, Floralis has €1,500,000 capital stock (serious commitment of its shareholders), and presented at December 2010 a turn-over of €7,448,000 and a net income of €75,000!
- In every French Region, there is also Technology-Cluster.
A cluster join together in a given territory, industrial global firms, innovative SMEs & startups and research laboratories of Universities to develop synergies and cooperation.
The challenge is to build synergistic collaborative projects and to allow innovative companies involved to have access to facilities (subsidies, grants, tax reduction, infrastructure ...) and to take a leading position in their fields in France and abroad. Each Cluster is dedicated to a specific industrial field.
Here is the Government website dedicated to French Clusters (named Pole de Compétitivité in French) : http://competitivite.gouv.fr/poles-en-action/carte-des-poles-468.html
Tax Credit, Subsidies/Grants
- Other support to companies having R&D and innovation activities : important Tax Credit for R&D investments done by companies, Payroll Tax reductions for young innovative startups, numerous Subsidies and Grants to support innovation projects of privately-held companies ...
To be continued ...