The current campaign for the regional elections has one merit: it shows the determination of many of our Regions to play a leading role in the deployment of industrial sectors of the future. This encourages us to go further in decentralization, and to review the methods on which our industrial policy is based. So that the French economy can finally turn out to its full potential!Our country has many success factors: a workforce that is among the best trained in the world, a dynamic entrepreneurial fabric, high-level civil servants, a very active private equity sector, and a government that does not hesitate to use its best means to support the economic fabric in times of crisis. Yet the performance of our industry - manufacturing, but also technology and software - is disappointing. And if the State retains the legitimate ambition to lead an industrial and economic policy, the reality is that it is doing it very badly. And for too long. A third way is possible, that of the construction and animation of intelligent and agile ecosystemsBetween a planned and centralized economy and blind trust in the supposed wisdom of the market, a third way is possible, that of the construction and animation of intelligent and agile ecosystems. France has never really explored this third way. This is due to an inability to do so, as power is by nature far too centralized for this agile approach. And by tradition: we have, as always, invested in reflection, not enough in steering action and in the concrete organization of our industrial fabric. In other words, despite their good will, French public authorities still do not know how to work effectively with entrepreneurs and decision-makers who drive innovation. Unlike other countries...
Let's take a look around us !
In Taiwan, the state is not only visionary but also entrepreneurial. The close coordination between local authorities and companies allows the latter to shine, not so much through the power of their vision, but through their ability to execute efficiently. In Singapore, too, pragmatism is the order of the day, with the strong business orientation of the various government agencies. Their agility and the coordination they demonstrate, among themselves and with the economic fabric, should inspire us. But Asia is not alone! In the United States, DARPA is also a model to study. Looking to the long term but anchored in the realities of the present, this agency is an essential instrument of American technological sovereignty. It is the source of innovations that have been major assets for the country's economy and industry, well beyond the field of defense: GPS, the Internet and drones. DARPA's working method is unique: starting from well identified and very concrete needs, it tackles them with an extreme level of ambition, in very short cycles, and by aiming for concrete results: prototypes, not analyses. Closer to home, the decentralization of the economy is what has enabled Germany to develop a fabric of mid-sized companies that we sorely lack. This example shows that the Region is the right scale to organize innovation around specialized and efficient ecosystems.
Let's go back to France, and be concrete. What can we do ?
Adapt our organization and adopt new methods. Based on my experience as an entrepreneur and innovation specialist, I propose the creation of a specific body, according to the following principles:This work must start from the proven needs of economic actors in the field, citizens or companies. The Regions will be privileged interlocutors to bridge the gap between these needs and the long-term strategic vision of the State. One year after the health crisis, the fact that they benefit from both more resources and more latitude in terms of innovation seems unavoidable.This entity must focus on a mission of organization of the sectors and steering. It must organize public-private-financier cooperation, structure ecosystems conducive to the emergence of these partnerships, and coordinate and facilitate. This is the operational link that is sorely lacking today.This entity - and this is vital! - must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset: field and solution oriented, seeking impact. Finding the right cast of people will be essential, and will require us to look for skills that go beyond the traditional governmental pools. Are we talking about a startup nation? Then make way for the entrepreneurs! Coordinating, managing, and deploying a strategic vision is their job; and they have something different to contribute than our large Corps of which France is so proud.Of course, this structure will have to understand how the current economic fabric works, and have a close relationship with the entire innovation ecosystem (technological or not). It will also have to understand the role of the various financial institutions, from the major banks to venture capital funds, and have the capacity to mobilize all these players, organize their cooperation and direct their efforts.This entity will also have to support the State in its role as a venture capital investor, in addition to the BPI, which today plays more the role of an investment bank.Finally, the question of evaluation will be essential. Short feedback loops will have to be organized, to be able to correct the situation quickly. This is the principle of the agile methods that have proven their worth in business.On this basis, France will be able to deploy a true industrial policy based on partnership, relying on co-financing, which is the best guarantee of success. Let's dare to decentralize the economy more, let's take action! And let's equip ourselves with the tools that will allow us to truly prepare the future of our industry.
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