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French-American Innovation Day

French-American Innovation Day

Published on December 10, 2013
Speech by Ambassador François Delattre
Boston, December 6 2013

Speech by Ambassador Delattre

It’s a great pleasure for our Consul General Fabien Fieschi, for our
Scientific Counselor Minh-Ha Pham and for me to be here with you today in this beautiful hall at Harvard’s prestigious School of Medicine to wrap up two fruitful working days devoted to Innovation.

French-American Innovation Day, now in its 11th year, has always aimed to bring together the academic and business communities to explore how we can ensure that research provides greater value to society and helps meet longstanding challenges.

Last year we discussed access to clean water at a session focused on membrane technology. This year, together with our partners, namely, INSERM, Inserm Transfert and Inserm Transfer initiative, we decided to focus on “innovation in life sciences as a driver for growth.” I believe this is a good choice, as life sciences is one of the three key technological revolutions that we are experiencing together with sustainable development and the digital revolution.

I understand that the different presentations and roundtables have allowed you to get a better understanding of:

- number 1: how we have been trying to tackle this issue in France and in the United States, and how we see questions such as open innovation, alliance management, entrepreneurship among researchers, and the role of patient advocacy associations;

- number 2: the impediments that still stand in the way of a more fluid transition from fundamental research to new market-based health solutions;

- number 3: how French and American research institutions and companies can work together to overcome those obstacles and ensure that more research translates into solutions that improve our lives.

I want to salute the work of all the participants, in particular those who have come to this vibrant ecosystem of Boston from France or from other parts of the United States to share their knowledge.

Speaking of the vibrant Boston ecosystem, I want to recognize the work of MLSC, the Massachusetts Life Science Center. In her keynote speech, its Director and CEO, Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, presented impressive statistics about how Massachusetts has become the leading biotech hub in the United States – and probably in the world. The fact that one-third of the top companies in the biotech sector were not present in Massachusetts 10 years ago is very impressive. That includes of course Sanofi, which has now a major presence here, not only through Genzyme but also by regrouping many activities it had throughout the U.S. in Massachusetts, for example by opening its new R&D center for oncology on Memorial Drive, on the other side of the Charles River. And many others French companies are present, such as Ipsen, Biomérieux and Transgene, to name just a few.

Dr. Windham-Bannister also presented a massive investment (1 billion dollars pledged over 10 years) in pragmatic programs that make a difference, such as workforce development programs, the development of laboratory space, and financial support for early research and young companies through grants, loans and tax credits. As a result of this, start-ups thrive and large companies gather here to “have a front-row seat” on the developing innovation scene.

You won’t be surprised to learn that we in France have been inspired by the example of Massachusetts and the Boston ecosystem. Over the years, the French government has launched multiple initiatives to support innovation, with a view to improving our long-term competitiveness and establish a more solid base for the growth of our economy. Actually if you ask me what is France’s priority as a country I would answer without hesitation that research and innovation are France’s number 1, number 2 and number 3 priority.

That’s why we have established 71 innovations clusters all over the country, 7 of them in the life sciences, bringing together – the American way – the universities, the industry and the public research labs.

That’s why we have created structures in those clusters to deal more efficiently with technology transfers from public to private institutions, and create a culture of entrepreneurship and of public/private partnership

That’s why we have established the highest R&D tax credit in the world and are investing massively in innovation and technology through the investment for the future program. And this is particularly true in the life sciences.

Just to give you two examples, Arnaud Montebourg, our Minister for Industrial Renewal, was at MIT less than a month ago to present for the first time to an American audience our 34 plans for a new industrial France. Those plans focus on emerging technologies that will come to fruition or develop significantly over the next five years. They have been identified and will be supported by leading companies, and will receive more than 3.7 billion euros in public funding through the Public Investment Bank. Among the 34 plans are Medical Biotechnology, the Digital Hospital, and Medical Devices.

The other example, which I know that our Consul general has already mentioned in his opening remarks, is the “Innovation 203” World Innovation Challenge. Here we are talking about 7 strategic areas in which we are seeking projects with a more long-term impact, supported with 300 million euros from the Public Investment Bank. And among them, again, 2 sectors (personalized medicine and what we name the “silver economy”) are directly related to the life sciences.

Both initiatives are driven by public/private partnerships and are open to international cooperation; provided you have plans to develop activities in France or are able to team up with an institution that is based in France, you can get access to these resources.

So, to conclude, I would agree with Dr. Windham-Bannister when she mentioned that there is another initiative we should take together: to continue strengthening international collaborations between France and the United States, and particularly with Massachusetts, when it comes to the life sciences:

- We are already partners in one of MLSC’s first calls for proposals to finance research by French companies working with Massachusetts companies.

- We have many academic relationships, including one seed-fund with MIT, whose annual Board Meeting will take place this afternoon.

- INSERM Transfert has expressed its commitment to increasing its activities here, and I am sure that since yesterday, you have understood that when Cécile Tharaud is committed, she delivers.

- We will continue to encourage young French companies to come here through the NETVA program, and to encourage American companies to come to France through the YEI program, run annually by our Boston Consulate’s Mission for Science and Technology.

- We look forward to working together with MLSC and with all of you to enhance the relationships between French actors and the Massachusetts ecosystem.

My warmest thanks again to each and every one of you,

And Vive l’innovation!

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