Can a state-owned bank be THE motor for the private economy? French businesses would say yes to this question. EUREKA national project coordinator Patrick Cornet on the Bpifrance success story and its French Tech and French Fab initiatives.
Bpifrance was created in December 2012 by bringing together Oseo, CDC Entreprises, the FSI and FSI Regions. Since then, it has become an essential partner for French companies and investors. The state-owned, privately run bank offers all the public financing tools that allow entrepreneurs to think bigger and go further. Last year, more than 80,000 businesses of all sizes, from startups to large caps, have received more than € 24 billion in investments, loans and guarantees.
First of all, Bpifrance, which is deeply rooted with its 48 branches across France, acts as a public-sector bank and finances projects that are considered to be more risky, because they are very innovative or involve SMEs. But the French member of the EUREKA network is also one of the biggest European investment funds, managing more than € 26 billion, including stakes in Orange, Peugeot and a lot of smaller companies. Finally Bpifrance stimulates export by insuring French companies and their foreign clients.
“We are clearly stimulating the rejuvenation of the French economy,” says Bpifrance CEO Nicolas Dufourcq. A recent survey shows that half of young French would like to create their own company rather than work for large companies. More and more startups emerge, particularly in biotech, medtech, fintech and renewable energy fields, stimulated by the volume of venture capital that has tripled in France in the last three years. According to CB Insights, Bpifrance is actually the world’s most active sovereign wealth fund investing in private tech companies (in terms of number of operations).
“We act as a social network of businessmen with a bank around it.”
‘At Bpifrance, we think it is not only about money,’ explains Nicolas Dufourcq, who supervises more than 2,500 employees. ‘We act as a social network of businessmen with a bank around it.’ Consulting missions, training and networking days have become an important part of the offer. Bpifrance has set up ‘accelerator-programmes’ meant to coach a group of selected CEOs, during 18 to 24 months, and help them grow their companies.
The bank was also a founding partner of the ‘French Tech’ label in 2013. Associating French startups under a single banner in the face of international competition, this red rooster logo has become very popular, for instance, at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, where France has the second largest contingent after the USA. The equivalent for industrial champions, the ‘French Fab’ and its blue rooster, has just been launched by the minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire. The high-tech industry is already growing in France, but the ‘French Fab’ initiative aims to encourage all manufacturers to innovate and modernize to win market share globally.