Ten years of French Tech at CES: Business France takes stock and looks to the future

L’Usine Digitale: What results after ten years of bringing French start-ups to CES?

Didier Boulogne: In 2013 there were about fifteen companies. Today the red rooster is known in all tech fairs around the world. Even the organizers congratulate us. If there is one state-backed brand that has been successful, it’s French Tech. And that is obviously explained by the ecosystem, beyond the brand itself. There are real projects, real start-ups that are recognized by VCs and major clients.

The CES remains an essential step in 2023?

Yes, it’s the right showcase to show a product, an idea, an innovation. In early stage, this remains the great reference. And it’s useful both for meeting American, English, German and other contractors, but also for seeing what others are doing around the world. This allows companies to benchmark, which is very important.

Has the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic faded?

The 2022 edition was still mixed, even if we had 135 companies on Eurekapark and 15 for the Automotive part. But for 2023, we have more than 170 French start-ups in Eureka Park, 16 companies at the Convention Center in the Automotive section, and 30 start-ups in learning expedition. We are back to the pre-Covid level. In terms of themes, we are on current trends, with a lot of artificial intelligence, solutions for health and well-being, and obviously for environmental transition.

The economic context has nevertheless hardened this year, how do you feel about the French ecosystem?

We had an excellent year in 2021, and in 2022 we are limiting damage. The global environment is complicated indeed, and even if Tech is less impacted than other sectors such as automotive or aeronautics, we are suffering the repercussions. So we have put things in place to be resilient. Be that as it may, the export bet is a winner for our start-ups, the wrong choice would be to stay inward-looking and not quickly tackle the international market. Because a Brazilian or Australian start-up could grow and take the place.

And on the side of China ?

It seems to be slacking off a bit, but we’re very handicapped on China. We couldn’t do anything there this year. The pavilions planned have been canceled or have been operated at a minimum. It also sells few industrial goods with high added value, and less and less about Tech.

In return, doesn’t their confinement represent an opportunity to impose our champions on the rest of the world?

Yes, this can be an opportunity for French Tech, especially for the creation of European giants. We see the unicorns which are becoming more and more numerous, but on the capitalization at 50 billion euros there is still no one. The solution is at European level.

The problem remains to be able to grow while maintaining a European identity…

This is why the European scale, and not just the national one, is essential. On the side of American venture capitalists, in 2021 and 2022 they were investing in us without asking for the physical transfer of companies to Silicon Valley, which was a very positive change compared to the past. This was in particular in response to the problem of the lack of talent. However, this may change with the IRA. [Inflation Reduction Act, loi passée en août aux Etats-Unis, ndlr]. This worries us in terms of the attractiveness and positioning of production units on strategic goods.

Precisely, do you have any projects in terms of reindustrialisation? Start-ups with “hardware” projects have historically not been favored in France…

We are working on the subject, and we are modeled on the logic of France 2030. The same goes for the projection of companies and technologies internationally through trade fairs or booster programs. We have acceleration programs that will be deployed almost everywhere in 2023. And we are impatiently awaiting the government’s export plan, which we have fed upstream. We are combative in an environment that moves very quickly. If we remain nimble, we will be able to pull out of the game.

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Ten years of French Tech at CES: Business France takes stock and looks to the future

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