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French Prime Minister launches new body for SMEs and innovation

France wants to create a million new businesses in the next five years, said French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the launch of a new agency for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovation. The new outfit, OSEO, comprising the French national agency f...

France wants to create a million new businesses in the next five years, said French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the launch of a new agency for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovation. The new outfit, OSEO, comprising the French national agency for innovation (ANVAR), the Developing Bank for SMEs (BDPME) and the agency for SMEs will provide entrepreneurs with an array of services, offering them easier access to the national or regional support devices for SMEs and innovation. OSEO is part of a three-pole strategy developed by the French government to increase employment through innovation and the development of SMEs. 'We are suffering from a lack of supervision and training,' said Mr Raffarin. 'We are lacking technical and scientific capacities, and often, globally, know-how in a number of SMEs. This is the occasion to modernise our networks,' added the Prime Minister. As Mr Raffarin explained, the French government aims to give priority to the knowledge society, as well as research and innovation, in a European context through a three pole strategy. The ANVAR-BDPME pole is the essential pole for SMEs and innovation, said Mr Raffarin. 'The aim is to reach all SMEs by targeting innovation in every shape or form.' The second pole is the National Research Agency, aimed at supporting both public and private research. The goal of this agency is to encourage scientific excellence and help researchers operate in private, public or mixed networks, on themes that are relevant to society. Part of the strategy of the agency, currently being developed by Research Minister François d'Aubert, is to promote scientific careers and training. Mr Raffarin therefore called on industry to recruit PhD students, as well as engineers, in order to facilitate the intermarriage between public and private research. This, along with the setting up of major projects to be carried through to the European level, is at the heart of France's research strategy, explained Mr Raffarin. Those major projects, continued Mr Raffarin, will fall within the remit of the third pole - the Agency for Industrial Innovation - the creation of which was announced by President Jacques Chirac at the beginning of the month. This agency's goal will be to contribute to the deployment of great industrial programmes, mobilising all the scientific, industrial and marketing competences that France has and wants to develop further. 'It is about choosing the fields in which France wants to have an impact at global level,' explained Mr Raffarin. 'It is not about wanting to start French projects. The agency will define, through a scientific committee, projects with the highest priority so that France can contribute to those major international projects in order to preserve our technological, industrial and scientific capacities,' added Mr Raffarin. It is thanks to strategies like these that France a strong chance of winning the dispute over where to host the ITER reactor, believes Mr Raffarin. 'If today, for Cadarache, we have an internationally credible project, it is because we have the scientific community capable of carrying this project. It is because the French scientific community is recognised; that this community can work with Germany, the UK and the US, and with researchers from all over the world, including the Japanese. Here as well we have the possibility to build, with our partners, a major global project. This is our strategy,' said Mr Raffarin. Thanks to this three pole strategy, concluded Mr Raffarin, we are well on our way to promoting employment and the creation of SMEs.

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