French unicorns have been on the rise. In 2017, there were only 3 such companies, a.k.a. startups that are valued at more than €1 billion. Within four years, as of October 14th 2021, that number has shot up to 19. The United Kingdom is still well ahead, with 31 unicorns under its belt. However, France now ranks second on the list of the largest start-up ecosystems in Europe, on par with Germany.
Strong state support has been key to this rapid evolution, as the French government was quick to disburse the funding necessary for startup growth.
However, while financially supporting start-ups clearly delivered, talent shortage remains a real challenge. In a highly competitive international environment, France still lacks a professional training that is fit for the new economy. The lack of diversity in talent and the gap between research and entrepreneurship further reduce the country’s capacity to innovate. As a key driver of growth, investment in human capital must become a priority for France if it wants to strengthen its innovation ecosystem.
In partnership with Accenture, Institut Montaigne conducted extensive data collection across 10 countries, and more than 50 interviews with private actors and French and international experts. As a result, we have put forward nine recommendations for how to make France a key player in European innovation.