Mister Jacquier, what are the main attractions of the cleantech market in France for Swiss companies?
Swiss companies can participate in public contracts for cleantech in France. The market is very large. There are also private contracts; it all depends on the development strategy of the Swiss company. On the public market, we would tend to invite a Swiss company to approach a group of companies which has already answered a call for tenders or plan to do so. So it is better that the Swiss company is already known and is already integrated into the group to offer solutions that will meet the expectations of certain calls for tender. In general, many of them concern the renovation of public buildings. You should know that in France, there are 850 billion square meters to renovate in both public and private service buildings: energy, interior decoration, sound insulation, thermal insulation etc.
Tell us more about public contracts.
In public markets, there are very big projects. Like the Grand Paris Express, the largest infrastructure project in Europe since 2012-2013. It will last until 2035 and bring together all construction actors at the European and Swiss levels. Companies like Implenia, Rowa, Lombardi Group are already involved in the project. Furthermore, it’s a very long-term project, representing 35 billion euros in investments and requiring a wide variety of different business skills. Currently, contracts are being carried out in the areas of tunnel construction and civil engineering/infrastructure. The calls for tender that are coming up now concern station equipment. The Grand Paris project plans to build more than 70 stations, all underground, and will require skills in energy management, lighting, heating, elevators, escalators, interior decoration etc. This means that a large part of the Grand Paris Express will use the latest cleantech technologies, since all the water management will have to be taken care of when the stations are built. Above each station, buildings, business districts and living quarters will be built: 140 square kilometers of new buildings, as large of the city of Paris.
What about private contracts?
In the private sector, real estate developers, companies like Bouygues Immobilier or others, are looking for skills, including technological skills, sound insulation projects, for example, elevators, lighting etc. That is where the Swiss Business Hub in Paris can help Swiss companies, to identify those real estate developers. We have already done this in other infrastructure projects. We have set Swiss companies up with partners and customers they might find interesting, in order to have them recognized on the French market.
Then there is the industrial part too. Industries, particularly in the framework of Industrie du Futur, which was launched by the government in 2013, are devoting new investments to renew their production facilities. However, those investments are also especially geared towards complying with new environmental footprint legislation. So again, we are talking about water management and energy management. For example, there is a great need for electrical generation in wind power. Medium-power wind turbines are used very little in France. There is a lot of high power in offshore wind for electricity generation. There is low power for individuals and the private sector, but for industry, there is not much on offer. In any case the demand is there, and we know that there are Swiss companies working on medium-power wind that could benefit from the opportunities in this area.
If we go back to local authorities, which are public service delegation contracts – these are contracts that last from 12 to 30 years and are held by private French companies, so-called “Délégataires des service public”.
We have many needs in the area of water management: There are several million kilometers of pipes to renovate and manage to detect leaks in French water networks. Here, we advise the Swiss company to approach the representatives, the companies that have been mandated by the local authorities and the delegates of public services (DSP) to propose technical solutions that would give them, the Swiss company, the ease of entering the public market in this area. Here too we can support them by putting them in touch with companies such as Veolia, Suez, Lyonnaise des Eaux or Saur to let them know about the existence of these Swiss technological skills in water management.
How can Swiss companies benefit from these opportunities and participate in these cleantech markets in France?
THROUGH us! We can help them identify current and future public contracts. We can also then put them in touch with French companies that are already in the public markets and could benefit from Swiss companies’ skills to develop solutions and allow French delegates or representatives to offer technical solutions to their customers. On the private end, again, we can put them in touch with French real estate investors. There are also public investors in real estate, including Caisse des Dépôts. We can then also put them in touch with partners: to distribute products or develop a network of knowledge, in all aspects of home automation services in the building industry for example. As you can see, there are many ways in which we can support Swiss companies.
What are the obstacles when exporting to France? Are there cultural obstacles?
The business culture in France is simple. In fact, you just have to know how the networks are interlinked. In cleantech, we are very often faced with public procurement because it is a mainly public initiative. Take the example of smart cities. In November we are organizing an event on smart cities in Mulhouse, trilaterally with France, Switzerland and Germany, where we will offer Swiss companies the opportunity to express their technological skills. Smart cities use cross-cutting technologies: energy management, water management, air treatment, micropollutant treatment, air analysis and acoustic analysis for individuals or in the city. Or mobility, trams or cable transportation. Therefore, the smart city is a very favorable environment for the development of cleantech.
What kind of support do you offer to Swiss companies wishing to work in the French market?
We examine their business concept and evaluate whether it is compatible with the requirements of the French market. Then we propose to accompany them in the short, medium or long term, according to their communication strategy. We can provide them with a list of potential customers to contact directly or communicate for them via the official nature of the Swiss Business Hub and the Embassy, which allows us to open doors – and in any case to help them open doors to French companies seeking specific technological skills. We can also help them find distributors for solutions, products or services. In parallel, we can also actively participate in fairs, exhibitions, B2B meetings and business conventions, where we can represent Swiss companies or accompany them. Finally, we can also make specific market studies or surveys of users and customers on their behalf.