Despite the Pandemic, Tech Innovation is Thriving in France

As I depart from France after a phenomenal Unveiled Paris – one of my perennial favorites – I wanted to share some thoughts on the innovation we’re seeing in one of Europe’s most dynamic capitals.
In short: In less than a decade, France has transformed its technology ecosystem to become a premier global hub for investment. And based on the innovations we’ve seen at CES®, French innovators are just getting started.
In many ways, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2013, French startups raised $600 million to finance their growth. In 2019 that number reached $4.3 billion and jumped to $5.4 billion in 2020 even amid a global pandemic. Surveys have shown that more than a third of French people want to start their own businesses, and hundreds of thousands of them do so each year. As of 2021, more than a dozen of those startups have reached “unicorn” status with valuations greater than $1 billion, up from just a handful in total only a few years ago.
None of this surprises me. I’ve been travelling to France for more than two decades, and I’m constantly blown away by ways that France’s incredible history and culture are harnessed to drive the new and innovative. We’ve also seen the fruits of this innovation closer to home at the CES, the most influential tech event in the world. France consistently delivers the largest delegation of startups showcased at our Eureka Park – some 300 in 2021 – and, earlier this year, French companies took home the most CES Innovation Awards of any European country.
This success is thanks in large part to significant investments by the French government in France’s technology innovation ecosystem. In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to invest €5bn of capital into tech companies over the following three years. The government launched a new tech visa the same year to attract talent to French startups. In the midst of the pandemic, the French government doubled down, announcing an additional €7 billion in stimulus for the digital economy – including €3.7 billion to reinforce startup financing.
French startups have also been remarkably successful in pivoting during a period of historic disruption. The pandemic fundamentally changed the relationship that all of us have with technology, creating new opportunities for companies able to lean into rapidly shifting consumer trends and preferences. Nearly 20% of French startups reported shifting their business models in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What did this innovation look like? Many of the 300-plus French startups featured at CES 2021 – our first all-digital convention – debuted new products specifically tailored to the new world of work, learning and virtual connections. HAP2U unveiled new haptic feedback technology for smartphones that allows users to "touch" and "feel" products on a phone screen. Jooxter showcased a workplace management tool that allows people to find workspaces at any time and reconnect with colleagues. And as the pandemic changed our relationship to food and nutrition, Myfood offered smart plant containers and greenhouses that support individual cultivation of vegetables. From digital healthcare technology and e-commerce to AI, French tech innovators stepped up to meet the needs not just of French citizens, but of people around the globe.
Of course, French technology didn’t just get us through the pandemic; it is also creating a better world on the other side. CES 2022 will feature exhibitors like Mentalista, whose groundbreaking technology to translate brain activity into changes in the physical world, and VideowindoW with display technology that can transform any glass surface into a glare-controlled transparent display. Their pioneering work is making technology more accessible and more impactful for millions. 
As the leader of the Consumer Technology Association, it’s tech like this that gets me excited for the future of innovation in our industry. When you bring tech innovators together, you don’t just create something new; you create something extraordinary. And French startups are leading the way.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) ®, North America’s largest technology trade association and the owner and producer of CES®. He is the New York Times best-selling author of Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation.

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