France is strong in industrial sectors, including telecoms, aerospace and defence, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and automobile production. As a leading exponent of nuclear energy, it has developed specialised contamination control knowhow. Per capita spending on medicines and healthcare is among the highest in Europe and it ranks among the top five largest medical device markets in the world. France is a large r&d spender, focused around innovation clusters dedicated to various industry sectors.
France has enjoyed strong support for scientific research facilities during Sarkozy’s tenure, which makes it a large market for cleanroom supplies, reports Susan Birks.
With a population of approximately 64 million, France is the world’s fifth largest economy by nominal figures and the second largest economy in Europe behind Germany, according to Wikipedia. France’s economy entered the current recession later than some parts of Europe, but its recent growth rates are now behind those of some of its neighbours and its triple A credit rating was recently downgraded.
While President Sarkozy has been centre stage of the political manoeuvring over the Euro debt crisis, he has struggled to introduce much needed measures at home that include a constitutional reform to put a ceiling on deficits and implement cuts in spending. The country’s socialist-leaning labour laws are relatively costly and lack the flexibility that is desirable for industries in today’s rapidly changing market. However, France has good productivity rates, a qualified workforce, strong infrastructure and good public services.
As one of the largest countries in Europe (674,843 km2), France is a major agricultural exporter – the world’s second largest – but it is strong in other areas too. Leading industrial sectors include telecoms, aerospace and defence, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and automobile production.
As a consequence of its nuclear energy activities, the country has developed specialised contamination control knowhow and many of the contamination control suppliers to this sector have expanded into other cleanroom sectors
A leading exponent of nuclear energy and the home of global energy giants Areva, EDF and GDF Suez, France’s nuclear power output now accounts for about 78% of the country’s electricity production. This sector is, however, experiencing reverberations from the fallout of Japan’s nuclear disaster brought about by the recent earthquake. As a result, France’s nuclear-safety watchdog has ordered immediate upgrades to nuclear reactors to guard against natural disasters, which EDF said could require €10bn (£8.3bn) in additional costs. The agency wants EDF, which operates France’s nuclear plants, and nuclear-engineering group Areva to outline measures that would reinforce “core” safety at its reactors.
As a consequence of its nuclear energy activities, the country has developed specialised contamination control knowhow and over the past few decades many of the associated contamination control suppliers to this sector have expanded into other cleanroom sectors. One of the biggest is Axima Concept – part of the energy services branch of the GDF Suez group.
The Process Industries Department of Axima Concept works in the nuclear and other cleanroom industries offering turnkey solutions and services for the control of environmental processes. Formerly Omega Concept, in 2011 it joined with Axima Seitha and now has 750 employees and a €130m (£108m) turnover that breaks down into 30% pharma, biotech and hospitals; 30% nuclear; 20% microelectronics; and 20% agrifood industries and other.
The pharma and biotech sectors are also large and France’s per capita spending on medicines is one of the highest within Europe, despite measures to reduce its historically high levels of drug consumption. This stems from the fact that French patients pay relatively little for their medicines. The majority of costs are met by statutory health insurance, backed up by supplementary health insurance, which is held by more than 90% of the population. France has a large number of well-funded hospitals, but the high level of healthcare expenditure and the substantial health deficit are major concerns that have prompted a series of reform programmes and cost-containment measures.
France has one of the lowest rates of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in Europe with an average rate of 4.9%
According to a 2011 study by Le Figaro covering the country’s 1,256 public and private hospitals, France has one of the lowest rates of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in Europe with an average rate of 4.9%. It said the low rates of HAIs are being maintained even in large University Hospitals that are more difficult to manage due to their size and complexity.
Various disinfection companies are helping with this, including Airinspace. Born out of the space research programme, Airinspace provides optimised solutions for hospital decontamination such as mobile air decontamination units, and it has recently participated in a plan against the aspergillus problem in Marseille’s hospitals.
According to market researcher Espicom, the French pharmaceutical market is also one of the world’s largest. It says growth is expected to be moderate between 2011 and 2016, with government cost-containment programmes exerting downward pressure on reimbursable products.
Investment, however, is ongoing. Roche announced last summer that it was setting up an r&d institute in France to be led by the company’s Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) unit. It will carry out collaborative translational research and build partnerships with French academic centres.
Another drug giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) began construction in 2009 of a €500m (£417m) vaccine manufacturing plant at St-Amand-Les-Eaux. It will accommodate a liquid plant for filling syringes and vials along with quality control laboratories. When up and running, the new manufacturing plant will increase GSK’s production of paediatric and adult vaccines to more than 300 million doses.
France ranks among the top five largest medical device markets in the world. Espicom estimates consumption of medical equipment and supplies was US$8.8bn (£5.7bn) in 2011, equal to $140 (£91) per capita. New measures have recently been taken to control spending on medical devices, similar to those already in force for pharmaceuticals. For this reason, the medical market is likely to see only moderate growth over the next five years.
France is a large r&d spender and innovation clusters sit at the heart of the country’s efforts to attract international investment. President Sarkozy, perceived as having an obsession with building France’s industrial base, is in support of such clusters. The life science and healthcare clusters are well supported by a large number of research institutions and teaching hospitals.
For example, Nord France Invest is the third largest cluster in France for healthcare and biotech. It boasts more than 800 companies with a total €6.5bn (£5.4bn) turnover. It includes more than 300 research laboratories and academic research teams.
Within this region, the Eurasanté Bio-Business Park covers more than 120 acres dedicated entirely to healthcare-related activities. It comprises seven hospitals, 12,000 healthcare professionals, and 120 medical device, biotech, pharmaceutical and nutrition companies employing in excess of 2,500 people. It has paved the way for the development of Lille as a biotech, nutrition and healthcare “hotspot” in Europe.
Nord France Invest is the third largest cluster in France for healthcare and biotech, boasting more than 800 companies and more than 300 research laboratories and academic research teams
Other regional clusters include: Eurobiomed in the PACA Languedoc/ Roussillon region; LyonBioPole in the Rhône-Alpes; Alsace Biovalley and Innovations Thérapeutiques in the Alsace area; Cancer-Bio-Health based within the Midi-Pyrénées and Limousin region; Medicen in the Paris district; Atlanpole Biothérapies in the Pays de Loire region; Nutrition Healthcare Longevity Cluster near Lille; Vitagora, the Taste-Nutrition-Health Cluster (Bourgogne and Franche-Comte region); Cosmetic Valley of the Ile de France, Centre and Haute-Normandie regions; and Prod’Innov in Bordeaux.
France’s microelectronics sector is centred on Grenoble. This sector has recently benefited from a new alliance between STMicroelectronics, IBM and CEA (a French government-funded technological research organisation). The companies are involved in Nano 2012, a programme commonly called Crolles3, which results from a €3.6bn (£3bn) investment from the companies and is expected to create 650 new jobs. The goal of the project is to make the Grenoble area a world centre for the development of 32nm and 22nm CMOS technologies.
Grenoble’s Minatec micro- and nano-technologies innovation campus brings such companies together on a single 20-hectare site that houses 2,400 researchers, 1,200 students and 600 industrial and technology-transfer professionals in 70,000m2 of workspace, including 10,000m2 of cleanrooms. With an annual consolidated operating budget of €300m (£250m), including €50m (£42m) in investment, its research members include Leti, INAC, FMNT.
Leti, an applied research centre for microelectronics, has recently signed a two-year agreement with CEA and Entegris to study cross-molecular contamination to and from semiconductor wafers and containers. Entegris is a provider of products and materials used in high tech manufacturing.
Silicon plaque 300mm with 3D circuits
Source: L. Godart/CEA, Grenoble
According to Leti, the chip industry’s need for increased device performance has spurred the introduction of new materials, while the need to improve yield has led to new methodologies for wafer production. But new materials introduce new contamination issues that must be managed and avoided. New methodologies will also lead to new containers and new approaches for cleaning and managing them.
Leti says airborne molecular contaminants as well as cross-contamination issues emerging from the interaction between the cleanroom environment, the process tool mini-environment, the wafer-container system and the pod-mask system must be addressed. It will therefore be crucial to have the appropriate methodologies to understand the physics and chemistry behind the contamination process.
Leti’s 8,000m2 cleanroom facilities with 200mm and 300mm pilot lines, used for advanced development at the 32nm node, meet the conditions for conducting contamination studies in production conditions.
The Grenoble-Isère region is also home to some of the world’s most powerful scientific instruments and institutions
“This project is aligned with our roadmaps on the development of new methodologies analysis related to the study of all aspects of contamination in the semiconductor- production environment,” said Narciso Gambacorti, CEA-Leti programme manager. Leti will contribute its knowhow on contamination analysis, while Entegris will have the opportunity to test new polymer materials and new carrier designs in Leti’s production-like environment.
The Grenoble-Isère region is also home to some of the world’s most powerful scientific instruments and institutions such as the European Synchroton Radiation facility, the Institut Laue Langevin and a branch of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. It also boasts university research centres carrying out basic and clinical research in association with CEA, CNRS, Ibsern and Université Joseph Fourier.
Accounting, directly and indirectly, for a quarter of the national workforce, vehicle manufacturing has traditionally been a key French industry sector. The country is home to two global auto giants, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault. But the economic slowdown expected in Europe and Asian competition have hit France’s car industry.
The automotive sector has historiclly been the number one r&d investor in France, with a €4.5bn (£3.75bn) expenditure in 2008, according to CCFA, the French Automotive Manufacturers Committee. As cars become more high tech, more components will require cleanroom assembly and France is going full throttle on developing electric cars. The government recently announced a joint order for 50,000 electric vehicles, which several major groups have signed up to (Air France, Areva, Bouygues, EDF, La Poste, etc).
As cars become more high tech, more components will require cleanroom assembly and France is going full throttle on developing electric cars
Renault, CEA and Nissan are also building a plant outside Paris that will have the capacity to produce between 100,000 and 350,000 batteries a year.
France has three innovation clusters devoted entirely to electric vehicles: Mobility and Advanced Transport in the Poitou-Charentes region, Mov’eo in Normandy, and Vehicles for the Future in Mulhouse, Alsace. Daimler, meanwhile, has selected its Lorraine (Eastern France) site for production of the electric “smart for two” model.
No up-to-date statistics are available on the size of France’s cleanroom market but the country’s strong r&d and advanced industrial base suggest it will be one of the largest in Europe. In terms of specialist associations the sector is served by ASPEC (Association for the Prevention and Study of Contamination) and A3P, which covers pharmaceuticals and biotech process control.