The “competitiveness clusters” (pôles de competitivité) initiative, instituted in 2004 with an allocation of €1.5 billion ($1.85 billion) to be spent by the end of 2008, was established in order to develop the commercial potential of innovation. Of this €1.5 billion, €732 million was to be distributed to R&D for projects, €575 million was to increase funding from the National Research Agency and €160 million was for paying tax and national insurance requirements for researchers. Sixty-seven clusters were accepted in 2005 and there are now 71 clusters. So far, the clusters initiative has accepted 332 projects and invested €520 million in these projects. All of the projects involve technologies that are expected to be quickly brought to market. According to estimates, up to 6,000 researchers are working on projects funded by the initiative. The Lyons-based biotechnology cluster Lyonbiopole and Minalogic, a microelectronics and nanotechnology cluster located in the Rhône-Alpes region, are two of six clusters deemed “world class” by the government. The government will begin a review process of the clusters this month, and proposals for follow-on funding are expected to be discussed in Parliament by next summer. Source: Financial Times

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