The ninth meeting of the IFA “Korean Investors Club” was held on Wednesday July 2, 2014 at the Invest in France Agency (IFA) headquarters. The event, organized in partnership with the French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCICF) and the South Korean Embassy in France, was attended by more than 60 members of the Korean business community in France.
As for the “Russian Investors Club” held earlier this year, the central theme of the seminar was innovation. The morning started with an opening speech given by Mr. Serge Boscher, Managing Director of the IFA, who stressed the convergence between the cutting edge of French innovation and the strength of Korean businesses, and made reference to Samsung’s recently established R&D center at the Sophia-Antipolis technology park (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region).
For his part, Mr. Joong-Ho Kim, President of the CCICF, welcomed France’s policy of promoting innovation, including the recent extension of France’s research tax credit to encompass expenditure by innovative new companies (JEIs).
Franco-Korean relations are of particular interest this year, as the seminar coincided with the third anniversary celebrations marking the implementation on July 1, 2011 of the free trade agreement between the European Union and South Korea, a point that was highlighted by His Excellency Mr. Hye-Min Lee, the South Korean Ambassador to France. Celebrations will also be organized soon to mark the 130 years of diplomatic relations between France and South Korea, during which businesses will have further opportunities to create closer contacts. The Ambassador expressed his desire to see an increase in Korean investments, to make France South Korea’s leading partner, and for both countries to be in a position to take full advantage of their respective economic potential.
His Excellency Mr. Hye-Min Lee, South Korean Ambassador to France
“The successful combination of France’s key strengths – including the global reputation of its R&D, its very high levels of productivity, its high-tech industries such as the nuclear or aerospace industries – with Korean manufacturing capabilities and business practices will ensure that together we are able to break into new markets.”
The first session of the seminar was opened by Mr. Benjamin Gallezot, Deputy Director General of the DGCIS at the French Ministry for the Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Affairs, who presented one of the key measures taken by France in favor of innovation: the 34 sector-based initiatives of the “New Face of Industry in France”. These initiatives “which are growing in strength and offer possibilities for co-operation between Korean and French firms”, involve 34 sectors that are “at the crossroads of innovation and industrialization” and that are destined to become part of everyday life over the next decade, such as driverless vehicles and high-performance batteries. The 34 initiatives are based on dialogue between the State, businesses and employee representatives, with a view to defining common roadmaps and providing support for such innovations.
€3.5 billion of government investments have already been made, which are expected to lead to the creation of 480,000 jobs over ten years and €45.5 billion of value added.
South Korea is the first country to have begun industrial co-operation with France, while a number of other fields in which the two countries could co-operate have already been identified.
Mr. Benjamin Gallezot
As testimony to the success of Franco-Korean partnerships, Mr. Thierry Kochersperger, Director of VATECH France, outlined the success story of his company, which specializes in the design and manufacture of radiology systems. “Innovation is the key factor that underpins our development and growth” he stated when presenting the figures behind the success of VATECH, which is now the second largest company in its sector in France.
“Even in employment law, innovative solutions can be found” commented Mr. David Jonin, a Partner from law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel, as he introduced the second part of the seminar. For example, flat-rate agreements in days worked per week or per month can be used to ensure that working time for managers and other skilled employees is counted in days, and no longer in hours, thus bypassing the issue of the 35-hour week.
Mr. Eric Lalardie from the UK firm ARM, an expert in the digital sector, gave a presentation on the subject of “working in the field of innovation in France”. In particular, he noted that France is the best global location for efficiency and productivity. ARM, which has operations in 14 countries, including three sites in France and one in South Korea, employs 3,000 people worldwide.
Mr. Eric Lalardie
Following a period set aside for discussions, Ms. Fleur Pellerin, Minister of State responsible for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, concluded the debate by presenting the key figures for France, the third most attractive European country to foreign investment according to the EY’s “European Attractiveness Survey”. She also gave an overview of the measures the government has taken to make France more attractive to foreign investment and to simplify business procedures, which are helping to drive inward investment from South Korea. The complementary nature of French and Korean companies with regard to innovation is seen as essential to maintain the momentum of the co-operation already underway.
Ms. Fleur Pellerin
Ms. Muriel Pénicaud, Chairman and CEO of the IFA, pointed out that the upcoming merger between the IFA and Ubifrance will also have a positive impact on Franco-Korean relations, enabling advances to be made on both the export and inward investment fronts.
South Korea has around forty companies currently doing business in France, where they employ more than 4,000 people. In 2013, France was the second largest recipient of job-creating investment from South Korea.