Can you introduce yourself ?
I co-manage a consulting company, Compagnum, whose expertise is the link between industry and territory. I advise industrial companies, from start-ups to mid-sized companies, on their regional development strategy. I also work with communities and state services on their industrial strategy. My office is 360 degrees. We also offer training for entrepreneurs or communities. Industry is part of territorial development, even more so today, where we are once again talking about the industrialization or reindustrialization of our country.
You are also an ambassador for the Forces Françaises de l’Industrie. What is your role?
The French Forces of Industry is a network which allows links and exchanges between industrialists, elected officials and state services. We represent the field and we raise industrial issues with public authorities.
In both cases, you are at the crossroads of industry and elected officials. What is your objective ?
My work consists of establishing a dialogue between these two worlds, to create trust, and contribute to reindustrializing our country. These two important players in economic development must talk to each other. There is mutual ignorance or insufficient knowledge. The challenges and difficulties have increased in recent years, much more than before. Manufacturers face new problems in establishing themselves, expanding, developing and recruiting, because the legal constraints are much stronger, around water, energy and transport.
What is going on between these two actors?
On the side of elected officials, or state services, there is sometimes a lack of understanding of the expectations and needs of industrialists. On the industrial side, they must understand that elected officials cannot do everything, that there are rules and legal constraints and deadlines, a timetable, to advance a file, validate a building permit for example.
“Zan is a constraint, but it has a basis.”
When you are a business manager, you also need method, that is to say, knocking on the right door the first time to save time. It is also important to learn to speak the same language. A business manager cannot address a mayor the same way he addresses an investment fund. If they don’t understand each other, they can’t do anything together.
The president of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region said that he would not follow the Zero net artificialization of land system carried out by the Climate and Resilience law. He says he does not want to prevent industrial establishments, particularly in rural areas. What do you think ?
Zan is a constraint, but it has a basis. This law aims to preserve biodiversity, agricultural land and prevent the artificialization of soils, causing flooding and the formation of heat islands. The concern is that this law, which will lead to an end to the artificialization of land by 2050, applies in the same way to all territories, without taking into account their specificity. There are exceptions, but these make this law even less readable. It’s a subject, as they say, but this constraint imposed by the Zan, even if it is tense, it is necessary, because it responds to important ecological and climatic issues. And it does not prevent the establishment of factories.
How to resolve the situation?
You need to change software. Think and see today’s factory differently. It is no longer a large building, on one level, which is installed on vacant land or on former agricultural land. A factory, from now on, is a more vertical factory, or a factory inside an already existing building, sometimes in the city center, or small multi-local factories rather than a huge site. This change must take place in all minds, those of entrepreneurs, elected officials and citizens. I am a big reader of Zola. Unfortunately, he is no longer there, to describe to us what a factory is today which no longer has anything to do with those of the 19e century. Zan is here to accelerate this software change.
Is the system put in place by the government to offer turnkey industrial sites a suitable response to the Zan?
Indeed. These sites benefit from regulatory studies (archaeological, pollution, etc.) carried out in anticipation of industrial establishment. They save time, reducing it from 17 to just 9 months for an installation, between the request and the laying of the first stone. This system also makes it possible to reduce financial and temporal risk for the company. The State and territories are expanding the number of turnkey sites, such as brownfields, by preparing the sites, in particular by decontaminating them.
“From now on, an elected official must look at the number of jobs per square meter built, and not just the number of jobs.”
The green industry law also allows a company that discovers that its site has not been decontaminated by the former owner to take action against him. In France we have between 80,000 and 120,000 hectares of wasteland, but all this land will not be converted solely into sites for industry. Because it is not suitable for this use, or because communities need to build housing and offices. It’s up to communities to know what they want to do with it.
Concretely, what does this imply?
Industrial projects must make sense in the areas where they want to establish themselves. From now on, an elected official must look at the number of jobs per square meter built, and no longer just the number of jobs. He must look at his energy consumption per square meter, the presence of solar panels, the creation of water-permeable parking lots, etc. For their part, entrepreneurs have an interest in presenting and designing their project differently.
That’s to say ?
It is important to understand that an elected official will not think about this project in isolation, but will integrate the issues of housing, transport and public services. Beyond this observation, we observe that elected officials are increasingly demanding about the nature of the projects they will accept. They will look at whether their territory has the resources to commit to this implementation: land resources, water resources, local energy resources, local talent resources, training, etc. They will also look at the company’s carbon footprint, its use of recycled material, and its suitability for local industrial sectors which it reinforces or complements.
The Green Industry Law was enacted at the end of October. What advances does it propose?
The Green Industry Act has three main objectives. The first: to make life easier for elected officials and industrialists, by simplifying implementation procedures and facilitating access to financing for industrialists. The second: strengthen exchanges between industrial players and communities around public procurement. If we want to reindustrialize quickly, we need the territories or state services to be able to buy French industry. And this, without being in contradiction with European laws.
“Everyone must do their own water diagnosis, just as we do our carbon footprint”
This is now possible thanks to a European environmental excellence label which makes it possible to insert an environmental criterion into public contracts. This mechanically allows us to favor made in France because the transport criterion is particularly important. Finally, the third: clarifying what green industry is, precisely with this EEE label (European environmental excellence). However, it will be necessary to look at the effective landing of this law on the territories and quickly a type of governance which allows this law to be followed by effects on the territories.
What exactly does the term green industry cover?
A few years ago, this expression had the value of an oxymoron, meaning that these two terms could not be placed next to each other. Today, it is accepted. The green dimension covers the ecological dimension, but not only that. It also means a more circular, more inclusive, more ecosystem-based industry. It is an industry which relies better on the specific assets of a territory, and which makes this industry more efficient economically and environmentally. A green industry is also an industry capable of pooling its equipment, its energy and water needs and sharing them at the territorial level.
Is the question of water as important to you as that of energy?
Traditionally, the industry did not raise the issue of water. The series of droughts that we have experienced in recent years has put the issue of water conservation on everyone’s agenda. Everyone must do their own water diagnosis, just as they do their carbon footprint. Territories must be perfectly aware of their available resources, whether for citizens or for industrialists. For their part, manufacturers must measure their consumption and see where and how to make savings. We must innovate to reduce our net water consumption. On the water, we have a lot of room to maneuver. After this diagnostic stage, elected officials and industrialists can talk about implementation. The issue of water resources is today at the heart of industrial strategy.
Is France behind Germany in terms of industry’s share of GDP, 16% compared to 26%? President Emmanuel Macron’s ambition is to gain 5 points in ten years. What are the challenges of reindustrialization?
We are today at the level of Greece, and 5 points below the European average. It is necessary to be ambitious. Because reindustrialization is not just about remanufacturing doliprane in France. It means preserving our industrial sovereignty, our independence, our jobs, our trade balance, and it is also a model of social and territorial cohesion. We sorely need it at the moment when our model of social cohesion is in great pain.