EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

‘Very bad news’: Why French tech is worried about Emmanuel Macron’s snap election

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the French Tech event at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday Feb. 20, 2023.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the French Tech event at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday Feb. 20, 2023. Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
By Pascale Davies
Published on Updated
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

French tech companies spoke to Euronews Next about their concerns about the potential outcomes of the snap election the president has called for on June 30 and July 7.

ADVERTISEMENT

Voters in France head to the polls this week to cast their ballot in the first round of a snap parliamentary election called by President Emmanuel Macron, who has championed France’s “start-up nation” since his 2017 election.

But France’s technology companies fear that a far-right or far-left majority could put the brakes on the country’s ambition to be Europe’s start-up champion and for Paris to be the city of artificial intelligence (AI).

The political uncertainty has not only rattled investors in French tech but could also stop Macron’s tech initiatives such as the French Tech Visa, which is a fast track to hire non-Schengen professionals.

A first series of opinion polls have projected that Marine Le Pen's eurosceptic National Rally (RN) party, which has a hard line against immigration, could lead the vote and be positioned to run the government with a prime minister chosen from the party. 

“We need international talent everywhere,” said Chloé Clair, CEO of the green AI company namR, who said her employees are from French-speaking North Africa and South Africa.

You can't succeed by being xenophobic.
Chloe Clair
namR

“The more diversity there is, the more we think differently, and the less our algorithms will be biased because they're made by different people, verified by different people, who themselves have a culture, a way of thinking that is not the one we were taught our in French schools,” she told Euronews Next.

Without diversity and immigration, Clair argued that Paris could not transform itself from the city of lights into the city of AI, as Macron hopes.

“France won't be able to succeed in this mission, and in any case, you can't succeed by being xenophobic,” she said. 

The tech 'slow down'

With better salaries abroad, another issue is the brain drain in France’s tech sector, said Pierre-Carl Langlais, co-founder of Pleias, which launched Common Corpus, the largest public domain dataset for training LLMs (Large Language Models).

But he said that people who have expertise in LLMs are not necessarily recognised for their expertise. 

“There's a real gap, meaning that people who graduate the top universities aren't necessarily experts in this field. 

“After all, they're potentially the ones who'll get the funding and the consideration,” he told Euronews Next, adding that these skills can be learned outside of institutions but those who may not have been to a fancy school go unnoticed. 

The Olympic rings are seen on the Eiffel Tower Friday, June 7, 2024, in Paris
The Olympic rings are seen on the Eiffel Tower Friday, June 7, 2024, in ParisAP Photo/Aurelien Morissard

But the political instability is already having an impact on tech companies even before the election begins. 

Langlais said that because the Common Corpus AI project is public and supported by France’s culture ministry, it is difficult to get visibility for the near future. 

“We're not on long-term contract, because the problem with state funding is that, on the one hand, there are huge public contracts, which are decided a long time in advance, and so the timetable is a little overwhelmed by what's going on,” he said. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Everyone has lost six months with this story.
Pierre-Carl Langlais
Pleias

“There's not much chance of a party winning a majority, I think within the next month, and that's bound to slow down a lot of projects,” he added.

French companies, not just start-ups or tech firms, may have to wait half a year until they can continue with their movements.

“French companies that are in discussions about fund-raising, takeovers, this and that say let's wait for the elections,” said Alexis Normand, CEO of carbon accounting solutions company Greenly.

“In fact, what this means is that we're waiting for September, everyone has lost six months with this story. It puts a direct hit on everyone. So it's very, very bad news,” he told Euronews Next.

ADVERTISEMENT

'Out of the race'

As well as being Europe’s tech hub, France has also made a push for the green transition. All that could also be under threat if the far right National Rally (RN) is the leading party in the French parliament. 

The party has said it would cut VAT on energy. Normand said this encourages the consumption of fossil fuels instead of speeding up the transition.

Normand is not in favour of a far-right or far-left government. 

My fear is not that we'll destroy everything but that we'll stop the acceleration altogether and be out of the race.
Maya Noel
France Digitale

“The far-left is much more favourable to environmental issues, but not necessarily more favourable to entrepreneurs. Because when you're an entrepreneur or raising money, you still need a well-functioning capital market,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Financing will be an issue for whichever party takes the majority. Macron has pushed several tax reforms to benefit tech companies and launched projects such as the national investment plan France 2030, worth €30 billion over five years.

“There are lots of ambitious deep-tech projects being created in France, but they need long-term financing. And if that funding stops, that's just as many jobs that won't be able to be created,” said Maya Noel, CEO of the lobby group France Digitale. 

“I'm not a pessimist and I'm very hopeful. And I think that today the cause has formed a beautiful ecosystem that will be resilient.

“But my fear is not that we'll destroy everything but that we'll stop the acceleration altogether and be out of the race,” she said. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Share this articleComments

You might also like