French mechanical engineering sector builds itself into a global leader

Yousra Lahbabi - 05/11/14

Véronique Cuziol, project head at Ubifrance, believes that the French mechanical engineering sector shows the best of the French manufacturing: “No, not all French industries are in decline. Some sectors are successful. For example, the mechanical engineering industry.” What exactly is this stellar industry all about? Mechanical engineering firms are diverse in products and services, but broadly they service and produce valued added products for the automobile, aerospace and railway industries.

 
The French mechanical engineering industry has a turnover of 113 billion euros annually, of which 45.6 billion are exported. These figures rank sixth worldwide and third within Europe. Overall there are over 50000 companies in the industry, including a few large players (Fives, Alstom, Areva and Air Liquide) and a healthy majority of smaller companies: 95% of all firms are  SMEs and start-ups.
 
Besides the USA and China, European markets are the traditional destinations of French exports in this sector. Germany remains by far the biggest importer. Therefore it’s not surprising that a great part of French mechanical engineering companies can be found at the world’s biggest industrial fair in Germany, the Hannover Messe.
 
French companies, and in particular SMEs, have been exceptionally effective in leveraging the country’s research clusters, some of the best in the world, into innovative solutions. A great example is the Mont Blanc Industries cluster, which specializes in precision machining, mechatronics and other advanced industrial techniques. There is a collective, national interest in creating what is being called the “Factory of the Future”: disruptive investments in technologies such as energy efficiency, 3d printing, and advanced robotics that will redefine the future of manufacturing through increased efficiency and reduction in costs.
 
Some of these French start-ups are making big splashes with innovative products. For example the French Expliseat, founded in 2011, produces the world’s lightest seat while also offering an innovative and ergonomic design, the “Titanium Seat.” Expliseat has recently received certification from the FAA (Federal American Aviation Administration) and can therefore supply the US aircraft industry. 
 
Another example of a successful subsector is the textile machinery manufacturing: French firms offer extremely targeted and innovative products and an excellent customer service, as well as a highly skilled workforce.
 
The top 100 French subcontracting companies include a number of large businesses such as the LISI Group, which has a turnover of over one billion euros. There are also a myriad of smaller but nevertheless very ambitious companies such as Manoir Industries: specializing in metal forging and foundry, their objective is to become the world’s leader in the production of metals for the nuclear, oil & gas, petro-chemistry and construction sectors.
 
One must remember that France is one of the most attractive countries in Europe in terms of foreign investments, ranking 4th in the world in terms of industrial FDI. This is no surprise give that foreign investors have access to the second biggest economy in Europe, third highest hourly labour productivity, excellent infrastructure, and a central geographic position. Furthermore, France ranks second in Europe for the number of patent applications, with one in ten of these patents being the result of collaboration between a French and a foreign company.
 
Ubifrance, the French agency for export promotion, has 80 offices overseas. Its role is to help French companies in marketing their products abroad, as well assist foreign companies in finding French suppliers or partners.
 
More information about French companies : 
French exporters directory mechanical engineering 
 
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Business France is the national agency supporting the international development of the French economy, responsible for fostering export growth by French businesses, as well as promoting and facilitating international investment in France. It promotes France’s companies, business image and nationwide attractiveness as an investment location, and also runs the VIE international internship program. Founded on January 1, 2015 through a merger between UBIFRANCE and the Invest in France Agency, Business France has 1,500 personnel, both in France and in 70 countries throughout the world, who work with a network of public- and private-sector partners. For further information, please visit:  www.businessfrance.fr Consulting:  Law and regulation Market benchmarking Projects and requests for proposals Contacts : Market prospection Exhibitions and B to B meetings Technologic partnerships Communication : Press and public relations Professional advertisements Commerc

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