International Competition in Research and Development: French Decline


This article is published in Futuribles journal no.444, sept.-oct. 2021

While the United States has returned to normal diplomatic activity since Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House and Beijing has increasingly been using soft power to strengthen its position on the international scene, the achievement of power on a global scale depends — and will doubtless increasingly depend — on the ability of states to assert themselves scientifically and technologically. Information technologies, the conquest of space, artificial intelligence, medical research etc. are so many key future areas in which efficient investment will be required. Yet, as Pierre Papon shows, France is on a downward slope in this area. The finances devoted to R & D have been stagnating for several years now and, despite generous tax incentives, companies are no longer able to pitch themselves into international scientific competition with sufficient verve to compete with the global leaders. At a moment when the form that a post-Covid-crisis economic recovery will take is still unknown, there is an urgent need to resurrect public and private R & D efforts, to equip France with the resources to play any sort of role in scientific and technological terms, and to target the strategic sectors of the future. The diagnosis outlined in this article is a wake-up call to find a remedy for the way France has fallen behind in the field of science and to do so quickly.
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