In 2004-2005, the French government decided to stimulate innovation in France by - among other measures - creating special clusters across the country which would promote synergies among firms, education and training, and research. Just over 60 clusters were chosen from among the applicants, in many diverse fields, ranging from aeronautics to information technologies, via biotechnologies, etc. Several of the clusters were specifically geared to the farming and food industry, such as the Fruit and Vegetables cluster at Avignon.
Michel Dodet, vice-president for international affairs of INRA (the French Institute for Agricultural Research), examines at the food sector, in particular the successful Dutch experience at Wageningen, the Netherlands' Food Valley. He first looks in detail at the origin of the Food Valley and the way it operates, then turns to the Avignon cluster, before highlighting the key factors behind the success of the Food Valley, which might be helpful in France. Finally, he discusses the limits of this experience, in particular the lack of a shared vision of the long term and the risk of emphasizing access merely to existing knowledge at the expense of investment in research (in the long run). Consequently what is needed is a judicious mix in the "ecosystem" of initial participants ready to share their strong points in order to improve their competitiveness along with the political will to intervene so as to organize and develop the resulting cluster.