Debates on the future of industry recur at regular intervals in France. The question is asked: should we “de-industrialize”? Is there still a place for the secondary sector in the French economy? The experience reported here by Marthe de la Taille-Rivero somewhat bolsters the position of those defending the French industrial apparatus.
It actually shows how, in the North of France, companies in the textile sector –blighted for many years due to formidable competition from low-wage economies– have managed to boost their operations by building on innovation and the pooling of local skills. Through a local initiative (Clubtex), they have been able to bring together the actors in the textile sector –both with each other and with their main clients– then integrate them into a Competitiveness Cluster (UP-tex) and a European Centre for Research into Innovative Textiles (CETI). This raft of initiatives has halted the decline in the regional textile industry and enabled the companies in the sector to reposition themselves in an innovative niche, with the further addition of a cultural dimension in the form of an event –Futurotextiles– which has rapidly achieved world-wide impact. This strikes a not unwelcome note of optimism in the otherwise downbeat economic context of present-day France.