National Innovation Pathway

The energy transition must address several major challenges: guaranteeing and securing access to energy for populations and organisations at an affordable, competitive cost, avoiding fuel poverty, participating in mitigating climate change and adaptation to such change, protecting human health and the environment, and offering a sustainable energy mix.

To meet these challenges, France has made a firm political commitment, through the implementation of a range of key legislative, regulatory and strategic tools, both to guiding technological and societal choices and to supporting the research and development (R&D) effort necessary to ensure a continuous improvement in existing pathways and the emergence of new pathways.

The national regulatory framework

The Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth

The aim of the Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth (LTECV) adopted in 2015 is to enable France to contribute more effectively to preventing climate disruption and to protecting the environment, and to strengthen the country’s energy independence while offering French companies and citizens access to energy at a competitive cost. The LTECV is also intended to promote sustainable economic growth and the creation of sustainable jobs that cannot be relocated.

The LTECV therefore constitutes the foundation on which the policy of innovation for ecological and energy transition can be built. The law establishes the National Energy Research Strategy (SNRE), setting the major levers in terms of RD&D to fulfill the priorities of the government in terms of energy and green-house gaz emissions, defined by:

  • The National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC), which describes the roadmap to 2050 for France for the implementation of its climate change mitigation policy, and the measures that make it possible to achieve carbon neutrality, including in innovation.
  • The Multiannual Energy Plan (MEP) to 2028, which sets the priorities for action by the public powers in relation to energy in order to ensure a successful transition towards a more effective and more simple energy system that is more diversified and therefore more resilient, with a focus on innovation.

The Law on Energy and Climate

The Law on Energy and Climate (LEC), promulgated on 9 November 2019, enshrines the concept of ecological and climatic emergency in the law and carbon neutrality for France by 2050 with a range of measures.

The transition to a low-carbon economy involves a stepping-up of energy-related research and innovation measures aimed at developing the technologies and behaviours that will promote reductions in missions, while ensuring that France can compete on future markets for low-carbon goods and services.

In other respect, the law foresees the possibility of launching specific calls for projects for innovative energy production facilities. Experimentation contracts can be defined on a case-by-case basis.

The research programing law 2021-2030

The research programming bill was initiated in early 2019 by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister and supported by the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. The law plans €25 billion additional investments to be injected in research between 2021 and 2030, which will increase the annual budget to €20 billion per year in 2030, i.e. 5 billion more than currently.

The goals of the law are manifold:

  • Bring France to the forefront of global scientific research to meet the challenges of tomorrow
  • Strengthen the attractiveness of scientific careers
  • Disseminate research in society and the economy
  • Simplify the daily life of staff and the life of laboratories

On a short term perspective, the research programming bill provides for an increase in the research budget compared to 2020 of 400 million euros from 2021, 800 million euros in 2022 and 1.2 billion euros in 2023. Hence, the combined contribution of the recovery plan and the upcoming strand of the programme investments for the future will result in an unprecedented funding effort since 1945 for the French research.

The National Energy Research Strategy

Article 183(II) of the LTECV (published in 2015) provides for the drafting of a National Energy Research Strategy (SNRE). The aim of this strategy is to identify the R&D challenges and scientific obstacles along the innovation chain in the energy sector that must be overcome and the deadlines by which this must happen so that the targets set by law can be achieved; these challenges and obstacles are also placed in their broader international context.

This strategy was finalised jointly on 27 December 2016 by the Directorate-General for Energy and Climate and the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (both of which respectively operate under the aegis of the Ministry for an Ecological Transition and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation), and will be revised in the coming years.

The SNRE represents a strategic tool for France’s research and innovation stakeholders in their efforts to facilitate the emergence of tomorrow’s energy system. Innovation will play a key role in the achievement of the targets set in the Paris Agreement, which was adopted with a view to strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change.

Response to the Covid 19 crisis – setting a recovery plan for the economic, social and ecological overhaul of the country

With the desire to amplify the efforts implemented with the support plan, The French Prime Minister presented on September 3, 2020 the plan “France Relance”, a roadmap for the economic, social and ecological recovery of the country. The allocated resources are substantial, €100 billion, of which 40% are funded by the European Union, turned towards:

  • The ecological transition;
  • An increased competitiveness of the French economy;
  • A stronger social and territorial cohesion.

To achieve these objectives, the new Program of Investments for the Future (PIA 4), consisting in the continuation of a major national program launched in 2010 to support innovation (€57 billion invested from 2010 to 2020 to enhance innovation in all sectors), will mobilize €11 billion to support the recovery plan, along 4 axis:

  • The development of innovations and green technologies (€3.4 Bn);
  • Economic resilience and sovereignty (€2.6 Bn);
  • Support higher education, research and innovation ecosystems (€2.55 Bn);
  • Support innovative companies at each stage of their development (€1.95 Bn).

The Citizen’s Convention on Climate

An unprecedented democratic exercise was carried out to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against climate change. 150 citizens chosen randomly worked for 9 months and made 149 measures that will allow to reach the targets in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, keeping in sight the spirit of social justice, indispensable to ensure social acceptance of change. On the basis of this proposal, a bill is currently being discussed in the Parliament and will reinforce many aspects of the climate policy, both transversal (education, information of consumers, mobilization of stakeholders…) or sectorial (energy, buildings, transportation, food and agriculture etc…). The draft law foresees that the National research strategy has to be compatible with the National Low carbon strategy.

Research and innovation priorities for clean energy

The French National Climate and Energy Plan sets out the national research and innovation priorities to 2030 [NECP]. We look forward to sharing our priorities in more detail with other members of MI and will share progress annually towards our National Climate and Energy Plan.

France aims to be a global leader in the energy transition, and hence is currently setting strategic and priority investments which will target high potential technology innovation sectors and will be derived in terms of so-called “Acceleration strategies” defining the key stages of development according to the maturity of the innovations, from their design to their deployment. All levers will be taken into account (funding, standardisation, research, education…)

“Zero-carbon Hydrogen” is the first validated strategy in the energy field. €7 billion will be invested, including €2 billion by 2022, in order to provide additional responses to the intermittence of renewable energies and to make France a major player worldwide in the field of carbon-free hydrogen. Several other strategies related to the energy field are currently in progress: decarbonisation of industry, bio-sourced products and bio-fuels, circular economy, advanced technologies for energy systems, batteries, decarbonized mobility. Solutions for a sustainable city and innovative buildings.