Archive for the ‘France’ Category

St. Paul de Vence – a globalised AND localised artistic community

March 7, 2013

Nestled in the foothills of the Alps-Maritime, some fifteen minutes by car from the French Riviera, lies the ancient walled village of St Paul de Vence.

Located on a rocky promontory, the former Roman garrison site dates back 2,000 years and is spread over two acres – comprising a chapel, cemetery, chateau, homes and galleries. Narrow cobbled laneways lead tourists to sculptures, museums and art and craft stores. And overlooking the distant Mediterranean the hills and valleys around St Paul are covered with olive groves, flowers and vines just as they were centuries ago.

Artists began frequenting St Paul in the 1920s attracted by the village’s brown stone, colourful rolling hills and rich intense light. The trailblazers were Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy and Chaim Soutine. They were later followed by Picasso, Fernand Leger, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse who was based at Vence a few kilometres away. Through the twentieth century actors, writers and artists made St Paul into a bubbling cultural centre. The 1950s and 60s were the village’s golden age when film making put it on the international stage as world famous directors and actors were attracted by the Victorine film studio and the proximity to Cannes Film Festival.

Today there are some 25 galleries displaying art works ranging from modern through contemporary, fringe and naïve across all forms including traditional painting, sculpture, textiles, jewellery and plastics along with four museums.

What attracted me to visit St Paul was a suggestion that this artistic enclave owes its success to government funding, that it seeded the establishment of this thriving art community. So I set out to investigate.

Talking to several shop owners who had been there for decades, all looked at me aghast at the suggestion of government money. Non, non, non! They originally came because St Paul offered the scenery and light, they stayed because their work became popular – there were no handouts then and there are no handouts now! “We pay commercial rents for our shops and get no government help’ was the common view.

Today there are only a handful of local painters, and they haven’t achieved the recognition of their predecessors. The art is now sourced from all over Europe. As one shop owner said, art is a specialised business, we operate in a particular segment and we have to cater to an international market which is constantly changing and evolving, we cannot just keep stocking what was popular last year or the year before, we have to stay abreast of changing tastes, we have to know our market intimately and continually adjust to it. There can be no loyalty to any local artist, not if we want to survive.

Contributed by Peter Kittler (Canberra), a consultant to the Cockatoo Network –

Collaboration – with the support of the tax system

October 18, 2011

In our experience, the best outcomes in regional and business development result from people clicking with other people. They find others with the same passion and view of the world – agendas develop from there.

 When these relationships develop across international borders, the results can be particularly rewarding. Accordingly, over the last decade, the Cockatoo Network has put lots of economic development professionals in face-to-face contact with their international counterparts.

However local councils and development agencies rarely fund their ED professionals to undertake such networking because of likely criticism about taxpayer-funded junkets. Similarly, a lot of federal and state programs specifically exclude expenditure on international foreign travel.

 Well we recently sought the advice of a nice lady at the Australian Tax Office. After describing the work we do in identifying leading edge industry innovation, we explained that we’d uncovered the Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster (see below) and that we’re looking for the ATO to allow our members to claim collaboration with that cluster as a personal income tax deduction.

 There was silence. So we further explained that most people find it difficult to separate work from leisure, and it’s no different while on holiday. In this case, a Cockatoo member might, while his/her spouse is shopping inCopenhagen) be comparing notes with local cleantech experts and inspecting wind turbines. Or a few days later our member might be in Saint-Paul (near Nice) getting a guided tour by a local council staffer of the artists’ colony, asking lots of questions, writing a report for the Creative Arts Committee back home. Our intrepid member might spend 30% of his/her trip on work-related activities and should thus be eligible to claim 30% of travel and accommodation expenses as a tax deduction.

To our delight, the Tax Department lady agreed subject to evidence that the work had been planned and the proper recording of the work undertaken.

 We would surmise that the tax systems in other countries are similarly geared to allowing such deductions. If they are, this might be a great way to trigger more cross-border collaboration!

Projets grandes en Paris

January 18, 2011

Europe focuses less on new, zero-carbon proto-villages – though these are happening – than on reworking the existing metropolis.

And the most exciting is Paris. It has a history of grand projects, most memorably Mitterrand’s, which included I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid, Jean Nouvel’s Arab Institute, Carlos Ott’s Opera de la Bastille, Bernard Tschumi’s La Villette and Gae Aulenti’s Musee d’Orsay. But they were buildings – classic political point-at-ables. What Paris proposes now, under (of all people) Nicolas Sarkozy, is both more sophisticated and more significant.

But people didn’t expect urbanism from Napoleon either, who (with Baron Haussmann) so transformed Paris as to make it not only the model for Europe but the reason Paris withstood the mid-century urge to sprawl. Fast-forward to Sarkozy. A remarkable speech in 2007, just four months post-election, called for a complete “rethink” of the city.

This grand-scale project was “nothing like a classic urban design competition”.

Rather, it was “a collective effort to understand what cities are” and to “save our planet from imminent destruction”.

So began Le Grand Paris, a study of post-Kyoto Paris. The 10 architect-led teams included artists, poets, philosophers, sociologists, the entire rive gauche racaille). Rather than competing, they were asked to pool their imagined Parisian futures. This was big. They weren’t just French. Not just French men. But (mostly) French male architects – that’s a triple-whammy ego-load. We’re talking Jean Nouvel, Roland Castro, MVRDV, Richard Rogers and the like. Yet they did it, and in a manner that let Sarkozy applaud their “advice, wisdom and humility”.

And there is agreement to co-operate in a masterplan with €25 billion ($33 billion) backing, just for stage one.
Sarkozy insists it is time for collective action. He proposes new networks of rail and water transport to support a polycentric city, new governance regimes, a mix of social housing, 10 major new parks and building over the Peripherique. Most significantly of all, he also proposes to increase density, building 70,000 new dwellings a year within the existing footprint, with a green belt to stop sprawl.

Source: Elizabeth Farrelly, SMH

Organising Local Economic Development – the role of development agencies and companies’

September 13, 2010

This significant report (493 pages) was recently completed by an OECD study team.

It’s the first such international study, drawing on 16 global case studies. The sections on the UK agencies sit oddly with the news that the UK Government is winding them back. In any case, it has an interesting section identifying principles for how such agencies should operate. Two that jumped out are:

 The need to aggregate otherwise separate interventions to add value. The report observes that ‘officers are often subject to fragmentation of effort due to the multiplicity of funding streams and policy agencies’. The solution offered is for development agencies to ‘aggregate otherwise disparate efforts, therein overcoming coordination failures and information asymmetries.’ In other words, knock a few heads together!

 The ability to achieve the confidence of external investors. The report argues that this is critical in local economies maintaining their market position. This is a rather charitable observation because the economies of many rural regions are slipping vis-à-vis their urban competitors.

Hard copy is $US182 at

The FIVE discovery skills (BEST PRACTICE)

May 9, 2010


A major new study involving 3,500 executives has highlighted the key skills that innovative and creative entrepreneurs need to develop. The research into disruptive innovation by INSEAD professor Hal Gregersen, Jeffrey Dyer (Brigham Young) and Clayton Christensen (Harvard) outlines five ‘discovery’ skills.

1. Associating – creative entrepreneurs ‘connect the dots’ to make unexpected connections. They combine pieces of what may seem disparate pieces of information until “surprise – you’ve got this innovative new idea.” Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was interested in calligraphy and this eventually led to his company producing user-friendly, graphics-based Macs.

2. Observing – some of the most innovative entrepreneurs are “intense observers.” Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, got the idea for Quicken software by watching really carefully in terms of how his wife was very frustrated doing their finances.

3. Experimenting – when Jeff Bezos, founder of internet retailer Amazon, was growing up, he used to spend time on his grandfather’s farm in the summer. When machinery broke down, grandfather would try to fix it himself, with some help from Jeff. They would “experiment, trying this and that, until it would finally work again.” If the animals on the farm got sick, his grandparents wouldn’t call the vet, but rather experiment and try to fix the problem themselves. So Jeff grew up with that kind of attitude and mindset. 

4. Questioning – We can be observing the world or experimenting, “but if I have no questions in my mind, I’m pretty unlikely to get any observations or insights.” Gregersen says. “And this kind of questioning attitude and mentality is just rampant in these folks.”

5. Networking – Innovators are intentional about finding diverse people who are just the opposites of who they are, that they talk to, to get ideas that seriously challenge their own. Creative and innovative entrepreneurs look for people who are “completely different in terms of perspective” and regularly discuss ideas and options with them “to get divergent viewpoints.”

The five skills, Gregersen says, are ‘a habit, a practice, a way of life’ for innovators. “We each have unique, fixed physical DNA, but in terms of creativity, we each have a unique set of learnable skills that we rely on in order to get to the ideas that will give us some insight.”

Rhine and Paris are tops for IT

March 25, 2010

Germany’s Rhine-Main-Neckar region is Europe’s “Silicon Valley”, and the Paris region is ranked second, ahead of South East England. The United Kingdom has three regions in the top ten. 

 Truffle Capital has published its “Truffle 100 European Clusters” ranking of Europe’s top 42 regions for the software industry. This mapping is based on a survey undertaken with support of Viviane Reding (EC Commissioner) in collaboration with analysts CXP and the “Top 100 Research Foundation”.

 “It is a recent trend for the European Union to define Europe as regions and not as countries,” CEO and co-founder of Truffle Capital, Bernard-Louis Roques told IT Europa. “So we discussed with different political partners and software companies to know how Europe was doing compared to other clusters such as the Silicon Valley and the Boston area.”

 The four flagships are Rhine-Main-Neckar in Germany (€12.5bn revenue), then Paris region (Ile-de-France), (€2.5bn), third is South-East England (€1.9bn) and fourth is North-East England (€1.4bn).

 “That Ile-de-France is the second European region isn’t surprising, because France is a country extremely centralised, where everything happens in Paris,” explained Roques, “but a lot of French companies have been acquired in the last two years, representing about €1.5bn,” such as GL Trade (French No. 4) bought by Sunguard, Ilog (No. 5) bought by IBM, Viveo (No. 13) bought in December by a Swiss company, or Business Objects also in the Paris region, that represented about €1bn that was bought by SAP. And that explains also why “the Rhine-Main-Neckar region is growing its lead,” he continues. “This is mainly due to acquisitions by German companies, such as Software AG or SAP.”

contributed by Graeme Vickery, OECD, Paris

Networking – the pros and cons

July 16, 2009

Networking is not all that it’s cracked up to be – in fact it can even be downright harmful, says Martin Gargiulo, associate professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD

“If your network is composed of people like you, people who all talk to each other – the literature calls it a “dense” network – you’re pretty sure you understand what’s going on in the rest of the organisation, but in fact you’re recycling the same information … The illusion of multiple views confirms your own views.

But, at some point, you find to your surprise that what you thought was obvious to everybody, is only obvious to you and the people you talk to.”

 Strong versus weak ties: One key to making networking work for you, according to Gargiulo, is to differentiate between what network scholars call “strong ties” and “weak ties”. “I like to use the metaphor that networks are like electrical wires. The thicker the wire, the more power it carries – the more you can help people, the more people will be willing to invest time and energy in helping you out.”

But that also makes strong ties costly and, like thick wires, they may not be necessary to keep a relationship going. Gargiulo cautions against having a wide network because maintaining all those relationships detract from the ones that truly matter. He recommends distilling one’s network to a core group of “between 20 and 30 …and sometimes even smaller; 15 or 20” depending on how sociable the person is. These people may change over time, but there’s always a core network that matters, and you should nurture those ties.

Contributed by INSEAD, Paris

Baccarat jewelry cluster (BEST PRACTICE)

June 18, 2009

Baccarat is three things – a card game, a company manufacturing crystal, and a town in France.

Hervé Novelli, French Secretary of State for Trade, Crafts and SMEs, has initiated work to set up a cluster to promote the jewelry trades in Baccarat, in the Meurthe-Moselle area – 300km due east of Paris.

The project labelled as a “rural pole of excellence” provides € 2.1 million investment, of which 25% is financed by the State.

The aim is to “establish a synergy of development, creation, and partnerships” and to ensure the Meurthe-Moselle area, which is the birthplace of crystal glass-making in France, a “revitalization of the territory in terms of economy, employment and urban planning”.

As a first step, the renovation of two buildings will be undertaken to provide a home for craft works, design and creative agencies, production, as well as research, training and exhibition facilities to the general public.

(This is a model for others, especially Australia, with significant sums being spent on education and training infrastructure, but minimal thought to bringing companies together to leverage this expenditure – Editor)

Universities must engage in regions, says OECD

May 14, 2009

 A very interesting OECD report “Higher Education and Region’ has landed on our desk, written by Cockatoo member and ‘Oz-phile’ Patrick Dubarle, Paul Benneworth et al. It should be compulsory reading for every Vice-Chancellor, university academic and regional development practitioner in the civilized world. It draws on findings from 14 regions across 12 countries.

 The basic message is that higher education institutions (HEIs) must do more than educate and research – they must engage with others in their region, provide opportunities for lifelong learning, and contribute to the development of knowledge-intensive jobs.

 The report synthesizes the main developments, and provides scores of examples of best practice. Some that attracted our attention are:

  • The ‘Knowledge House’ in NE England – addresses the reluctance of SMEs to go anywhere near a university by providing a nifty, common entry point to the five universities in the region.
  • University Jaume I in Valencia – helping to transform the SME-based ceramic tile industry.
  • University of Sunderland – helping to make Nissan’s new plant the most productive in Europe.
  • Provincial University of Lapland – reaching out to remote communities.
  • Aalborg University (Denmark) building its education program around Problem Based Learning.
  • Monterrey International Knowledge City (MICK) in north east Mexico.

 The book can be purchased on-line at the OECD – ISBN 978-92-64-03414-3. Patrick Dubarle is now a freelance consultant, living at beautiful Meudon – contact him at

Innovation Policy – Germany benchmarked

October 17, 2008


A 420 page study ‘New Challenges for Germany in the Innovation Competition’ has come to our attention courtesy of the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship.


The report benchmarks Germany’s innovation performance against China, France, India, Korea, USA and Japan. The report reads like an OECD country survey – but suffers from extreme verbosity and lacks a tight summary section. Nevertheless it is a treasure trove of material e.g. interesting section on Korea’s cluster program.


Some of the salient points:

§          Germany faces challenges in coordinating policies across different parts of its Federal system.

§          In terms of strategies, German innovation policies place great emphasis on support for SMEs.

§          German policymakers must promote technology transfer and commercialization in a fragmented environment characterized by numerous research organizations and SMEs.

§          Overall, Germany shows great strengths in areas related to international trade and key technology sectors. Information technology is an exception, with Germany’s international technology profile lagging other economies.

§          Germany is now aiming to spend 3% of GDP on R&D.


Go to New Challenges for Germany in the Innovation Competition