In 2013, the Languedoc Roussillon region dedicated €1.58b to R&D, which represents 2.36% of gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) and is above the French and European averages (2.24% et 2.04%, respectively). The share of business expenditure on research and development is very low: 31.3% versus 64.7% at the national level. This low share is explained in large part by the low level of industrialisation of the region. The predominance of SMEs and very small enterprises hampers the private led innovation capacity of the region and their level of competitiveness achieved via innovation practices. However, at the same time, there is a dynamic network of innovative SMEs benefiting from research in some of the growth sectors identified above, in health/ biotechs for example.
On the other hand, the share of public expenditure on research and development is high: 68.7% compared to 33.9% at the national level. In terms of higher education and public research actors, the region’s universities are gathered under the “community” of universities and higher education institutions (COMmunauté d’Universités et d’Etablissements - ComUE). There are four main universities, two in Montpellier : Université de Montpellier, Université Paul Valéry, one in Nîmes, Université de Nîmes and one in Perpignan, Université de Perpignan. The ComUE also includes two engineering schools, one specialised on agronomy (SupAgro Montpellier) and the other one on chemistry (École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier – ENSCM). Together, the universities represent 80,000 students and 4,500 researchers. There are also several ad hoc research networks such as the Mediterranean Water Institute (Institut Méditerranéen de l’Eau – IME) that bring together numerous public research entities enhancing the critical mass and visibility of the domain. Notwithstanding these regional teaching and research facilities, the percentage of 30-34 years-old who have obtained higher education diplomas is lower than the national average (40.2% vs. 43.6%, in 2016) (Eurostat, 2017).
The ComUE research expertise can be found in a number of domains such as: environment/water, agronomy, chemistry, energy and health. They are supported by two national research centres: the national centre for scientific research (Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique – CNRS) and the research institute for development (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement – IRD). Since the regional R&D activity is largely led by the public sector, the ComUE specialisation domains typically represent the main regional innovation areas.
Health is particularly important and the ComUE is home to one bio-ICT centre and 10 national health research platforms. In terms of agronomy, the ComUE has six bio-technology and bio-resource projects, developing technologies to improve plants and the biomass. The region hosts Agropolis, a leading international research complex, focusing on agro-food and agronomy.
Despite the high level of public investment in R&D and related research infrastructures, the region does not file many patent applications. In 2012, Languedoc-Roussillon filed 124 patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO), representing 1.8% of total French applications. This represents 4.6 application per 100,000 inhabitants, less than half the national average (10.7 applications per 100,000 inhabitants) (Eurostat, 2017).
In terms of infrastructures, 76% of households have broadband access, slightly below the national level (79%).