At national level, in 2013 the Ministry of Industry selected 34 plans for a “New Face of Industry in France”. Each plan focuses on one market and was selected based on the potential to contribute to the reindustrialisation of France. One of these 34 plans is called “Factory of the Future”, and was renamed “Industry of the future” under its second phase, officially launched from Nantes in May 2015. The objective of this plan is to support investments in factories to make them more environmental friendly, smarter, more digital and closer to their ecosystems. The Regional authorities (including in Pays de la Loire) are in charge of financing 2,000 to 3,000 industrial diagnoses for SMEs and medium-sized companies.
At regional level, Advanced Manufacturing gained momentum already in the mid-2000s in the context of increased pressure from international competitors and the risk of wide-scale deindustrialisation it embodided. Advanced Manufacturing was then seen as the opportunity for the region to increase the competitveness of industry by capitalising on its historical know-how in the manufacturing of big-scale infrastructures to develop industry in shipyard and automotive sectors, and also enter emerging markets such as marine renewable energies (MRE). Advance Manufacturing is now one of the six strategic domains selected for the regional Smart specialisation strategy.
The region is the 3rd industrial region, with a specialisation on aeronautics, shipyards, motors, automotive, etc. (with large players such as Airbus or STX). One competitiveness cluster (EMC2) and one Technology Research Institute (IRT Jules Verne), both supporting collaboration between public research and the private sector, have gathered most of the regional actors in the field of Advanced Manufacturing. The research teams involved in these projects focus on three priorities:
- The design and integration of complex pieces or structures;
- The development of innovative fabrication process for complex pieces or structures;
- The design and development of the “Factory of the future”.
Both the regional and national authorities are funding EMC2 and IRT Jules Verne. Both organisations also count with three Technocampus. They are a set of mutualised technological research platforms that collocate high-performance materials and industrial and academic players that work on strategic sectors. They aim to position the region at the vanguard of advanced manufacturing by encouraging interdisciplinary approach and collaborative R&D. There are currently three platforms: Technocampus Composites (2009), Technocampus Smart Factory (2013) and Technocampus Ocean (2015). A fourth Technocampus decided to acoustics and its application to industrial processes is foreseen in Le Mans by the end of 2016.
IRT Jules Verne also ambitions to reinforce the regional dynamics in the field of advanced manufacturing by setting a resource centre for training and vocational education. The project, called “Jules Verne Manufacturing Academy”, will create a national and international network of education centres in charge of providing training to fulfil the needs of the industry and spreading the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies. Advanced manufacturing is also a strategic axis of the Competencies 2020 plan (Compétences 2020) which forms part of the region’s operational management of employment and competences in key regional economic sectors.
There are about ten Regional Innovations Platformts (PRI) directly involved in advanced manufacturing activities. In the field of Industry 4.0 the PRI Proxinnov platform plays a central role with a mission to train and spread the use of robotics in manufacturing. We can also mention PRI Clarté (virtual reality), design’in Pays de la Loire (Integrate design thinking in all industrial projects), PRI Cisna 2.0 (virtual reality, fast prototyping), PRI Atrium (connected objects), PRI CEMCAT (research centre on advanced composite materials for transports), PRI Orace (energy consumption in industrial processes), and PRI Primabor (agricultural machinery).
At international level, the regional actors are currently reinforcing their participation to Horizon 2020 projects (i.e. FORTAPE project). IRT Jules Verne is currently the National Contact Point for the NMP Programme. IRT Jules Verne is also a member of several European networks, including EFFRA (European Factories of the Future Research Association), EARPA (European Automotive Research Partners Association), EUROBOTICS (European Robotics Association) and will be involved in the upcoming Added Value Manufacturing KIC. The EMC2 cluster organises trade missions with its members and signed signed a series of bilateral partnership agreement with European partners, but also in Canada, the USA and Japan.
To foster interclustering, EMC2 organises an annual Inter-Cluster Brokerage Event (ICBE) since 2011 to discuss opportunities to join EU-funded projects and strategies for cross-cluster collaboration. EMC2 and IRT Jules Verne jointly organised on 24 June 2015 the first edition of the European Brokerage Event on Advanced Manufacturing and Processing.
In 2015, the "Jules Verne Manufacturing Valley" label was inaugurated to embody the region’s ambition to create to unique ecosystem dedicated to advanced manufacturing and the factory of the future. The label is not an additional entity. It intends to gather all the actors engaged that form the innovation value chain in advanced manufacturing within a single community with a strong common visual identity, together with a shared vision, strategy, and means. The Valley gathers three main components: the EMC2 cluster, the IRT Jules Verne and the grouping that manages the four Technocampus. It will also welcome the Jules Verne Manufacturing Academy, and associates all Regional Innovation Platforms active in advanced manufacturing.