In 2013, Poitou-Charentes only dedicated 0.92% of its GDP to gross expenditure on research and development (GERD), compared to 2.24 % at the national level. However, the Poitou-Charentes region witnessed a positive GERD investment trend, higher than the French average between 2010 and 2014 (4.0% vs. 3.0%, according to Eurostat 2017). In 2014, the investment in research was led by the business community with a 55% share, but this is still lower than the average for the neighbouring regions of Aquitaine (63%) or Limousin (61%) whose economies are also dominated by very small companies. Most of the R&D expenditure is undertaken by the higher education sector which represents 37.1% of the investment, 10 percentage points above the national average. The rest of the investment comes from the government sector with 7.6% of it (versus 13% in France) (Eurostat, 2017).
Research and innovation activities are oriented towards key regional industries:
- Agro-food industries, with the innovation and technology transfer in Agro-food centre (Centre Régional d’Innovation et de Transfert de Technologie Agro-alimentaire – CRITT agro-alimentaire);
- High-performance materials especially in eco-building and housing with the eco-habitat cluster (Cluster éco-habitat);
- Horticulture supported by a CRITT named HARRBHOR;
- Aerospace industries structured by the Aeroteam;
- ICT’s with the informatics CRITT;
- Ports with La Rochelle, Tonnay Charentes and Rochefort and the centre for research in nautical industries (Centre de Recherche pour l'Architecture et l'Industrie Nautiques – CRAIN);
- Chemical industries with the IANESCO CRITT.
The regional innovation network is made up of many technology transfer organisations (CRITT), technology platforms and other interface organisations that are dealing with the commercial use of research, technology transfer and public-private R&D partnerships providing various types of services to businesses, mainly SMEs conducting innovation projects, and contributing to strengthen the regional competitiveness.
The public research is driven by higher education stakeholders and their labs. There are two public universities (Poitiers and La Rochelle), five engineering schools, and public laboratories. The University of Poitiers is part of the “Community” of universities (COMmunauté d’Universités et d’Etablissements - ComUE) Léonard De Vinci (Université Conféderale Léonard de Vinci) which brings together two universities: Limoges and Poitiers and an engineer school in aeronautics and space (Ecole Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace - ISAE-ENSMA). The University of La Rochelle is part of the Aquitaine ComUE.
The university research is structured around 6 topics:
- physical, mathematical, mechanical and computer sciences
- biology and health, agronomy, ecology
- legal sciences
- Economic, social and human sciences
It represents 21 laboratories and around 50 research unities.
The university hospital of Poitiers (Centre Hospitalier Unversitaire - CHU) have four research axes: transplantation, health tech, ophthalmology and cancerology. It is supported by three research units certified by the national institute of medical research (Institut National de la Santé Et de la Recherche Médicale -INSERM).
In addition, the region hosts six branches of the national centre for scientific research (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique - CNRS) which worked closely with universities on life sciences, energy and materials, environment, human sciences, maths and physics. Even with the presence of these laboratories, there were only 3.6 patents applications per 100,000 habitants, whilst the national average is 10.7 patent applications per 100,000 habitants. The employment in high-tech industries is also very low, only 1.8% against 4% in France and European Union in 2016 (Eurostat 2017).