In 2016, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the South Region was €155.16b and represented 6.96% of the total annual French GDP (Eurostat, 2018). This made the region the fifth contributor to the national GDP, behind the Paris Region with 30.54%, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes with 11.44%, Nouvelle-Aquitaine with 7.54% and Occitanie with 7.23%. The region has experienced significant growth in recent times: between 2007 and 2016, the regional average annual growth rate was 1.24%, near the French average (1.52%). The GDP per inhabitant (in purchasing power standard) was € 28,100, again near the French national average (€30,400) (Eurostat, 2018).
The South Region’s active population (15-74-year olds) amounted to 2,2m people in 2017, accounting for 7,41% of the French total active population. Over 900 000 inhabitants in the South Region are over 65 years old, making the development of dedicated “silver economy “services and the attraction of new talents will constitute a real challenge in the coming years (ERDF/ESF 2014-2020 Operation Programme, 2014). In 2017, 10.3% of the population was unemployed, a figure one percentage point above the national rate (France average: 10.4%). In the same year the rate for youth unemployment (15-24 year olds) was 22.9%, very slightly over the national average (22.4%) but clearly above the European one (16.8%) (Eurostat, 2018).
In 2017, the South Region economy is characterised by a strong presence of service-related activities and represents 83,05% of regional employment (versus 78.31% at the national level). Industrial employment (including construction) represents 14.96% of regional employment, compared to 19.23% at the national level (Eurostat, 2018). Employment in service related activities has been relatively stable between 2013 and 2017 (+0.76%) but industrial employment (including construction) significantly diminished (-2.08%). In 2017, agriculture represented only 1,99% of the regional employment. The region is home to an important number of SMEs, and in particular small businesses: in 2015, 97.36% of companies had less than nine employees versus 96.17% at the national level. The strong presence of retail activities and tourism help explain these figures (Eurostat, 2017),
The South Region has identified the following seven strategic sectors: silver economy, tourism, culture, lifestyle and sports, renewable energies and eco-technologies, maritime, ports and logistic industries, aeronautics, space, naval and defence sectors, health, agriculture, agri-food and cosmetics (SRDEII, 2017).
The seven strategic sectors are actively supported through various actions and policy support mechanisms aimed at support the development of certain Key Enabling Technologies (KETs), as defined at the European level: nanotechnology, micro & nanoelectronics, industrial biotechnology and photonics (SRI, 2014).
The South Region hosts ten competitiveness clusters: SAFE in the defense and security sector, CAPENERGIES in the energy sector , EUROBIOMED in the health sector, SCS in the ICT sector, OPTITEC in the optics sector, PASS in the cosmetic sector , AQUAVALLEY in the water sector, Mer Méditerranée in the blue economy sector, TERRALIA in the plant and agricultural sector and TRIMATEC on eco-technologies for industrial applications.