France has seen an explosion of cleantech innovations over the last ten years. Its vibrant early-stage ecosystem is developing many technologies the EU needs to get to net zero. But France is also the home of important industries such as steel, cement, automotive and petrochemicals, which have an opportunity to decarbonise and become fit for the decades ahead.
As France 2030 prepares to invest in the scale up of innovative technologies, and in the context of the French EU Presidency’s vision of a new European model for growth, uniting global competitivity with climate objectives, Cleantech for Europe aims to make clean technologies a strategic priority in the French public debate.
We spoke to Céline Jullien, economist and former executive at InnoEnergy, who joins Cleantech for Europe to lead its French initiative, about her objectives for the role.
“My top priority will be to engage French cleantech leaders and policymakers.”
If France is to be a global force in cleantech, we need increased collaboration between the two communities– at the natioal, regional, and local level. Leading French investors are already committing more capital investment for large-scale innovation. These investors, together with leading thinkers, innovators and corporates committed to the Paris Agreement, can contribute what’s needed to scale innovation, to improve on the commercialisation front and on the reorganisation of industrial value chains to integrate cleantech, while representing France’s perspective in the wider EU community. With the right partners across France, we can take up the challenge.
Céline brings a deep perspective on the energy sector, as well as ample experience of building new initiatives from the start. A former academic – instrumental in the design of France’s electricity pricing and auction mechanism – she was part of EIT InnoEnergy from its foundation in 2010. “At the time it was new in the EU landscape. The challenge drove me to quit the university.” As executive to the CEO Céline worked with “visionary people” on topics such as smart grids, buildings, innovative renewables and smart cities, as well as managing the investment committee for InnoEnergy’s large innovation projects, including Northvolt.
The French cleantech scene has been growing steadily for a decade. We are past funding early stage, now is the time for big efforts, big investments, which will bring us to scale. France’s Relaunch plan is an opportunity for decarbonisation: the money is on the table; the goals have been set.
“French policy is aligned with EU objectives and that is very good news.”
Céline believes national ambitions can only be met by working at the local level:
“The pathway to scaleup is going to happen locally - and already is.”
In the end it will be about relevant regions, collaboration between industry and innovation; local people with knowledge and experience of local realities, working together for a green reindustrialisation. Cleantech for Europe intends to work with regional cleantech clusters throughout France.
Based in the Rhone-Alpes region, one of France’s largest industrial basins and home of the country’s pulp and paper industry, Céline is no stranger to industrial settings.
“I like working with engineers, visiting projects.”
There are echoes of the electricity market liberalisation of the 90’s: we must work out how to keep industrial sectors competitive while keeping prices down, simultaneously encouraging competition on a global level.
Current electricity and natural gas prices reflect the systemic and global dimensions of energy. It’s a question to be tackled as we build the future, as we define investment priorities in new areas such as green hydrogen, mobility, large-scale storage. Behavioural economics tells us it’s not just about price.
“We need to give people a reason to be excited about making the transition.”
Most of all, we need to engage all the stakeholders in the conversation.
Cleantech for Europe is powered by Cleantech Group and 16 leading EU cleantech VC investors, and supported by Breakthrough Energy. Our mission is to accelerate the scale up of cleantech innovation to help the EU reach climate and industrial leadership.