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L'axe Seine : les enjeux d'un territoire d'industrie

The initiative Territoires d’Industrie forms part of a French Government strategy aimed at industrial renewal and the development of specific territories around the French regions. Some 124 Territoires d’Industrie have been identified across France as areas with a particularly strong industrial dimension. In each Territoire d’Industrie, the initiative is led by a project committee presided over and led by a leadership pairing, one an elected figure from the area, the other a figure from the industrial sector. In Normandy, ten areas have been branded Territoires d’Industrie, including the Axe Seine (or Seine Axe) area.


Meet Virginie Carolo, a member of the original mission that created the initiative Territoires d’Industrie, a member of the leadership pairing (consisting of a regional elected leader and an industrial leader) for the Caux Seine Agglo area, and a member, a level up, of the leadership pairing for the Axe Seine Territoire d’Industrie.

What are Territoires d’Industrie ?

This initiative stems from the present government. It began with a mission carried out in September and made concrete by the launch of 22 Territoires d’Industrie on 22 November. The initiative stemmed from one major observation: French industry is improving, we’re no longer in an industrially gloomy period, and more and more jobs are being created in the sector. A second observation was that the economic shift to the tertiary sector cannot create jobs for everyone by itself.

What was the mission’s aim ?

A group of five of us spent one and a half months going around France, questioning members representing different territories, chambers of commerce, corporate associations, elected politicians and industrialists, as well as visiting companies, CFAs (Centres de Formation des Apprentis – for apprenticeship training) and préfets (heads of French counties) to try and understand what measures could be put in place to move matters forward and to answer certain specific questions: What stops companies from investing? Why do they find it difficult to recruit, to grow, and even, sometimes, to establish themselves? Another aim was to stop looking at the German model and rather to reflect on our own specific strengths and weaknesses, listening to opinions on the ground rather than intellectualising from on high, or from the top of the pyramid.

What were the mission’s conclusions ?

The idea is to find the means to revitalise the French industrial sector, taking note of three major issues: it isn’t attracting young people – they still consider industry to be as in Zola’s time [Zola’s 19th-century novels depicted grim industrial exploitation]; companies find it hard to recruit; and public powers (the State and various authorities) should facilitate industrial expansion. In fact, there’s an expression I really like that summarises all this, of going from saying ‘It’s not possible!’ to ‘Why not?’. The other conclusion is that we need to find made-to-measure solutions adapted to each territory.

What’s the purpose of the joint leadership pairings (one industrial leader, one elected local leader) put in place at the territorial level ?

For Axe Seine, the joint leadership pairing consists of Pierre Sainfort, President of the company Compin, and myself. As an elected figure, one knows the systems, the deadlines, the necessary administrative timelines. He, as an industrialist, brings us firmly back to reality. He’s the link with the industrial world, while I’m the link with State services, looking at how we can move forward. It is important that government administration should act as an enabling tool, rather than as an obstacle. This joint elected-industrial leadership pairing encourages us to be realistic and to prioritise.

What’s at the heart of this initiative ?

What’s at the heart of it for the elected figures and all the joint leadership pairings is to carry over the industrial impetus to local State services and to set up contractual agreements with clear action sheets. The aim is that French county heads (the préfets), regional and local authorities and industrialists should sign off action plans together, determining how they’ll be implemented, the deadlines and the aims, such as recruitment, the setting up of training schemes, the speeding up of procedural deadlines for permits, etc. It’s all these kinds of things that need to be identified to move forward more rapidly. There’s work to be done here, requiring intelligence and skills. There’s an ecosystem that needs to be put in place. This is absolutely essential. Each time an idea comes up, we all consider it together – the State services, to know whether it’s possible; the local authorities, to see if they have what’s required to make it happen; and the companies, to ensure whether it’s what they need. Now that we’ve included industrialists in the loop – very small companies [Très Petites Entreprises, or TPE in French] being represented as well as network heads from major industrial sectors such as the UIMM (Union des Industries et Métiers de la Métallurgie) and others – we mustn’t let them down. They’re eager for our cooperation. What results from all this is contractual agreementsThe French State is putting a lot of faith in us coming up with the ideas that will make things easier, simpler and faster and create new forms of training. It’ll be possible to do things together in one territory that might not suit another, and we’ll be accountable. If plans don’t work, then they’ll be halted, but if they yield results, not only will they continue, but there’ll be an attempt to extend such plans to similar territories, if possible. This really is a totally novel initiative.

L'axe Seine : les enjeux d'un territoire d'industrie

What are the aims of the initiative for the Axe Seine Territoire d’Industrie ?

The main aims concern energy. There are specific branches to develop, for example concerning hydrogen, electromobility (Emobility) or wind power… that focusing on specific branches is already clear in certain financing, where we’re attempting to work out, for example, what the wind power sector or the Emobility sector need, to move innovations forward. We tend to concentrate on ways of interpreting the legislation so that these areas can come to reach a dominant position. Behind all this, we also need to determine whether we have the companies in place that can enable these branches of industry to thrive. In fact, there’s a fourth branch emerging strongly, that of plastics recycling, with calls for the setting-up of regional and European projects: we’re very well placed here because we have several refining and petrochemical sites in the Axe Seine Territoire d’Industrie. How can we ensure that plastics revert to being a primary material and don’t end up in waste collection centres, or worse still, thrown away in the countryside? Further areas at stake concern rail and port infrastructure, in terms of logistics. In addition, logistics concern all sectors. How do we create hubs allowing us to send products we make to Europe’s furthest corners if we don’t develop the Le Havre-Mannheim Axe rather than just the Rotterdam Axe, say? This requires making transport by waterways easier, with the Chatière du Havre*, the Mantois Node [around Mantes on the Seine north of Paris], and more… Our idea is to create links, to go beyond administrative operational forms to clear the way in specific areas. The issues concerned have been identified for quite some time now. I don’t believe those involved in the Axe Seine Territoire d’Industrie were waiting for this initiative to determine their strategy. However, there were lots of areas where obstacles existed. My role is to find keys to open up State services and create a legislative framework in which we can advance more rapidly. We have to act fast! 

Can you give us some examples of specific action sheets ?

The idea is to manage matters so that existing initiatives such as major investment plans should be redirected to the needs of the Territoires d’Industrie, for example by making the framing of existing initiatives more flexible, liberating finances. University training has been concentrated in the big cities, but we can see how industry is developing in intermediate areas. So, there’s an action sheet that should come out on learning companies, with the idea of placing training once more within companies themselves. I’m also very keen to see the acceleration of procedures in matters of authorisation, installation and environmental protection. How can someone set up a new company in a new branch, when the PPRT (Plans de Prévention des Risques Technologiques [Plans for the Prevention of Technological Risks]**) only enable us to let existing companies expand, or those directly linked to them? If a new branch is concerned, why not give it the authorisation required, as, in the end, whoever is concerned, it’s still a matter of men and women working in danger zones? These are examples that we’re looking at extremely closely. And this concerns not just our territory, but also others, such as the Garonne Valley, Marseille or Lyon. Reflecting together on planning what is possible, that’s where we’re at. So, the freeing-up of land and of training and the re-directing of financing towards our major branches of industry, these are the priority themes we’re working on in the Axe Seine Territoire d’Industrie.

L'axe Seine : les enjeux d'un territoire d'industrie

What role can you play as regards the major sectors concerned ?

Above all, I’m working on creating interconnections or transversality at the heart of this ecosystem. We want to understand how an idea that works in the aeronautical sector might also function in others. But, up until now, we’ve been organised according to completely separated sectors… The metal-working industry, for example, doesn’t really talk to the aeronautical industry, whereas nowadays, a welding institute could train enough welders for both refinery and aeronautical needs by slightly altering the training. The idea is really to work at interconnections. Everything already exists to make this possible, we have all the ingredients, but we now need to come up with the right recipe.

Which actions can be put in place swiftly ?

The industrial sector, the technicians and the regional State services need to have a roadmap in place to be able to speed up matters in the next six months. Once the action sheets have been signed, some of them will be put in place very fast: building permits will be unblocked; the SDAG (Schéma Départemental d’Aménagement de Gestion des eaux – for water management) made easier; the rules for AFR (à finalité régionale, i.e. for regional aims) zoning (zoning that helps companies establish themselves in a Territoire d’Industrie via fiscal advantages, sometimes at local level, or via tax breaks when involved in innovation) may be redefined by January 2020… Others, such as the development of Cléon 4.0, concerning the Emobility branch, to create an ecosystem around electric batteries, or of recycling factories, will take more time. First of all, it’ll be necessary to create favourable conditions within an area and then to start work. It’s all these things that we need to make easier and we’re talking about action sheets that we want definitively validated this summer so that the measures can be put in place for all new businesses being set up from September onwards.

L'axe Seine : les enjeux d'un territoire d'industrie

Worth knowing

*The Chatière project, which consists in the creation of a new, protected channel, aims to allow any kind of vessel, whatever the weather, to gain direct access to the terminals at Port 2000, Le Havre’s container terminal, capable of receiving ships with a capacity in excess of 20,000 containers measuring 20 feet (in French, Equivalent Vingt Pieds, or EVP).


**PPRTs, provided for by the law of 30 July 2003, are town planning documents regulating constructions, both existing and to come, in the vicinity of industrial sites. In Normandy, 21 such Plans have been outlined, three concerning major industrial zones: Le Havre; Port-Jérôme; and Rouen. The first stage in the execution of these plans consists in reducing the risk at source as far as is possible. The taking into consideration of dangerous phenomena at the outset has enabled risk reductions thanks to the participation of industrial companies. The potential occurrence of further such phenomena has been diminished. These reductions in risk have thus made it possible to avoid imposing restrictive measure on over 40km² of urban zones in the region. The most recent PPRT approved in Normandy is that covering the DPC in Caen in 2015. Three PPRTs were still awaiting approval at time of writing, including those in the zones of Le Havre and Petit and Grand Quevilly. These PPRTs are among the most complicated in France. Many works are underway, involving manufacturers, local authorities and economic players, to limit, as much as possible, development impacts in dense urban zones. (Source: Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement en Normandie)

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