North Devon firms contemplate the French connection

TRADING links and business opportunities in France are on the agenda under an initiative which will bring visitors from Brittany, Normandy and the South East of England on a visit to North Devon next week. North Devon Plus is looking forward to welcoming

TRADING links and business opportunities in France are on the agenda under an initiative which will bring visitors from Brittany, Normandy and the South East of England on a visit to North Devon next week.

North Devon Plus is looking forward to welcoming the delegation of visitors from business centres, research centres and science parks on a three-day exchange visit to the South West next Monday.

The delegation will visit innovation centres and science parks in Exeter and Plymouth as well as North Devon, where the focus will be on supporting innovation in a rural area. The stopover in North Devon will include visits to local businesses PARC, ETC, Beran Instruments and Biodas.

The visit is part of a trans-national project, CHAIN (Channel Innovation Network), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg IVA Programme.


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This 12-month project brings together business development agencies on both sides of the Channel which are involved in supporting small business innovation. The aim is to learn from alternative ways of providing assistance and to develop potential trading links between technology-based businesses within the participating areas.

Earlier in the year representatives from the South West attended a fact-finding visit to Brittany, to learn how innovative businesses are supported in France and to start making connections between businesses in the South West interested in trading with France.

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Dr Jon Vernon, Strategic Development and Policy Manager for North Devon Plus, who is co-ordinating the project in North Devon, believes it was an incredibly valuable trip.

He said: "The three-day visit included tours of research centres, science parks and incubation centres established to help small science-based business start-up and grow. It gave us a real understanding how innovative businesses are supported in France and we were able to identify opportunities to make training connections between Northern France and the South West of England.

"We would like to hear from local businesses who are interested in exploring business opportunities in France. This is a great opportunity for cross border co-operation between our countries and by learning from each other we can develop best practices to drive our businesses forward."

Claudie Bonnet, Manager of the ZOOPOLE Research and Science Park in St Brieuc, Brittany said: "We are greatly looking forward to our visit to Devon. The CHAIN Programme has a two-fold interest for us. Firstly, as a Technopole or business support centre, but also for the businesses we support. The programme allows us to discuss different initiatives to promote and support young start-up businesses as we want to understand and adopt best practice in our territories. But our ultimate goal is to help young companies in our territories to take the step to export. We are therefore also greatly interested in hearing about the key economic sectors in the South West. Moreover, we'd like to meet young companies and research organisations who are interested in developing partnerships with businesses from Brittany and Normandy to identify possible links with our own companies and laboratories. These exchanges may lead to good business opportunities, but also research and development partnerships. We think that our territories are close geographically, but also in relation to business activities. We really must encourage trade between our companies, because currently very few of them work together."

Steve Pitcher, Chief Executive of North Devon+, is looking forward to meeting with some of the delegates he met on the South West trip to France earlier in the year.

He said: "Our trip to Brittany provided us with some great ideas to share with businesses in North Devon. The French have developed some very sophisticated systems for encouraging and supporting fledgling technology-based businesses and have invested heavily in this area for many years. The same processes wouldn't necessarily work in the UK but much of the thinking and approach is transferable. There are some key lessons that we will be taking forward and we are looking forward to sharing some of the best practices and methods we use in the South West with our French delegates.

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