France is a major European player in the field of eco-innovation, and possesses a strong track record in environmental regulation and support schemes – targeting both public and private actors (including individuals). This is illustrated by its strong ranking in the 2015 Eco-Innovation Scoreboard (seventh among the 28 EU Member States). However, France still falls behind a number of front-runners, particularly due to limited energy and water productivity and limited green early-stage investments. Increasing levels of resource efficiency, particularly energy efficiency, in key sectors such as transport and building are also key priorities.

The most important eco-innovation areas in France are linked to network and network management industries, and more specifically water management and sanitation, waste management, and environmental engineering. These sectors are well organised around very large international firms that are also major aggregators of innovations.

Since 2010, a group of clusters, focusing on environmental technologies, have supported the creation of innovative local networks of SMEs and large companies based around water and waste management, energy efficiency, renewable energies, smart cities and smart transport. These clusters act as a major testbed for the emergence of eco-innovations, and help to bring together public and private partners around common issues.

In addition, the national and regional support to eco-innovation and the circular economy is strong. At the national level, a number of dedicated calls for projects have been set up in recent years, complementing existing support measures such as eco-innovation equity funds or tax incentives focusing on the demand side of eco-innovation. At the regional level, 20 out of the 22 (former) metropolitan regions have at least one strategic domain of their Regional Smart Specialisation Strategy directly related to eco-industries. 

2015 Eco-innovation Scoreboard ranking and eco-innovation index composites for France




Les petites grèves land development project

Labels: France Land

The Douzy municipality in France has implemented an urban development project designed to fight the flight of the population and reduce the spread of urban environments in rural areas. The projet was thought out to increase the density of population, while creating a multi-functionnal and confortable living environment. The projet is not only expected to improve the living conditions of local inhabitans, but will also allow to reduce energy and water consumption and promote the development of means of public transportation.

Douzy is a small rural community (1 660 inhabitants) located in the French region of Champagne Ardennes. As part of its Local Urbanism Plan, the municipality decided to develop an urban development project covering 23 ha meant to host 300 housing units and 3 mm2 of public facilities. The project is known as 'La petite grève' and was awarded the eco-neighbourhoods prize in 2009.

One of the main objectives of the project was to create the necessary capacity to increase the population of Douzy by 50% and to increase population density. The Champagne-Ardennes Region is characterised by its widespread rural surface, with a low level of population density, which generates a ‘rurbanisation’ phenomenon. This configuration is very consuming in terms of land use and occupation, but also in terms of travel and distances covered by inhabitants, promoting the use of vehicles and a higher than average consumption of energy for this purpose. This issue is fairly widespread among French rural urban centres, as well as among European ones.

The project was thus designed to fight this phenomenon by making use of a more ‘intelligent’ distribution of land use for housing, allowing for a more tightly-knit use of land within and urban centre. The project was also designed to diversify land use by including housing complexes along with public facilities such as a community sports centre. 

Barriers and Drivers

The main reason having led the Douzy municipality to implement this urban project was the need to attract new inhabitants to settle in the city. However, there is an additional dimension to the project linked to the positive environmental and economic ibrought about by the project. City authorities hope to create a more attractive urban space, less dependent on the use of private vehicles for transportation and more respecting of the surrouding natural spaces.

The major barriers to developing such projects, especially in small rural communities, are cost-related. In addition to this, cities don't always have the necessary technical know-how in order to manage the design and implementation of a successful urban planning scheme.

Economic Performance

The project is expected to bring about cuts in spending related to waster distribution and management. In addition, it will allow to reduce the use of cars as a means for transportation, which may also result in spending reductions for inhabitants.

Social Performance

The project is expected to directly influence the quality of life of the rural city's inhabitants. By reducing time spent for commuting and improving the quality of the urban environment, inhabitants will save time and resources spent on transportation and energy. In addition, such projets are potentially able to help rural communities reduce the demographic deficit mnay of them currently face.

Environmental Impact

The project is expected to result in reductions in energy consumption, the development of public transportation means, and an improved management of water. A more dense urban configuration will also reduce the use of individual means of transportation, resulting in a decrease of GHG emissions. In addition, higher urban density reduces the likeliness of urban sprawl, helping to preserve natural spaces.

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