Interview | Alexandre Ziegler Karnataka

‘What we look for and find here is a good innovation ecosystem’

On June 6 and 7, Ambassador of France Alexandre Ziegler was on one of his busy bi-monthly visits to Bengaluru, a fast growing industrial and innovation magnet for French interests ranging from space and aeronautics to education. Here, he gives a sense of what could be next in the Indo-French ties that are still flush from French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip in March. Excerpts from the interview:

India and France announced a major space cooperation in March. Could you specify how it pans out?

In the last 50 years, [India and France] have been doing so much together in space and aeronautics. During the visit of President Macron, we signed a new vision document that sets up a very strong partnership for the future. We will be working out the details of it and hopefully be in a position to announce some things in the coming months. Ocean and climate-related satellites, co-development of satellites, launchers, a joint Mars exploration mission — we have a full plate on space for the next decades.

Phase A of the idea of co-developing a constellation of satellites for maritime surveillance between our space agency CNES and ISRO should start as early as next year.

The government has purchased 36 French Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force. At what stage is this contract and what do you see coming after this?

The contract of September 2016 for 36 Rafale aircraft is being implemented. The first delivery is expected [from their manufacturer Dassault Aviation] in September 2019. Before that, pilot training [for the IAF] will start very soon.

The next development will be decided by the Indian government. There are definitely thoughts in the Indian Air Force and the government of adding more aeroplanes to the air force. A new RFI [request for information] for 110 [multi-role combat] aircraft was issued in April this year.

I will not be disclosing any secret if I say that Dassault is seriously considering this RFI.

What attracts the French government, investor, industry, and others to Karnataka and Bengaluru?

Space, aeronautics, and IT are our main themes here, but we do have a lot of other interests.

What we look for and find here is not only a market or an efficient workforce, but a good innovation ecosystem. Already 150 French companies are in Karnataka — CapGemini, Dassault Systemes, and Atos in IT, Airbus and Safran in aeronautics. Not only have major French SMEs and retailer Decathlon set up headquarters and industrial facilities, they also innovate here. Airbus and a large number of others have their major R&D centre hubs here and also startup incubator, Numa.

After Delhi and Mumbai, Bengaluru has the biggest [French] consular presence in 10 years and the fastest growing one for us in India and the south.

What are your other focus areas?

A growing dynamic in education and science cooperation is coming from south India, in particular from Karnataka and Bengaluru. In the last two or three years, we have been investing a lot of our time and energy to attract as much Indian talent as possible to French universities and laboratories as also send as many French talent to Indian universities.

We get 6,000 Indian students every year. Almost a third of them are from Karnataka. Nationally, if the increase in student visa applications is 25%, the increase is more than 50% in Bengaluru.

What would be the flavour of new French investments here?

Some aviation, aeronautics companies are considering setting up facilities in India. Bengaluru is an option.

The [Kempegowda International] airport has seen 20% growth. Nothing is known yet but a lot of French companies that are already involved in international airport work could extend it to participating in the development of Terminal 2. They are interested in its digital, construction management, and technical aspects. [During this visit] I met the management of the airport company BIAL for the first time to know what are the opportunities in the coming two or three years.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 3:28:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/what-we-look-for-and-find-here-is-a-good-innovation-ecosystem/article24124917.ece

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