Sophia Antipolis, the French Silicon Valley

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With 1,500 businesses spread over 2,400 hectares and occupying one million square meters of office space, Sophia Antipolis – a mere stone’s throw from Cannes and Nice – is the number one technology cluster in Europe. Created in 1969 at the initiative of Senator Pierre Laffite, it continues to be a gold standard in innovation.

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An unmitigated success

From multinationals to small companies to start-ups, the business ecosystem at Sophia Antipolis is rich and extremely diverse. Many research and development departments for the information, health, chemistry and environment technology sectors have built up operations here.

sophia-antipolis-amadeusIt was, for example, the birthplace of Amadeus, a great success story. The company was created in 1987 by Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia and SAS to develop advanced technological solutions to manage, distribute and sell travel services. The group now employs a staff of 13,000 across the globe, including 5,000 at Sophia, and records annual sales in excess of 3 billion Euros. Over 45 years, regardless of the economic climate, the number of jobs at the Sophia site has risen each year. Today it is home to 35,000 jobs, 4,500 researchers and 5,000 students. Its success has never wavered.

Sophia Antipolis : an international reputation

Intel, Bosch, Samsung and Huawei have also chosen this Mediterranean site for their France operations. Approximately 15% of the companies at Sophia are owned by foreign interests; there are workers from 63 countries. Many international investors feel it is a unique technology cluster.  Just what attracts these businesses from the United States, China, Japan and Korea?

The top draw at Sophia is a strong university focused on innovation with a research laboratory. It was recently recognized as an ‘Initiative d’excellence (IDEX)’ by an international panel of judges. The cooperation between the university and private companies generates real scientific power.Plus, the sheer number and diversity of the businesses at the site make it possible to pool skills, create synergies and forge dynamic networks and opportunities. Finally, the great lifestyle on the French Riviera, which comes with its own cachet, also makes it really attractive, explains Etienne Delhaye, Executive Director of Sophia Club Enterprises.

A future-focused technology cluster

The technology cluster at Sophia Antipolis is mature, but not old: it plans to create another 10,000 jobs by 2030. Its foundation and business club are working together to leverage the full potential and energy of this ecosystem. Thanks to a recently added campus devoted to information technology, significant land yet to be developed (500,000 m2 of office space can still be built at Sophia) and sound governance, the technology cluster is well equipped to adapt to the challenges of the future.