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La Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Terre d’excellence et d’avenir pour la Défense nationale

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, along with the Ile-De-France region, is one of the two leading regions in France in terms of the defence economy, with 15% (i.e. 6 billion euros) of the total turnover in the sector.

If we add to that the fact that it possesses the largest facilities of France’s army, air force and navy, plus the DGA, it is likely by far the most important region for defence.

This outlay constitutes a great number of advantages for a pro-active policy in the region that further expands the economic investments and technology for the armed forces, focusing on the development of its military facilities, promoting its industries and public-private enterprises, and lastly, directing efforts toward international markets and high-tech exports.   

In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, France’s defence businesses are grouped together in the aeronautics, space, navy and defence sector, one of the primary sectors of the regional economic, innovation and globalisation development plan (SRDEII). The defence sector has some 50,000 military and civilian employees, and 12 government aeronautics, space and defence laboratories, including the Fresnel Institute. The goal, based on the region’s potential, is to enhance commercial use of this advantage by promoting specialisation, placed at the centre of the regional economic strategy.

I - The major military facilities in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region are closely linked to the defence economy and to the industrial entities that are developing there.
1. The major military facilities involve France’s army, air force and navy.
There are nearly 34,000 French military personnel in the Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur region, comprised of approximately 10,000 army personnel, 16,000 navy personnel, and 7,000 air force personnel.
The army has a substantial presence in this region:
  • 9 regiments, including the 1st REC of the Foreign Legion in Carpiagne, the 21st RIMA in Fréjus, and the 3rd RAMA in Canjuers;
  • 2 command units: the COMLE in Aubagne and the DIV3 in Marseille;
  • 5 major military academies: EFA TIGRE, the army’s light aviation school (ALAT) in Luc de Provence, the infantry and artillery schools in Draguignan.
The air force has major deterrent and projection forces in the region:
  • 4 air bases: Air Base (AB) 125 in Istres, AB 115 in Orange, and AB 701 in Salon-de-Provence;
  • 1 regiment: the 25th Air Engineering Regiment (AER), assigned to AB 125;
  • In addition, the flight school and the school of the commissioners of the armed forces are located at AB 701 in Salon-de-Provence;
  • The air force also trains its commandos at the CEFOCA in Orange.
France’s navy has a long-standing presence in the region:
  • Its forces include the large navy base in Toulon, the naval air base in Hyères, the Hubert commando in garrison at St. Mandrier, and a munitions depot in Tourris;
  • The navy also contributes to civil defence with its battalion of sea fire-fighters in Marseille;
  • The Semaphore coast guard force is very large along the coast of Provence (in Cap Ferrat, La Garoupe, Dramont, etc.), as well as in Corsica (Cap Corse, Bonifacio, etc.);
  • The navy has two schools in the region: the EPPA for armed forces paramedical training in Toulon, and the PEM divers’ school at St. Mandrier.
This major military deployment is supported and backed by the presence of the armed forces supply services, with approximately 7,000 personnel at 8 armed forces bases, and the ELOCA, which provides logistics, munitions supplies and health services.

This large military outlay makes the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region a huge southern defence and security zone (ZDS-Sud), where very highly-qualified personnel contribute to the region’s reputation and growth through their true involvement in its economic life. Furthermore, the armed forces contribute annually to the Héphaïstos mission, whose purpose is to prevent and combat forest fires in the south of France.
2. The armed forces industrial sector in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region

Comprising nearly 5,000 jobs, the “Aeronautics, Space, Navy and Defence” sector is the largest industrial concern in our region.
The defence sector has traditionally been concentrated on the navy, given that one of France’s two arsenals is in Toulon, and it has expanded to include aeronautics and space.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is home to a veritable eco-system, including:
  • A number of major clients (Airbus Helicopters - the largest industrial employer in the region, Thalès Alenia Space, Naval Group, Thalès Underwater Systems, TechnicAtome);  
  • Major business groups with specialised testing sites (Dassault Aviation, Safran Aircraft Engines);
  • Important mid-size companies (Daher, Bonnas, CNIM, ECA, Amesys);
  • Some 200 small businesses at the cutting edge of technology and identified as forming part of the DSTIB (Defence and Security Technological and Industrial Base).
Their areas of specialisation also focus on drones, robotics, on-board systems, and the specific technical fields required for the eco-system (modelling-based engineering firms, contractors or subcontractors for ship building and logistics).

II - The advantages of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region

1. A fairly unique area for “life-size” testing in the air, on land and at sea

The region is renowned for its high-level expertise in testing, certification simulation, specialisations and training at various proving grounds (life-size), which allow it to service all of the sectors of the armed forces: air and space, ground and sea. This environment also includes the special factors of a region with a border zone.

In support of its industrial enterprises, the region has major government resources. The region has a wealth of armed forces personnel present (more than 34,000 military personnel, i.e. 16% of all armed forces personnel).
The region contains, in particular:
  • 3 analysis and testing centres under the aegis of the DGA
  • Experimental forces test ranges
  • An aeronautics maintenance sector
  • Forces units, training schools and operations entities:
  • The Procurement and Finance unit (PFAF) for the South-east.

2. A regional eco-system around structures involved in the armed forces sector that covers the entire value chain

a) Competitiveness centres

In the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, there are four centres that consolidate all of the skills required to produce aeronautics, space or navy operating platforms and systems:
  • SAFE cluster: the 1st cluster for security, aeronautics and space;
  • Mediterranean Sea unit: safety and security at sea; some 160 members of the unit involved in the defence sector. The CEO of the Sea unit is the director of Naval Group in Toulon, the largest navy defence company in the EU, responsible for 80% of France’s maritime defence production.
  • Optitec centre: optics and imaging. More than thirty companies who are members of the centre are involved in the defence sector.
  • SCS centre: communicative and secure solutions - this unit is not part of the official defence centres but has members who are in the sector.
The large projects managed by the centre through public-private enterprises are the Flying Whales (heavy-duty dirigibles) and Stratobus (stationary flying platform) - specific site in Istres (Airship Village).

b) the EDEN PACA (European Defence Economic Network) cluster

The EDEN PACA group of companies, a member of the national EDEN federation, the largest French cluster of small businesses in defence, safety and security, was founded in 2013 and continues to grow, with the aim of “hunting as a pack” in international markets.  Currently, EDEN PACA has more than twenty members. In addition to its missions focused on the international market, EDEN PACA helps set up business conventions in the defence sector on a regional basis: maritime safety, in 2018, under the aegis of the European Commission, in particular.

3) A regional sector supported by national structures and an aggressive regional investment policy

a) The Ministry of the Armed Forces support structure for the defence sector:

The Ministry of the Armed Forces has direct economic input through its orders, which help finance local industries, whether for Maintaining Operational Conditions (MOC) and upkeep of the French navy’s ships based in Toulon, the NH90 and TIGRE helicopters, integration testing for the future Rafale standard, modernisation of the Atlantique 2, or new on-board systems for ships (next-generation Syracuse, pursuit and monitoring radar).
The Ministry of the Armed Forces also plays a major role in terms of innovation, whether by financing preliminary studies contracted to the major groups (PEA) or through subsidies as part of the RAPID programme (Support for Public-Private Innovation). The Ministry also finances the activities of the competitiveness centres devoted to defence and monitors their operations.

b) An aggressive regional investment policy

•    Operations of Regional Interest (ORI)

The Operations of Regional Interest (ORI) represent the investments targeted by the regional government in specialisation and concentration. The goal set is to mobilise 1 billion euros in public and private investments to enhance the leading role of the seven main regional technology sectors and three key technologies in order to implement major structural projects. These projects are to be based on the leading know-how and eco-systems found in the region. They are intended to help companies in the region forge into future markets, with high added value, and foresee future uses. Also supported by promotional and attractiveness activities, they serve to heighten the region’s visibility and attractiveness, and enhance its economic networks.
The ambitions of the “aeronautics, space, navy and armed forces” sector constitute part of the roadmap for the ORIs in terms of “Industry of the future”, “Naval and maritime industry” and “Key technologies”, and their steering committees are comprised of all the public and private participants in the sector.

•     Active support from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regional government

The regional government also wants to provide the companies in our region with fertile grounds for their growth and for the creation of jobs. This involves the investment policies set up for the above-mentioned ORIs, as well as massive budgetary support since 2016: the budget for direct assistance to companies increased 12% in 2016, and 50% in 2017, 11% of which went to our competitiveness centres. It also involves policies promoting jobs, apprenticeships and appropriate training.
Lastly, it involves support and follow-up from our local economy and companies at essential trade fairs and meetings, such as this one for the Summer University of the Armed Forces, during which the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional government enables some twenty local companies to showcase their skills, set up new partnerships, and take concrete advantage of business opportunities.