Normandy and the Ruhrgebeit

Normandy has always been an open region, exporting its history, its culture and its products to other parts of the world, whilst also embracing individuals, cultures and businesses from elsewhere. So – sometimes – you have to look wider than just your immediate neighbours to understand and learn from others who have very similar circumstances to your own

As such, it’s quite normal that we in Normandy look beyond France to learn from regions which face the same challenges as our own. And a recent article in ‘The Economist’ (As German industry declines, the Ruhr gives hope ( struck a chord with many of our own experiences.

Normandy is one of the few French regions comparable to the Ruhrgebeit, with similar proportions of regional GDP deriving from the industrial sector. As Alain Verna, President of the IUMM Rouen-Dieppe, has said: “Even today, Normandy remains the region where industry has the highest share of regional GDP, as underlined by the French National Chamber of Commerce. Industry represents between 10 and 11% of GDP at a national level, but this rises to 19% in Normandy and as high as 21% in certain parts of Normandy, such as Dieppe. From this point-of-view, Normandy is the leading industrial region of France.”

And – just like in the Ruhr – Normandy has made huge investments in higher education. Beyond the three core universities in Caen, Rouen and Le Havre are a plethora of higher education institutes, many dedicated specifically to the engineering and industrial requirements of the region.

And – again, just like in the Ruhr – Normandy had developed a leading logistics sector, with companies such as Godfroy Transports, a 40 years old company and a renowned expert in the logistics and distribution of fresh, frozen and refrigerated food products, both nationally and internationally.  

Whilst not neglecting its core sector, Normandy places environmental transition and the human at the heart of its economic development, providing all the room for the fundamentals of a market economy and growth. This ambition allows Normandy to be a particularly attractive region for businesses.

In 2022, the Normandy Regional Council set up an equitable transition plan, with the aim of anticipating and guiding the industrial activities in the Seine Valley (chemical industry) and the Bresle Valley (glass making industry).

In order to meet these objectives, the Normandy Regional Council is benefiting from a €100m support package – the Equitable Transition Fund – aimed at financing decarbonation projects and assisting areas in their transition towards carbon neutrality by 2050. The Equitable Transition Fund is one of the 3 pillars of the Equitable Transition Mechanism, part of the European Green Deal launched in 2019.

This decarbonisation process is part of a policy based around three levers:

  • Energy mix: to develop the production of decarbonised electricity to feed into the network, or for own use;
  • Energy efficiency: to prioritise renewable energy resources and reduce industrial consumption;
  • Material recycling efficiency: to use fewer materials in production and use more recycled materials.

But there are times when you can’t hide your light under a bushel any longer, and have to say that there are things in Normandy that offer an even better package for investors than even the heart of Germany! And perhaps the most important extra asset that sets Normandy apart from its competitors is energy.

Energy is key geopolitical issue, and it is reassuring to know that Normandy is an energy exporting region – both to rest of France and abroad via interconnectors.

The production of energy from non-carbon resources – nuclear and renewables – is one of the key drivers of the energy transition in Normandy, as we look to limit the effects of climate change. Our production of renewable energy has been doubled over the last 10 years, with the deployment of renewable maritime energy and hydrogen.

Hydrogen is fast becoming a key sector in Normandy, as we have skills developed over time for the production, storage and use of hydrogen in total safety, with our experience in the petrochemicals, chemicals and aerospace sector.

But we are also a large consumer of hydrogen at a regional level. Normandy consumes 350 000 tons of the 900 000 tons consumed in France every year (38% of national production). We are rolling out H2 recharge stations as part of the Eas’HyMob project, and we have the largest test site in Europe for liquid hydrogen (Ariane Group in Vernon) as well as the development of the largest production project for H2 – Normand’Hy.

In October 2018, the Normandy Regional Council became the first French region to approve its support plan for the hydrogen sector, with a budget envelope of €15m over 3 years.

Marine renewable energies are also developing at a pace in Normandy, and we are the leading French potential region for marine renewable energies, with 200 hectares available. And the Normandy climate is in our favour with natural geographical advantages to the development of offshore wind. Half (5 out of 10) of the planned offshore wind farms in France are located in Normandy.

On top of all of this, we have the port infrastructure and skills to host the activities associated with the use and maintenance of offshore wind farms, from Le Havre, Cherbourg and Dieppe, as well as Caen-Ouistreham and Fécamp. It’s no wonder the Siemens Gamesa factory for the production of wind turbines is in Le Havre!

The region is also taking giant steps forward with its “3NC” programme ‘Nuclear Normandy, New Competencies’, managed by the Normandy Regional Council, with stakeholders from across the region. Normandy currently provides around 15% of the French nuclear capacity. This could rise to around 20% by 2035.

Foreign companies with innovative technologies have already chosen Normandy to set up their factories, notably in the energy and recycling fields.

As investors have seen, it is very easy to ‘plug-in’ in Normandy.

So, while it’s good to compare ourselves to others, Normandy has assets that others find hard to match.

As we said before, our logistics sector is a leading light of the regional economy, with Normandy offers a privileged direct access to a potential market of some 200 million consumers, providing multiple benefits for foreign investors. Logistics plays a key role in the regional economy, embedded across the whole area: maritime ports, airports, rail infrastructure and a well-developed road network.

Another key asset of Normandy is being close to Paris and easily accessible from even the Ruhrgebeit, with access to markets, but also offering an excellent work/life balance for those looking for quality of life: a framework of superb landscapes, a rich and vibrant cultural heritage, gastronomy, and much more. Normandy has so much to offer those who want to make it their home and do business here.

Normandy is also a world-renowned tourism destination, which welcomes millions from around the globe every year, and is one of the most recognisable names in the world.

It is also bursting with talent: a highly skilled workforce, innovative start-ups, leaders in their sectors… So many people and places to highlight as Normandy becomes known as a region not simply of France, but of the world!

These are just some of the reasons why nearly 800 companies have already made the choice to set-up in Normandy.

The Invest team in AD Normandie can advise investors in the different stages of the creation of their business to be able to set-up in Normandy.

Alongside our partners (lawyers, specialist accountants, insurance advisors, etc.) we work with you through each of the key stages of your project.

Our partners, as well as ourselves, have dedicated English speaking teams to work with international companies.

And all of these assets are combined in Normandy for those who want to make it their home and do business here.

So, whilst we can always learn from other regions, we hope that other regions are also able to learn from the successes in Normandy.

Case Energy and transition Supply Chain & Logistics

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