A questioner asked whether all the Minatec investment goes into pure R&D, and how jobs were created. Dr. Holden replied that in order to participate in Minatec, a partner has to have a research contract with them, but that job creation happens in many places. Some of the start-ups are in California; some have offices in both Grenoble and California. “There are no restrictions on that. In many ways, I don’t think that putting requirements on jobs is the best way to be successful. We find that typically the start-ups located in California still do R&D with us. So for the local economy, which is research focused, it’s beneficial.”
Another questioner asked about comparisons with the Hungarian experience. He said that in both France and Hungary, as in the rest of Europe, it is typical for the government to help with the infrastructure. This is traditionally considered a public responsibility, meant to encourage the private sector to move in.
Dr. Parada noted that in Mexico as well, the government leadership and financial support is critical. Once the government creates the necessary infrastructure, the park can attract private investors who put money into the research parks and innovation ventures.
Dr. Holden added that in Grenoble, of the 3.2-billion-Euro investment, the local government put in about 150 million Euros, most of it to pay for infrastructure, such as highways and access roads. This investment, he said, has been more than paid back in the form of corporate taxes over the four-year period, and the local government is still benefiting from a net positive of 1,000 technical jobs and perhaps three times as many support jobs.
A questioner agreed that local job creation is desirable, though not the best true measure of park success, and asked what other metrics Minatec used. Dr. Holden said that the GDP of the tech sector is fairly easy to track, highlighting the impact on company business, growth rates, and salary levels. He also said that education is a good metric: “Here we see that we’ve tripled the number of engineers in the past decade, so that’s pretty significant. In the knowledge economy you have to have an educated population, and even though we may be draining other parts of France and Europe in some ways, we are creating this critical mass, and, to be competitive, that’s what’s necessary.”
Dr. Wessner noted that the leading centers for silicon research today are no longer confined to Silicon Valley; they are in Austin, New York, Flanders, and Grenoble, and they all used public money to begin. He suggested that those local governments clearly recognized the value of the investments they were making. In Grenoble, for example, when conditions changed, the government increased its investments rather than shutting them off, and the park shifted its strategic planning to take the new conditions into account.